VR & The BCC Nature Trail

One of the very best parts of my job is getting to explore new ways to use technology.  Recently BCC’s Marketing group and I teamed up with STEM to help create a Virtual Tour of campus that can be experienced in 360 video or VR. That project should be completed very soon and the final editing is underway.

For some time now there has been discussion of creating a web tour of the BCC Nature Trail.  Now that we have some new equipment, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out using that equipment for a different project.  Last week a small team of us got together and hit all 16 stops on the Nature Trail, put down the 360/VR camera and took some video — or at least that was our plan!  It turns out that nature has it’s own plans (as always) and some of the stops we couldn’t locate because the maker posts were gone.  Stage two of this project is to replace the missing and worn posts, but if we can afford it we would like to replace every post.

Here’s the first test made from the video we captured.  It’s 4 of the stops just edited together to see how it looks.  In the first part don’t mind us creeping around in the back.  One of the challenges with VR is once you start the camera, where do you go if you don’t want to be in the frame?  We found ourselves hiding behind trees and staying quiet, which I found to be rather therapeutic and meditative.

There is one thing I will be changing next time I do this, and that is to use a smaller tripod.  This tripod is so large it seems to show up in most of the shots.  There is also a spot near the end where the trees are too close to the camera, causing some less than perfect stitching. All things to improve for next time.  One of our eventual ideas is to capture video of all four seasons in the same locations on the trail.  The audio is also quite loud, so I will be adjusting that before the final editing.

BCC Orchard from Above

BCC Orchard from 200 feet

After capturing all the VR video, the weather was gorgeous and it was time for some drone flying. First up was some video of the Nature Trail itself and the buildings on campus.

Next, I turned my attention once again to the newly planted BCC Orchard.  Some overhead top down shots were requested for the donors so they could better see the organization.  Here’s what one of those looks like, click the image to see a larger view.

I’m always excited to have an opportunity to fly on campus, especially when the weather is so good as it was this day.  I shared the video files with our Marketing team so who knows, they might very well end up in another BCC commercial.

Virtual Tour – Remote Everything

Yes, it’s been quite a while since I last posted.  A little over two months to be exact.  The grind of remote work has really been a challenge, especially since the Summer Semester began.  It’s really difficult to provide technology support remotely, especially when the individual is lacking basic computer skills.  It’s a real challenge to walk someone through changing a setting when they don’t know how to right-click.

Today is one of the first days I’m working back in my office.  The Library and Digital Commons are still closed so there’s no users in the lab.  It’s good to come here and get back in a work groove and there are several projects to be worked on.

One project is a Virtual Tour, although most of my role is done.  With help from STEM the college was able to get our hands on a Vuze VR/360 Camera.  The camera is pretty good and takes much of the work out of stitching together videos.  The video can then be edited right in Adobe Premiere, which is where the project is at now.

Last week I met with Josh from Security, Nolan from STEM, and Jonah from Marketing so that we could capture areas on campus for the virtual tour.  For about 2 hours we took 2-4 minutes of video from about 30 different locations all around campus.  Here’s a test below with 4 of the locations, outside of Hoffman, Chemistry Lab, Boland Theater, and the Digital Commons where my office is.

Marketing is now editing the final version, I’m really excited to see what they come up with!  Some of my drone video was used in the latest BCC commercial and I’m glad to see it put to good use.  There’s a shot of flying over Patterson where you can see the entire campus and also a rising shot of the nurses from a ceremony a month ago where they were outside, wearing masks and social distancing.

You will also see Jason, one of the Lab Assistants who worked in the Digital Commons as the thumbnail.  Jason went to study at UMASS I believe — I miss him and all the other Lab Assistants!

Since it’s been so long since posting I have all sorts of media and drone flights from the interim. Here’s a bonus drone video from Jones Nose on Mount Greylock!


Technology, VR, Covid-19

It’s been a busy and surreal week.  With all the news and talk of Covid-19 people are rushing to find technology solutions should we in the U.S., Massachusetts, or the Berkshires be told to stay home as has been the case in other places.  I myself have been pretty busy making sure we are ready at BCC insuring that there is a good and viable student support structure setup, which I feel there is.  Not only do we have our Knowledge Base, but should I myself have to work from home there are all sorts of other technology tools at my disposal including several laptops, Skype/Zoom, remote help assistance programs, and my good old trusty cell phone which all my desk calls are automatically forwarded to.

Another tool at my disposal is Virtual Reality.  While I may not be able to meet virtually with students unless they also have an Oculus headset, VR can provide an ability to meet with staff or faculty who have them.  This isn’t a new idea.  Even before the Covid-19 situation started Purdue was offering students the ability to attend commencement remotely.  There is also a recent Forbes article which discusses some conferences being hosted entirely through VR, no coincidence it’s a conference about VR so the folks who would be in attendance already have the equipment and know-how.

If you are looking for something extra scary and have a VR headset, you can experience what it’s like to be under quarantine in China, but maybe this is a little too real for some!

Regardless, technology will be seen as one solution, perhaps the most viable solution, while this situation evolves.  I know that I’m ready should we be told to stay at home, and I will be able to travel where ever my headset lets me.