SIXR Film Challenge: A Music Experience | Part One

There was a lot of information so I thought I would break this article down into two blog posts. Come back next week to read part 2! 

A few weeks ago I was able to participate in the SIXR Cinematic VR Challenge. It’s basically like a hackathon, where the goal was to produce an immersive experimental reality piece in 48 hours, resulting in an presentation to the whole community at the end of the event. 

My idea was to create a music video experience, and here is what I ended up with: 

This project was inspired in part by this article from NPR: “When Choirs Sing Many Hearts Beat at As One”, which references a study done that shows how singers heartbeats become synchronized almost immediately after beginning a song. 

Granted I haven’t been apart of a choir for a while, but I still remember how signing in a group can become a communal, almost transcendental experience. I wondered what would happen if all those voices and synchronized heartbeats were all singing directly at you? 

Ideally you could go to the opera to experience music, but it can get quiet expensive and can be daunting or uncomfortable to some people who are completely new to the classical music genre. On the other hand, you can download a song on iTunes and listen to it on your headphones, but it’s not the same. But with VR, you might be able to get the best of both worlds. 

Everything came together in less than a week- and I want to give a big thanks to Dr. Savage, Choir Director from Christ our Church and Karen Thomas, Choir Director from Seattle Pro Music for helping me put this together. Without them this idea would have never come to fruition. Now, for the nitty gritty:

What We Used

 

 

BTS Fear No More SIXR Film Challenge: slightly precarious set up
BTS Fear No More SIXR Film Challenge: slightly precarious set up

The Production 

VISUALS

The Vuze is a stereoscopic camera meaning that it shoots in 360 degrees and in 3D. In order to do so, there are 2 cameras on each side, and each one acts like a left and right eye. 

Some tips we got: 

  • nothing within 5 feet of camera
  • battery lasts about 45 min
  • every minute you record uses a gig of data

Some problems we ran into: The technology is still a bit buggy. We downloaded the app onto three different phones before it worked. 

AUDIO

I was really excited to use this wild looking microphone! 3Dio is a company from the same people who created the ears and binaural technology found in Beck’s VR concert experience from Beck: Hello, Again.

The best way I can describe binaural recording is that it’s a method of recording sound that emulates the sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the performers or instruments. The 3Dio Omni Pro binaural microphone consists of 4 pairs of ears, so you get a complete 360 realistic sound like you’re there.

Some tips we got from the guys at 3Dio:

  • Recording 8 channels also requires quite a bit of storage. I’d recommend using a 32 or 64 GB SD card. 
  • Watch your gain settings. The microphone capsules are sensitive and can peak when subjected to loud noises. A good starting point is about 5 out of 10 gain setting.

Some problems we ran into: We didn’t really know what was the best way to set up the microphone on the tripod. So the result was a little half hazard, with lots of duct tape. 

 

Photo by Mike Penney via Christ Our Hope Catholic Church
Photo by Mike Penney via Christ Our Hope Catholic Church

The Space

We shot at the Christ Our Hope Church in downtown Seattle. 

Recently renovated, the building itself used to be the New Washington Hotel and now houses formerly homeless and low income residents. If you’re around Pike Place Market, I highly recommend swinging by to check out the space; the stain glass windows are beautiful and the film really doesn’t do it justice. 

The Choir

The song featured in the video is Fear No More by Donald Skirvin. Seattle Pro Musica had a concert the week before celebrating William Shakespeare and was one of the pieces they performed. It’s lyrics are taken from Shakespeare’s  Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
 
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
 
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
 
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!

 

Besides the fact that it is a beautiful piece, the song is very dynamic and had lots of range, so it was great to test out how the 3Dio mic captured everything.

We spent roughly 2-3 hours setting everything up. It took us a while since we were new to working with a lot of the equipment. But the actual recording went by very quickly. 

It's a wrap!

(from left to right) Dr. James Savage, Rachael Ross, Father Magnano, Gisella Bustillos, Vivian Hua, 

Thanks to Adriana Guiman for taking the photo!
It’s a wrap! (from left to right) Dr. James Savage, Rachael Ross, Father Magnano, Gisella Bustillos, Vivian Hua, Thanks to Adriana Guiman for taking the photo!

Tune in next week for a breakdown of the post production process for Fear No More.