Eyes in the back of my head

Just before Christmas, Tilly (my spaniel) and I went to the Dordogne and back in our campervan. I made a video about it, which, while it may be of interest only to travel vlog and ‘van life’ enthusiasts, does have a bit of novelty value, because I filmed it on a spherical (360-degree) camera.

This means that after you’ve watched it, you can go back and watch it again from a completely different angle and see what was happening behind you!

I’ll put the link here, rather than embedding it, because this is something you want to watch on the YouTube site. Or, better still, in the YouTube app on your tablet, or phone, or VR headset…

You can find the video here.

If I had had more time, I would have made it shorter 🙂

This was really just an experiment for me, and I learned a great deal about the challenges and opportunities of filming and editing this particular medium, which I may write about in due course.

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Very cool! I think the spherical view works really well for travel footage, especially in the old town where every corner exposes new sights.

Is it difficult to edit the footage? Can you change the default view and such?

    I edited it in Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere will also cope with it. The files are big (this was a 36GB upload), but it all works fine, and yes, you can change the orientation in editing: the camera often wasn’t ‘facing’ me, or even upright.

    There are challenges though: especially to do with directing people’s attention towards or away from something. You’ll notice that there are lots of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ in this, partly because I was just ad-libbing all the time, but also because you can’t simply edit out chunks of audio when showing people an image of a church, because they might have turned around and me looking at you.

    And should you assume people are just sitting back and watching, in which case they might like you to rotate the view when you walk around them, or are they actively exploring, in which case turning them around might be disorienting.

    Audio is also tricky, because you really want full surround spatial audio for this if you’re watching with headphones, and though I’ve recorded the footage that way, encoding it correctly for playback on youtube and other viewers is not trivial, so I haven’t bothered here.

    Still a fun experiment, though, and I’ve uploaded a few stills too:


    It’s intriguing taking photos when you don’t actually have to point the camera. It also tends to make almost everything a selfie!


Thanks for posting this Quentin, really enjoyed both experiencing the 360 degree video and picking up some useful camper van tips. The 360deg playback worked fine in Safari in macOS Mojave (10.14.2) by the way.

I know what you mean about rotating the view in the edit – I got caught once exploring when you did that, but on other occasion it was quite cool when the view spun round to follow you. I guess you have to decide based on the context, depending on whether it’s the environment or the speaker that’s the main focus. What I think did work is moving the view near the start of a section – I didn’t want to grab control until after you had done the introduction/set the context.

Been following your blog for a while and always find it interesting, so many thanks.


p.s. great choice of vehicle – by co-incidence we are another i3 + blue VW camper van family in the Cambridge area 🙂

    Thanks, Jonathan!

    Yes, it would be interesting to try to design a system that would rotate the viewer if you were being ‘passive’ and leave you alone if you were being ‘active’. I also think it would be good to reset the viewpoint from time to time, especially when there’s a cut – you can end up unknowingly looking away from the action, especially if you don’t have a visible narrator. But that kind of metadata isn’t included in the streams at present.

    One thing that can help is surround sound, or even stereo, if it’s done well. As mentioned above, I haven’t bothered here, but proper spatial sound can also give you a clue that the interesting stuff is happening behind you and to the left.

    re vehicles: I think a VW van plus an electric car covers pretty much all needs 🙂

Many thanks an excellent video, certainly seems the future of travel photography. Would be interesting to have one attached to the bike 🙂

Wow this is excellent!
Thanks Quentin.

Which camera is it? You also seem to have a lot of accessories like the stick, the sucker and the headrest mount. Did they come with it or did you buy them separately?

Over the past year or so I’ve been wondering where to take my photography. Perhaps something like this is it?

    Hi Andy –

    Thanks for the kind words! This is a Ricoh Theta V, which is about £350, though I do also have the optional enhanced microphone, which is another £250 or so, though I’m not making very good use of that yet!

    The other bits were just standard camera stuff: suction mounts, clamps, selfie sticks etc which I happened to have from my other photography, but nothing very expensive.

Thanks for the tips. I’ll check them out.

In other news, I’ve been using those Eneloop Whites and Eneloop Pros for a few years with the AMOD GPS unit. I’ve not done any scientific tests but I don’t seem to get much extra useful capacity with the Pros. Both will do a full day in the GPS unit. The Whites won’t do two whole days and the Pros will maybe sometimes if one of the days isn’t too long. More often than not they die sometime through the second day and I don’t notice.

I’m still trying to work out how often I should run them through the refresh and testing cycles on the Youshiko charger tho’.

Jonathan [who posted above] pointed your video out to me, specifically so that I could watch it in YouTube VR on my Vive, to which the result is: it all gets quite personal! Sitting inside your VW camper while you make breakfast is a little surreal. Sitting in the palm of your hand, occasionally glancing at you, and you at me, with no control over where I’m going, has quite a different effect on the brain to watching a thing in a browser.

Walking through the castle, up and down the stairs, made me feel a little queasy, and being pushed through a grating was a bit of a surprise. I tried it out on my (18 year old) son: he was surprised by the sensation as he sat inside your car as you drove off. I thought twice about trying it out on my wife, who does get motion sick and often finds that she has to sit on the floor while using VR, but I did in the end and she had no problem with it at all, except that she refused to look down from the edge of the castle parapet. I think she was quite interested in the views of a “post apocalyptic” (:-)) France, though she was irked that you might mention a castle and then decide not to go inside it: maybe she also felt that she was trapped in the palm of your hand :-).

FYI, once in VR, the quality seems to reduce; there is more fuzzyness in the image and it, very occasionally and very briefly breaks up; while my son and wife were using the kit I was watching the version reflected on to the PC monitor and that seemed as good as normal, so I guess it is the ability to render VR in real time that is being challenged. I tried to figure out what was happening to the sound from a spacial perspective but couldn’t, maybe it’s not specific enough in the material (and I had the sound turned down).

Anyway, utterly fascinating, thanks very much for doing this. I will go see if there’s more material out there…

    Hi Rob – many thanks – these are all very useful insights! I’ve watched some of it in a VR headset, but it was only a kind of upmarket Google Cardboard, so you immediately halve the resolution of your phone screen. But I do still find it a rather compelling way to watch.

    There are interesting questions about exactly how you handle movement and acceleration: the process I use for rendering the video makes use of the accelerometer in the camera, so ‘up’ is always roughly ‘up’ regardless of the orientation of the camera. But if you’re in an accelerating or decelerating vehicle, then gravity will appear to tilt, and the video will do so as well. I don’t know whether that makes for a more- or less-natural feel when you’re watching it, but I did see some video somewhere from a guy who had modified the metadata to stop it happening when he was recording races in his rally car…

    Spatial audio can be a great benefit to helping you locate the speaker etc, and I haven’t put any effort into it here. The original recordings are four-track mono, but the camera wasn’t always oriented so that they were pointing in a useful direction while recording, so in the end I decided that most people probably wouldn’t be using headphones, and just concentrated on trying to make my voice audible over the weather etc!

    Many thanks for your comments!

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