Storytelling In The Digital Age

Keeping within the project scope of reimagining a fairy tale or fable, my group mate Vince and I decided to retell the story of James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. The book describes a fantastic journey of a young boy named James, who escapes his cruel aunts in London by way of a giant peach that grew from a magical bean. Befriending a group of insects who live inside the peach, as personified by the author, James and this unlikely gang travel across the Atlantic to New York City. Vince and I decided to tell this segment of the fairy tale and reimagine it as though James were visiting NYC today, and sharing the sites via virtual reality, 360 and tiny planets. We incorporated a peach with the hashtag #GiantPeachNYC on all media. The final project is displayed as a webpage:

Splitting up the sites, Vince and I covered a vast amount of territory shooting landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Park, Times Square and 9/11 Memorial. Each site was captured as a 360 experience (still and video) using the Ricoh Theta. Vince used a monopod/selfie stick, and I toggled between a mono pod (where allowed) and simply standing with the Theta held above my head. This worked great for stills, but showed a subtle shake in videos. I had a great deal of fun during this portion of the project as it has been a long time since I had to physically visit sites to collect media.

To make the “tiny planets,” we used the app, RollWorld, which can use image and video captured via Theta, or pano photos from a regular smartphone, to create a circular version of the landscape. We inserted the hashtag peach in the center to cover the tripod.

Covering the tripod in the 360 was more tricky. Taking the peach image as a PNG, using Photoshop, I flipped it 180 degrees, then went to Filter menu > Distort > Polar Coordinates > Select rectangular. Then I flipped the image back 180 degrees. At this point, I stretched the image so that it was 1920 pixels wide. My final image to insert into Premiere Pro over the video (or still) was 1920 wide x 983 high pixels.

In Premiere Pro, I created a new “title” and inserted that as a separate layer over the video. I intentionally shot all video in 15-20 second increments to create smaller file sizes. In Premiere Pro, I duplicated each videos until the entire file would export around 2 minutes long. It was a trial by error process to upload to Vimeo, as sometimes a single pixel would create a black line or black circle on the peach, when viewing it in 360 via Vimeo app. I had to go back into Premiere Pro, line up the peach exactly to the edge (tough to do!), re-export, and reupload. I ended up paying for Vimeo Pro so as to embed a clean frame into the website I created.

I think the 360 stills, video, and tiny planets are an awesome way to showcase landmarks and allow individuals to see the sites from their home. On the James website, visitors can opt to put on VR goggles and select the goggle icon to view it in virtual reality. While the project itself was time consuming when adding up the collection of media, fiddling with the peach, Premiere Pro file and Vimeo upload, it was very simple for me. Perhaps, I am lucky since I was a professional photographer previously, and have dabbled quite a bit in Premiere Pro as of late. So, any other person might have spent weeks trying to do what we accomplished in just a few days.

To improve the experience on the website, I had intended to create moving images and modal popups, but could not due to backend limitations. I also later found plugins that could embed the 360 right into the websites, versus potentially using Vimeo for both stills and movie. I also discovered a site called Panaroo, which has neat features, like linking between 360’s, such that one could toggle back and forth in the same landmark, say Times, Square, from different locations within the area in a sort of single storyboard.

I really love VR and 360, so I hope to apply this concept to a children’s travel book my Mother and I conceived many years ago featuring a monkey and bunny set of finger puppets, who visit cities across the country. I think it would create an incredible, explorative and educational platform to have the children and families visit the sites online.


Storytelling In The Digital Age

Video Mapping with Mad Mapper

3D Scanning & Unity

Virtual Reality + BUNKER

Final Project

Ready Player One