Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pop Up Thinglab 32: 360 Degree Space Explorers

Exploring the space around the 360 camera - see this image in 360 here 

Pop Up Thinglab 32 was a Crafts Council Make:Shift:Do partnership workshop between inspireNshare and the Croydon Youth Arts Collective.

The objective was to introduce young people to virtual reality and 360 media as a new art and craft form and engage them in a new discipline of making to think about, make and share wellbeing and happiness. 

17 young people came along to use a 360 camera for the first time - not only to experience virtual reality but to see themselves in it and experiment with this new medium of expression. 

Gathered around the 360 camera talking about flat media & 360 media

In groups of three and four we gathered round the 360 camera and talked about the differences between "flat" and 360 media, how the whole room is in shot and about the first person perspective of virtual reality. The young people quickly appreciated the difference between traditional flat media and 360 media and understood the 360 space around the camera coming up with project ideas for movement in environments of water and air where, unconstrained by the grounding of a "flat earth", movements can be fully immersive in 360 degrees. The young people made short videos of movement under water and flying through a forest.

Lighting the fuse ... the 360 camera is about to go off
A popular and fun activity was using the 360 camera manually -  pressing the (fuse) button at the top and treating it like a bomb - hearing it count down down and retreating to strike a pose to be captured in VR.

Putting yourself inside the picture & seeing your self in virtual reality 
Making your own virtual reality content and seeing yourself within it really helps you understand virtual reality far better than simply watching professionally made content and people are always fascinated by this. Participating in making VR content and putting yourself inside the picture makes the workshop activities personal and more engaging. Virtual reality puts you in someone else's shoes and seeing a scene with yourself in it but from the first person perspective of someone else (the 360 camera) is fascinating and can be quite mind expanding by introducing empathy through an experience of different perspectives.

The flat media team behind their cameras but there is nowhere to hide in 360 
During the workshop a flat media team arrived to shoot us - we captured them in a 360 image and we had a brief chat again about the difference between flat and 360 media. The crucial thing about 360 media is that there is no such thing as being behind the camera ... everything is in shot. One VR director described flat media as like hunting (its like you are behind a riffle and your riffle is your camera ... take aim and shoot), VR media is like setting a trap ... the whole environment is involved and subjects are "captured" within it. Also, flat media directs your attention, you only see one view and that is the shot through the viewfinder of the camera. With 360 media there is no single point of view - the viewer is immersed and can look around as they please - they can completely miss something or see something that wasn't noticed in the scene in the making. Directing attention in 360 media is a new skill that is being developed and these skills may transfer more from the performance of theatre and magic  than they do from the flat screen. If you have used 360 media for sometime flat media feels "flat" .. it feels restricted ... you miss the ability to look around and direct your own gaze - it could be that with 360 media we might see a revolution in immersive theatre style performance?

During our MAKE:SHIFT:DO virtual reality workshops I let the participants have as blank a sheet as possible just to see what they would draw on it. The main thing I have learned is that only a few people can take a completely blank sheet and draw something ... most people need direction and purpose .. the key is in getting the right balance between freedom and control ... everyone is different - it is in the skill of the director to get the right balance for the people and the context. One of the advantages of the Crafts Council MAKE:SHIFT:DO workshops is to provide context and purpose and this inspires people create and share. The participants in our virtual reality workshops have learned about, experiences and created virtual reality media and I have learned from them - one idea I will be trying in future virtual reality workshops is the "360 workout", exploring the space around the 360 camera through simple group exercises - learn about virtual reality and get fit at the same time :)

See more photos from Pop Up Thinglab 32 here

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspirenshare Pop Up Thinglabs visit 

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