360 degree video
The 360º experience: a still from the video.

Andy Stead

Shooting in 360° with full-motion high resolution right here in Johannesburg – is it possible? Is the quality comparable with conventional high-resolution imaging? The answer to both is yes – and the results are amazing.

On the coldest night this year at the Market Theatre precinct a troupe of 80 scantily clad models, fire eaters, jugglers, a cheetah and a lion cub joined forces with genre pioneers Teargas to make South African history. The Doritos Late Night global campaign required five bands, each from a different country, to create music videos. These bands would be the openers to the headline act, Rihanna.

Shooting in 360° requires a different mindset and visualisation. The six-lens camera, made up of five cameras looking out in a horizontal plane, and one camera mounted looking skywards, are all on a common mount. The resultant effect captures everything around and above it.

Co-director Jo Horn explains. “Creative Vision has always been known for its innovative, cutting-edge digital know-how, so it was no surprise that Lynne Mackenzie from LM&P recommended us to Doritos to create the South African production for this worldwide campaign. To our knowledge this is the first time in South Africa that a story has been created and choreographed in full-motion 360° high-resolution video.”

The 360° effect requires some explanation. Picture watching a movie, and you want to see what’s happening behind the camera, outside the view of the lens. So you turn around and look for yourself. This new 360° allows you to do this – and when viewing, allows you to change what you’re looking at and decide what you want to see.

Video in 360 degrees captures all the action going on around the camera and above. Whereas a typical lens captures what your eyes see while staring straight ahead, the new system can get the full picture, so the result is like having eyes in the back of your head.

When watching the video on the internet, the viewer is no longer on the outside looking in, but is an active part of the production. By manipulating the computer mouse the viewer becomes the camera and is able to make their own decisions; they can choose the angles they want to see instead of being a slave to the directors’ vision. Experiencing different viewpoints brings the viewer back time and time again because no matter which way they point the camera, there is something new, unique and rewarding for them to discover.

The camera used is the Ladybug 3, which shoots with a resolution higher than 35mm film, capturing the entire environment and leaving no area within the camera range out of the picture. With this in mind the attention to detail required to ensure that unwanted objects were not within the camera’s range was enormous. No lighting equipment, crew or cabling could be out of place and this included above the location as one camera points towards the stars.

“The Ladybug 3 camera was supplied by TX London, who also sent their operating team including John Boyce, Andrew Yardley and Matthew Pendle who assisted local DOP Peter Tischhauser,” says Horn

“The camera was mounted on a motorised 4x4 wheelchair fitted with pneumatic wheels as the height of the camera from ground level is critical as is full mobility. A small-sized person is required to sit in the wheelchair, leaving very little space. The smallest person on set was producer Mpotseng Mdakane, who performed the honours!”

A feature act of the production was local group Teargas, made up of KO, Ma-E and Ntukza performing their song Missing in Action. They were accompanied by a team of fire dancers, a live cheetah and his handler, and a lion cub. The one-minute continuous takes required tremendous attention to detail and exceptional visualisation from both Horn and his co-director Brenton Green.

“Sophisticated lighting was required both on set and from the shops around the Market precinct,” adds Horn. “Shop owners were extremely cooperative and remained open until the shoot was complete. Lights were supplied by Johannesburg-based Media Film Services who also who highly professional and accommodating.”

After London-based facility TX stitched together the images from each camera, Creative Vision did all the post production in-house. Various special effects such as the stars visible from the skywards camera were also created as was the final sound mix.

“The Doritos team, LM&P and Teargas where incredible to work with,” says Horn, “allowing us the creative space to produce an energetic and stylised music video. The end product was highly praised by all involved and can be viewed and interacted with online.”