Adventures: Past, Present, and Future
Dearest Catalog.Earth Backers,
We hope you are off to a wonder-filled new year! We have exciting updates and news to share. And even for those of you who have been following developments on Catalog.Earth, a proper and more personal message is certainly overdue. Thus, we have chronicled a full account of our recent activities, obstacles, surprises, and plans for the future.
I. Into the Rockies
In May, we were approached by NPR with the opportunity to collaborate on an experimental story of related nature: geologic changes to our National Parks. They were interested in our approach to 360° media, and we soon settled on an expedition to Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. Though not Alaska, it presented an opportunity to test equipment and broaden our scope en route to the Glacier.
Of course, we also lacked the months of preparation previously budgeted for such an endeavor. The Samsung Gear 360 failed to launch on time, and we were fortunate enough to acquire a pair of Kodak’s PixPro SP360 4K cameras. We also came up with a unique solution to securing a thin monopod on rough or icy terrain: welding alpine tent stakes to the base.
Alongside audio producer Bill McQuay and senior interaction designer Wes Lindamood, we spent five days scouting locations, capturing footage, downloading assets, and racing the sun. (The bright and unobstructed sun in Colorado’s clear blue sky will blow out the exposure of one camera lens, making stitching the two spheres of footage impossible. Thus, we aimed to shoot every sunrise - hitting the trails at 3AM.)
Over the next two months, we worked with NPR's Visual's Team in Washington D.C. to process content and publish the feature: Rocky Mountain VR.
We recommend the use of a mobile device with headphones.
II. Technical Setbacks
During the shoot in Colorado and post-production in D.C., we learned that the PixPro cameras do not produce best content. While technically 4K, when projected as a sphere in VR or even on a large screen, the resolution is simply lacking. Given the work that it will take to get to location on the glacier in Alaska, we do not want to waste the opportunity with inadequate cameras and have been working to acquire the best-possible equipment. (Samsung has actually given us a 360 Gear camera, and as of this week, we have finally gained access to a brand new 6-camera GoPro Omni rig!)
III. Big Trees
Through our work with NPR, we encountered a new adventure west of the Rockies, though still not as far at the Columbia Glacier. While Saba was finishing her work with Amazon in California, David joined a team of Berkeley scientists to document their work in the ancient giants of Sequoia National Park.
Using crossbows, these researchers shoot lines into the upper branches and hoist themselves through the canopy. Taking measurements and samples from trees more than 1600 years old, they have been gathering data to better understand the impacts of climate change on the forest. They were also willing to bring one of our 360° cameras with them.
This footage will soon be added to the Catalog.Earth archive, which we are still processing. Previews can be seen on Catalog.Earth in our Journey section.
IV. Volcanic Partners
We are also excited to share a new partnership and exciting footage. We were contacted by Leilani Sills, a Design Thinking teacher at the Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii, and have since partnered with them to capture some of Hawaii’s most stunning landscapes. More precisely, Leilani and her inspiring team of 8th graders ventured to the Big Island to capture Steam Vents, Lava Fields and Sulphur Banks on in Volcano National Park. The students worked on post production, stitching, and creating a compelling immersive environment to experience the landscapes.
Mid-Pac shared their experience on Hawaii News Now, and the interview can be seen online.
V. Spring on the Glacier
In recent news, we have scheduled our trip to Alaska! We will depart for the Columbia Glacier on May 20, 2017. There is more news to come, and we have a number of rewards and special surprises in the works, so stay tuned!