360 Photobooth - Showcasing in Bradford

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A few weeks back, the News Labs team was approached by Radio 1Xtra to run a workshop and hold an outreach stall in Bradford as part of a Radio 1Xtra Academy.

Their brief stated that they were aiming to “inspire young people in the next steps of their careers” with an emphasis on “future tech of the BBC’s filming equipment and technology”. Could we help? Of course.

Coding and data alone won’t do it!

The participants at the 1Xtra Academy event are mainly 16-24 year-olds. Most of BBC News Labs’ work is coding and data. So we needed some hardware…

A couple of phone calls later and I met the controller of the BBC London Factual catalogue, Pasquale Tropea, to whom I mentioned this event and asked if he’d be interested in supplying some camera equipment to help capture the participants’ imagination.

The answer was “Yes, if you help me”. Pasquale’s issue was that when demoing the Ricoh Theta 360, it was very hard to get the photos off the camera to share. It was possible with the phone app, but sharing options are limited and when dealing with many people over the course of a day it becomes a logistical nightmare. Could we make something that would share the images to a better place, easily? If so, he’d help us.

The Solution

Conveniently there is a Node.js module called ‘ricoh-theta’ which allows the basic connection from a locally running node app to a camera via it’s wifi on 192.168.1.1. Over the weekend we rigged up a web interface to allow the user to snap the shot from the camera, then download the image directly to the hard drive. Once it’s there we can process it with imagemagick to alter the projection, add watermarks etc. This is done via a Python script that monitors the directory, processes any image and then uploads the output to Twitter.

Little Planet Projection

Future applications

360 technology is becoming increasingly popular. This camera / app could be used to quickly send full panoramic shots back to base by a reporter / researcher on location. Directors could then use it to establish postitions for lighting, cameras, potential shots etc. These type of shots could also help the audience feel more in touch with a story.

We are considering expanding the software to allow the creation of immersive timelapses.


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