Catalog.Earth joined NPR to shoot 360° footage for a story on geological change in Rocky Mountain National Park. We covered numerous locations over the course of 5 days, working with sound engineer Bill McQuay from the Cornell Ornithology Lab and NPR's Senior Visual Interaction Designer, Wes Lindamood. Read more about our adventure below.
Select locations and 360° soundscapes can be explored through the following links. Separate 360° footage from Rocky Mountain National Park will be available in the Catalog soon.
Into the Rockies
In May of 2016, 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, Catalog.Earth's David Al-Ibrahim 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.
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.
Reporting: Wes Lindamood
Editing: Christopher Joyce
Development: Tyler Fisher and Brittany Mayes
Audio Production: Bill McQuay
Special thanks to Oregon State University professor of geology Eric Kirby