All about cycling in the Netherlands
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.