Travel Across Bosnia

  • Deliverable

    OculusGo 360 & Youtube 360

  • My Role

    Camera, Edit, Stitch, Cleanup, Grade

  • Client

    EBRD

  • Project Facilitator

    Visualise

  • Producer

    Leslie Zunz

  • Director

    Jonathan Wells

The film was a collaboration between the EBRD and Visualise, with Visualise providing VR technical support to the direction and narrative produced by the EBRD. Jonathan Wells, who you may recognise as the presenter in the film, doubled as the director – scripting the narrative and developing the overall story to align with the EBRD’s involvement within construction. The whole film was supported by producer Leslie Zunz who worked closely with the local construction companies in order to gain access to the locations and people, joined on location by sound engineer Phil Wade and myself, VR specialist and camera operator.

The construction project sees the creation of Corridor Vc (5c), an essential highway that will span the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, connecting from the port of Ploce in the south to the border with Croatia in the north – then extending through Croatia and into Hungary. The project is funded by various international and European contributors, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Although a small team, we all had our roles and could contribute a great deal to the film. It was vital to have Jonathan (who was also the client) directing the camera action and his own narration as he was able to communicate exactly what the bank wanted to achieve from the project, whilst ensuring he delivered in a concise and engaging way. Further to that, it’s worth saying that in addition to being the on-location camera operator, I also completed the post-production. Being able to be so heavily involved in the production process allowed me the ability to save a considerable amount of time in post as I was able to set up shots to favour what is possible further down the line. Likewise, I was able to push the ability of Kandao Obsidian R further as I knew what was needed in post to achieve great looking shots – for example, the interior of the car.

When starting the project, there were a few requirements from the client to consider, one of which is the camera system we would use. In order to give the most flexibility, we chose the Obsidian R as it allowed us high-resolution footage, whilst also delivering clean stitches, fast speed on-location and live preview. We also use Kandao’s Wifi Battery pack when shooting with the R as this gives us the added stability to Wi-Fi and extended battery life whilst shooting.

The final output of the film was for OculusGo VR headsets, so quality was a big consideration for us, and shooting at full 8K allows for a very sharp downscale for a 4K output. Although we produced this film in monoscopic due to the fast turnaround, we shot in such a way that would allow us to revisit the project with stereoscopic in mind.

Adding extra variety in shots was always a key consideration for us whilst planning. We knew that drone shots would form a big part of the narrative as we needed to show the road clearly from the air to see its scale within the landscape. We used a local drone crew who had a variety of options to help us capture these aerial shots. Primarily, we used the Obsidian R on a larger drone, also mounting a GoPro Fusion on the top to give additional help with drone removal in post-production. We also developed the car-related shots to show the point of view driving along the road, using suction cup rigging to mount the Obsidian to the sunroof. Car interiors are notoriously tricky in VR, but as the Obsidian R has such a wide field of view on each lens, it allowed more flexibility to hide stitch lines and create multiple plates to rebuild the interior.

Beyond inherent challenges faced with any shoot abroad, we faced a few challenges from a technical point of view. A large majority of the Bosnia film is shot from a drone and almost all of it filmed outside, therefore our very short production (three days) was totally reliant on good weather. Luckily two of the three days were dry so we managed to avoid rain, however, the wind caused us challenges at times. With time very limited there was added pressure to get the drone shots we needed so we didn’t return empty-handed. Our local drone pilots knew the weather well and worked with us to adapt the schedule to fit best with constantly changing wind conditions. The landscape we chose to film in was beautiful, although rolling hills didn’t help frequent gusts, making flying the drone challenge. In the end, we managed to get all the shots we wanted, only once having to resort to a lighter drone with smaller GoPro fusions in order to work against the wind.

With regards to post-production, we have settled into a robust routine working in Mistika VR, Premiere Pro and After Effects. We do all our stitching in Mistika, using a mixture of pre-built templates, Kandao’s own stitching software and the Calibration tool to create base offline stitches that we can develop and refine later in the online. From there we edit in Premiere Pro, using proxy offline stitches in order to be able to select the best shots and takes. Then in a traditional film manner, we work with the client to develop the edit until we have achieved picture lock and they are happy with the edit.

This is then where the fun starts. Having finalised the timings of each shot, we can then return to Mistika and fine stitch each shot, using the given times from the edit. By only focusing on the specific parts of the clip we are going to use, we can ensure not to waste time or data when exporting these high-quality fine stitches. Our next step is to individually clean up each of these shots, removing any rigging, drones, tripods and crew. Using After Effects as a base for this cleanup phase, Mocha Pro and Photoshop add to the tools to help remove and rebuild shots. All of this is working at 8K and large file sizes, therefore the powerful network and multi-workstation setup at Visualise is important to be able to speedily process the footage.

Two key shots that demanded more attention on this project were the cage interview and the car interior. Hiding sitchlines in these was tricky and called for multiple stitches so that we could rebuild the scene within After Effects. Each scene took three individual stitches to allow enough overlap between lenses to create the final stitch.

Finally, we rebuilt the offline edit in Premiere Pro, adding graphics, applying a colour grade, and attaching the audio mix.

This text is adapted from an interview I did with Kandao after the Bosnia project which can be read in full here: