Come take a virtual ride with me!

On the occasion of my 10-year anniversary I decided to get something special: a 360 degree camera! When you watch my future rides, filmed with this camera, you will be able to look around in any direction and experience that ride as if you have taken it yourself.

My new 360-degree camera needs to be mounted high, so it can look over my head to film in every direction.

A long time ago I posted how I film for this blog. Now, a new way should be added, because I got myself an “Insta360 One X”. This camera, with one fish eye lens in the front and one in the back, is able to film everything that happens all around it. I was able to finance this camera from donations (I had a couple of very generous three figure donations last year!) and the revenues of the YouTube advertising that I turn on for every video. You may not have seen advertising, but I only turn it on after a video has been public on YouTube for 24 hours. That way my loyal followers – who will have seen a new video in the first 24 hours – are not bothered by advertising.

How do I film my 360 degree rides?

To be able to show you what is behind me I can obviously not be in the image myself. I cannot simply place the camera on my handlebars, the camera needs to be over my head. That is why I place it on top of a longer stick, that I do attach to my handlebars. That stick is tall enough for the camera to look over my head. The contraption is a bit shaky and I have already found out it is not very stable when there is too much wind, but the camera is remarkably able to stabilise even those wobbly images. On my iPhone I can edit the images and save them. The file I then get needs to be ‘injected’ with 360 degree video metadata before I upload it to YouTube. YouTube then recognised it as a full 360 degree circular image and it is able to show it in several ways. That I will explain to you later in this post. Unfortunately, the microphone is on the front of the camera and catches the wind. I bought windjammers, little fury things that you can temporarily glue over the microphone, which should prevent the wind noise. But… this being a camera with fish eye lenses, that fury blob became very prominently visible in the end-result as a very peculiar and gigantic piece of fur in the sky. So, you will have to deal with wind noises as you always did. As you may understand from this story I have been very busy doing a lot of testing!

Everything I need for filming my rides in 360-degrees. My iPhone, a selfie stick, the Insta360 one X camera and a mount to attach the selfie stick to the handlebars of my (rental) bicycle.

I hoped to film longer rides, because I know some people like to pretend to cycle along with me. They told me that they view those longer rides on a large TV in front of their stationary bicycle. For those people especially things will change for the better! However, since this camera relies on my iPhone for editing I ran into some issues with longer rides. The files get so large that I couldn’t edit them anymore. I needed to clear years of photo and video files from my smart phone first. For this post I do have a test ride for you of almost 12 minutes. So that is already quite something. I was a bit disappointed by the pale colours in the test ride, but I may have messed up the settings. Since I made this video I also used the camera while filming a ‘real’ upcoming post. That later ride – that I will show in a few weeks’ time – was filmed on a clearer day and the colours came out much more vividly.

When you see the white circle in the upper left corner it means you can see the images in every direction. You can click either of the arrows to move in that direction or you can press your left mouse button, hold it down and move the image with the mouse that way.

How can you watch a video in 360 degrees?

When you watch the video in YouTube on a PC you will see a white circle with four arrows in the upper left corner. If you see that dish you know you are watching a 360 degree video. If you just watch it, you will see the ride facing to the front, exactly like you could always see my videos, but if you point the mouse to any place in the image, hold the left mouse button down, and drag the mouse in any direction, the image moves along with it in that direction. If you have a touch screen you can also do that with your finger.

If you see the image in this way it means you are not seeing it in 360-degrees. You will have to find another browser, or use the YouTube app, to see the video as it was intended.

If you watch the video on a smart phone or a tablet you can simply move that device around. Make sure you use a browser that is able to show the 360 degree images. Safari on an iPhone cannot do that, you will see a warning from YouTube that it is not able to give you the full 360 degree experience and the image will show as one weird stretched out image. If you use the YouTube app you will be able to see the images in 360 degrees, also on an iPhone. I don’t know how that works for other phones but I expect the YouTube app to work on any phone. So simply move your device around you and detirmine what part of the images you see. You can even watch what happens behind me.

If you watch the video on your smart phone you will find the VR setting in the lower right corner. Click that icon to switch to VR headset mode.

The last option to watch the images is actually the best: with a Virtual Reality headset. These goggles come in all sorts and shapes but the cardboard versions already work very well and you can obtain one from local shops or on the internet from about 10 euros. You have to place your smart phone in those cheaper VR headsets and then you can use it to experience the ride in virtual reality. Simply tapping the VR symbol on YouTube will show you the two images you need for you VR headset. I own such a cardboard box and it found it mesmerizing to watch the ride that way. I could look to things that I couldn’t see while I was riding (I had to watch traffic after all) which is not necessary when you watch the ride again at home. With a VR headset strapped to your head you will be able to turn your head and simply see what is left-right or up and down. The only thing that doesn’t happen is that the video will not stop when you stop pedalling your stationary bike, I filmed while riding so that is what is shown. The other down side is that I cannot add anything to the image. No texts or traffic signs to explain things, and neither can I add my logo.

Once you have clicked the VR symbol shown above, the image switches to this dual image display style, so there is one image for every lens of the VR Headset.
My own cardboard VR Headset works fine with the videos I created on my new 360-camera. All that is needed is to click the VR symbol, start the video, place the smart phone in the VR Headset and I can start watching. The video image moves with your every head movement this way. You can actually look around you.

There is one very important advantage over how I film today and that is that I do not have to hold a camera any longer. As some of you may know the Dutch law will change from the 1st of July this year. From then on it is no longer allowed to use a smart phone while you ride a bicycle. Unfortunately, the law stretches that to any mobile electronic device, meaning I will also no longer be allowed to hold a camera while I ride my bicycle. This 360-camera is attached to my bicycle’s handlebars, meaning I do not have to hold it while riding, which brings me back to the right side of the future law. I hope to film nice rides for you soon (there are still a few rides to publish that I filmed the classic way, sorry!) but do tell me what you think of this test ride. How will you watch it and future films like this one? The conventional way or in a new way? How many of you own VR headsets? Please let me know in the comments.

My test ride through a part of ʼs-Hertogenbosch on a sunday afternoon.

The route I took in this test ride. I made sure you see as many different types of cycle infrastructure as possible. (I filmed the beginning of this ride before; in 2012 and also in 2015)

29 thoughts on “Come take a virtual ride with me!

  1. I like the older style better, and don’t see much benefit in the 360-degrees addition. I usually watch on a 24-inch or 27-inch pc monitor, tried a phone as well this time. If the quality would be the same, i wouldn’t complain since it’s easy enough to keep the view centered, but with the current quality it doesn’t feel like an improvement.

    1. The best solution in my opinion would be to use the ease of recording in 360, where you don’t have to worry what to show or point at , and later to edit it to a flat video, focusing what was important to show on the trip. I do this all the time here an example
      Regarding the quality of that first 360 video , he used the wrong settings on the camera …

      1. No, that is not how I want to use it. I want to give people the opportunity to look where THEY want to look. I cannot decide that. Recarding the wrong settings: I used the “log” option, thinking it would be possible to show the speed on the image (which I later found out cannot be done on a 360 video) and aparently that washes out the colours. That won’t happen again.

        1. I think the ‘opportunity to look where they want to look’ is a bit of a gimmick. People watch a video because the maker points out the interesting stuff. I do understand that you don’t make many active ‘perspective, framing and focus’ decisions while on your bike, but leaving all of them to the viewer might actually make it even harder to tell a story.

        2. To add to that, the image quality problem is not just the colors.

          Just a random still from a previous video and from this one, as seen in my browser:

          You really can’t see much of the bike-with-trailer in the new video, or see small details like curb angles, direction people are looking, et cetera.
          It just feels like a bad VHS-tape to me. With the ability to move around the view, which might help in some cases, but please don’t overuse it and keep it limited to the few cases where it makes sense. If you don’t want to hold a camera in your hand, try a gopro on a headband or chest harness.

  2. I think the eye-level, medium-wide view that you do is about right, the question is how to mount it if you can’t hold it in your hand. I always wanted to try a chest-mounted camera, since I think having something on the handlebars can really exaggerate turns. But this didn’t seem so bad in that respect, do you perhaps have it right on the top part of the stem that doesn’t turn?

    And until phone use in cars is something that can only be done with inescapable fear of a swift fine, I think legislating on phone use while cycling is really ignoring the bull in the China shop. I hope they have an exemption for smart watches or fitness trackers at least.

  3. This is a very innovative thing, dear Mark! I’ve watched most of your videos about cycling infrastructures in every part of the Netherlands from bridges to tunnels, from urban cycleways to countryside cycleways.
    They are all beautiful!
    One thing: by surfing on the web I’ve read that in the Netherlands using a smartphone while cycling is forbidden and the police will fine the cyclist. Is it the same even when you are making a video?
    I mean, even if you use a selfie-stick?

  4. Wow. This is the only good thing to come out of that stupid anti-cycling law.

    This new video-style could be a real game-changer for giving people living outside of the NL an even better understanding of what it is that makes cycling in the NL such an obvious choice for many trips, especially the shorter ones under 5km long.

    FYI I watched and interacted easily using a LG V20 Android.

    Thank you Mark.

  5. Reblogged this on Peerasak's Blog and commented:
    Though I’ve no a VR headset, I can watch your film with my iPhone 6. I can see your back, left and right included above & below (with black holes) views beside the front’s (as a general vid) when you’re riding forward. It’s felt like I ride there! I love it. Good job. Keep up the good work.

  6. Now I feel even more comfortable not being able to watch your exceptional videos as soon as they are released, within the twenty-four hours, now that I know that you get to profit from the advertisements.

    I am not able to support your productions… I was able to, and did years ago but not lately. But now I think I am doing my part however small of an amount.

  7. For gaining space on your iPhone you can automatically upload all you videos and pictures to iCloud I could regain more the 30GB of space on my iPhone. Your photos are all still visible and accessible in your Photos album on the iPhone as before and only downloaded from iCloud when required.

  8. I left some comments on youtube for you. I saw now that somebody here in the blog gave you already useful hints what to do. With the Insta360oneX there is another simple way to make bike videos for your channel. Make the video as done with the pole on the handle bar ( be carful that the lower thread/connection to the monopod is not breaking by the forces) then afterwards on your phone or on computer you can easily edit the video and showing the view of the video the issues which you wanted to point out. That is called reframing, super simpel and very effective. here an example: . Regarding the editing on phone and the limitation of space, you can do everything now also on a desktop computer even at higher quality.

  9. This is a great camera.
    The reason the footage looks washed out is that the camera is probably set in a colour mode (or colour profile) called “Log”.
    This records more information in the light and dark areas than the usual mode allowing more versatility later in the editing and colour correction stages of post production. In editing simply apply a colour and or contrast filter and then output.
    For example if you shot in regular profile and it was a bright sunny day and the shadows were too dark to see, if you tried to brighten them in editing, there would be no detail there to see. In Log, there would be detail in the dark parts. Same with the bright parts.

    Some editing software can add text and logo overlays to 360º video.

    Usually you first “stitch” the two cameras’ footage together into a equirectangular frame using the Insta360 Studio software before importing into editing software.

    1. Ah that’s it, thanks! I did try to log this ride only to find out that speed etc won’t be shown on a 360 image. And I would have needed to do the logging on the phone at the same time. No wonder the later footage looks so much better. The stitching is automatic now. I just need to “save as 360”. But I do need to do the injecting of that info for YouTube separately. That’s a bit odd, but I found out about that on the internet eventually. A steep learning curve this camera!

  10. I preferred your earlier style of filming, with the handheld camera, but I understand the need to comply with that almost baseless and definitely overreaching new law.

    I cannot watch this new ride (on my smartphone) inside your blog, as it shows the weird stretched 360 degrees image; so I need to click through to YouTube to watch it.
    Watching it on YouTube is less relaxing than it used to be, as the image wobbles and tilts whenever I move my phone away from straight ahead of my face. I can’t put the phone down on my desk to watch, as it tilts the image into showing mostly the ground rather than the view. This is both tiring and slightly nauseating from the wobbling my hand does holding my phone, resulting in a wobbling image.
    I also find the wind noise tiring, so need to mute it, and I miss your commentary and explanatory traffic signs etc.
    To be honest, I quit watching a short while in, which I almost never do with your videos. So that means, if I want to keep watching your videos when you start on the new ones, I’ll have to start looking you up on the desktop computer instead of my phone, to eliminate my own handheld wobbling. I’m not sure I will get around to that each week, the way I’ve been looking forward to your posts on my phone.

    I guess this would be fine for those longer videos that poeple want to ride along with, where you’re just showing us a trip through the countryside without a specific point to show and explain. Except those are the ones that get too long to edit on your phone 😦

    I’m hoping you might also be able to put your ordinary phone-camera (that you used before) up on that stick to make the non-tilting straight-ahead kinds of videos where you can add explanations and signs when you want to – and have the image stabilization approach the steadyness you achieved by hand.

    1. Hi Hanneke, I think you have not fully discovered what you can do with your phone while you watch this type of videos. You can place your phone on a table. If you then don’t see what you want to see, for instance where I am going, then you can simply move the visual part of the images with your finger to tilt it to a position you do like. If you then leave it that way you will be able to watch as you always did, without any movement. I think that the experience is then almost as you had it before. Good luck in trying that out.

  11. Stable enough and having a fluffy object in the sky won’t distract to much from movies since who looks at the sky in movies about NL cycling and cycling infra?
    I even like the colour of the movie!

  12. If you figure out the color settings I think that does look like the way into the future! So great to have the option to look at all the details!

    I don’t own a VR set and it doesn’t seem necessary. Looks just fine on desktop monitor.

  13. Very impressive stabilisation. The camera position is perfect with your head almost at the bottom of the view. Looking forward to the new style of video.

  14. Curious how you feel about the new law? Here, a number of politicians have proposed distracted walking laws, but these are generally not based on data and have no safety benefit. They often seem designed to distract from the road safety issue of distracted drivers. But it may be the case that the Netherlands is different and distracted cycling is a real issue causing harm.

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