Pop Singer, Film Students Turn Heads With 360 Music Video

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

Noa Neal performed a new hit single live at CES 2016 and San Francisco State University film students captured the experience in a 360 music video and quickly shared it with fans on Facebook and YouTube.

A trio of San Francisco State University film students, led by acclaimed director Christopher Coppola, made a big splash at CES 2016 with their 360-degree video of Noa Neal in her first worldwide performance of the pop singer’s new single, Wildheart.

The three students, Max Serwitz, Jacob Phillips and Diego Murga, recently won a PAH Fest award for their “San Francisco in 360 Degrees” video based on Neal’s new hit.

That video won them a trip to CES 2016 in Las Vegas and a new assignment: create a 360 video of Neal performing Wildheart live at the Intel booth.

The idea for it all came after Coppola talked with long-time acquaintance, Mike Gendimenico, a technical marketing manager at Intel and seasoned photographer, and Intel’s Jerry Elkins, Kurt De Buck and Mike Rivet, who worked with Neal to create the innovative 360 video for Graffiti.

A few hours after Neal’s live performance at CES, the student’s video was posted to Facebook and YouTube.

Most people are getting their first look at this new video format on YouTube, Facebook or mainstream media news sites. What makes it so unique is that the perspective can be controlled by viewers. By touching the left or right side of a tablet, smartphone or computer screen, viewers feel like they’re standing in the location of the camera with the ability to look around.

Viewers can have the same interaction by moving a handheld or Google Cardboard mounted smartphone left, right, up or down or by moving their heads while wearing a VR headset. Unlike true virtual reality experiences, these 360-degree videos can be enjoyed without VR headsets.

“It’s a fantastic technical and artistic achievement that can be watched over and over and you still discover a new element each time you watch,” said Neal, describing her first 360 video for Graffiti.

While the new format is becoming popular, Coppola said narrative 360 film making will take a little while before going mainstream because the format takes a while to learn. But, he believes, the technology will inspire new creativity.

Students need to learn how to configure a rig fitted with six GoPro cameras. They have to learn the difference between Motion Synchronization and Audio Synchronization. Since the cameras capture everything all around, students need to learn how to place the camera rig in the right spots to get the best shots.

Capturing footage on the move is another challenge. Then there’s the stitching, editing, final output and uploading.

“It’s constantly changing and moving around,” said Coppola. “You might have an actor in the front doing something then you might feel something behind you. You have to steer your audience and figure that out and make it fun.”

Christopher Coppola at CES 2016

Coppola said students have to see everything around them before they decide their shot. It reminds him of a technique the great American film director John Ford used decades ago.

“Look at the horizon, then look at the entire area,” he said, recalling Ford’s advice for filmmakers. “When you give students a 360 camera, this advice helps.”

Equipped with technology and tips from Intel, the Coppola’s students were given six days to make something incredible.

360 Video Equipment for SF State

Having little, if any, experience with 360 video made it hard at first, but they took inspiration from Noa’s first 360 music video and developed a new storyline.

360 Degree Video Makers CES 2016

“It’s so new that it really demanded our brainpower,” said SFSU student Max Serwitz, describing how difficult it was to get “San Francisco in 360 Degrees” started. They started in 2D then quickly moved into 360 mode.

Serwitz’s teammate Jacob Phillips said using the cameras, editing and executing all the required prep work was challenging.

“The GoPro mount had six different cameras that are all individual, so each one has to be accounted for and organized then synchronized, which created a lot of redundancies to make sure everything was recording,” said Phillips.

360 Video Rig Noa Neal CES 2016

Diego Murga, another teammate, said that as a director it was difficult to move past traditional shooting experience and get his mind into a panoramic perspective.

“I’m so used to looking at stuff from behind the lens,” Murga said. “There were sleepless nights where I couldn’t comprehend the idea of not being behind the camera. That was the biggest struggle.”

Serwitz agreed it was hard to think beyond the 2D, behind-the-camera view, a cinematic view. It required the team to conceptualize their story flowing in a panoramic world rather than from a stationary perspective.

“The whole gimmick of 360 is that you can look around, and someone’s always doing something,” Serwitz said. He wanted the story to move, something like a “Where’s Waldo?” story.

With 360 video technology advancing and more accessible to anyone, experts inside Intel like Khoi Nguyen believed CES 2016 would be the ideal place to show how it works, and offer a peak into the future. The SFSU film students were invited to share what they learned making the new music video for Neal.

Noa Neal Live 360 Video CES 2016

Looking around CES 2016, Phillips said technology allows people do so many things, especially in a world where people can market themselves and show off their talents.

“Access to technology makes things more competitive,” said Phillips. “It allows us to spread our wings and find our niche.”

He said that ideas are the most important part, but technology is a close second in helping filmmakers advance. The technology pushes him to work harder, think more and step outside of his comfort zone to create new, impactful films.

Amatures are using it to create family videos while more advanced 360 video makers are capture skiing and snowboarding. Murga said he saw people at CES get excited about using 360 video to cover sports events, allowing fans to view the action from all kinds of angles.

“This technology is no longer just for entertainment,” said Murga. “It’s still primitive, but it’s the future and being used now.”

Coppola, who has been in the movie making business for over three decades and oversaw most of the filming, said technology innovation constantly impacts his craft tremendously.

“My uncle, [legendary academy-award winning film director] Francis Ford Coppola, believed it was all going digital, electronic cinema,” he said. “I’m carrying that mantle.”

Seeing how technology gave everyday people (and not just Hollywood regulars) the ability to make movies, he turned his attention to teaching future filmmakers. As his students and film students everywhere hone their 360 video skills, movie audiences may find themselves more immersed in stories than ever before.

“With 360 video, the audience’s emotions become a big part of it,” he said. “It’s a journey of emotions as the audience participates by changing the perspectives.”

Noa Neal 360 Video CES 2016


Kurt De Buck contributed to this story.

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