Creative trend: The kit list – getting ready to tackle VR

Creative trend: The kit list – getting ready to tackle VR

Virtual reality is unavoidable at the moment. Marketeers are praising its immersiveness and versatility as tools to increase engagement; the relative novelty of successful VR projects makes them a hit with PR teams, and creative teams are excited to push themselves in a new medium, as you can see from our panel featuring creatives from The Mill, Halo Post, Alchemy VR and Rewind:


All of which begs the question, is this something you should be doing in-house? A case could be made for outsourcing to specialists like Alchemy whenever clients ask you for VR content, but the increased control and agility that comes with doing things in-house – especially when it comes to things like integrating 360 video into a wider campaign, rather than staging one-off VR events – has led many creative teams, including ours, to wonder if they could take this on themselves. Let’s take a look at what you’d need.

What could you be creating?

As Facebook, YouTube and other large platforms add support for 360-degree video, it’s becoming an integral part of many social campaigns, an extension of the traditional video content you might produce for a cross-platform project. It’s also become a popular alternative to corporate ‘explainers’ among companies who want to seem cutting edge and, as in this well-regarded example from Michelle Obama and The Verge, with publishers and journalists who want to ensure their content stays relevant as users move to new platforms. (The New York Times also got a massive publicity boost when it gave away a million Cardboard headsets and started making startlingly good immersive journalism).

‘Immersive VR’ – the kind that uses an expensive headset and motion tracking to make you feel like you’ve wandered into a video game – has more in common with games development and 3D animation than traditional film production, although as our panel pointed out, the sense of narrative and need for careful direction remain.

In the commercial sphere, immersive VR has proven to be a great tool for attracting PR at one-off events or tours (this mildly terrifying hiking experience from Merrell, for example or Sotheby’s offering you the chance to climb inside a Dalí painting. You can also climb inside your own sketches with help from Gravity Sketch). However, as VR technology becomes more readily available (and affordable) we’re seeing the rise of more apps for end users.

This is especially true of content that can be consumed via cheaper headset solutions like Google Cardboard. Cardboard-compatible apps have received a mixed response in the past because until recently many of the smartphones it worked with struggled to sync streams of 3D sufficiently well to avoid lagging and motion sickness, but the times they are a-changing, and the chips in phones they are a-getting more powerful.

So what kit do you need to invest in?

When it comes to shooting 360 video, there are two ways to do it: attach multiple action cameras (GoPros are popular) to a rig, then stitch the footage from each camera into a 360 degree panorama, or buy a camera designed to shoot 360, or go all the way and invest in the Insta360 Pro for true 360 filming.

We’d recommend shooting native 360, but if you’re wary of investing that much upfront, Teradek’s Sphere solution comes with a GoPro-compatible rig and a monitoring solution that’ll let you see your stitched footage on-set, which is a huge advantage if clients are going to be present for the shoot. There’s also Google’s Jump programme, for which you’d need to purchase a Google Jump rig, then use the Jump Assembler to send your footage to Google, who return it to you 48-72 hours later, fully stitched.

However you choose to shoot your footage, you’ll want to add Imagineer Systems’ mocha VR plug-in to your editing software, as that makes it possible for you to perform tasks like optimised planar tracking, masking, object removal, and horizon stabilisation directly in your NLE.

Adobe have been quick to add VR tools to Premiere Pro, too, so if you already have a Creative Cloud subscription then it’s well worth exploring those. With the Premiere Pro CC 2017 update, Adobe added native QuickTime DNxHR/HD codec support, so you can create VR media files which play back more efficiently than H.264. They also added VR properties to Clips, meaning Premiere Pro will look for the same metadata added during export, which allows 360 playback in YouTube and Facebook. In June, Adobe acquired Skybox plug-ins by Mettle, for 360 video and VR, which will integrate their functionality natively into Premiere Pro and After Effects, and should be available by the end of the year.

One of the key things from the panel we held (seriously, scroll back up and give it a watch), is that while virtual reality projects tend to max out at around 20 minutes in length, they spend longer in post-production than a 60 minute television programme, as the challenges of stitching footage, mixing audio and performing all your usual corrections and grades now has to be done on far more footage, which is far more difficult to match, may contain 3D animated elements, and potentially contains a crew and other equipment that need to be painted out, because there’s nowhere to hide them in a 360-degree shoot. Even adding motion graphics, as you might want to in a corporate video, becomes much more difficult when they have to exist (and follow the viewer around) in a 3D space.

Doing all this means you might need to invest in higher-spec workstations (asked to describe the ideal spec, our product manager simply said “beefy”, which you’re free to take however you want, but which we think means “the sort of thing you’d work with 4K footage on, why not explore your options in our workstation configurator?”).

How can we help?  

Aside from hosting Soho’s premier panel on the subject, we can provide all the kit you need for VR – cameras, rigs, software, plug-ins, media, monitors – from one place, with 30 day credit accounts (subject to you passing a credit check) and next day delivery on many key items.

If you’re not quite ready to buy, our longstanding relationships with leading media vendors mean that we’re perfectly placed to advise on the directions different suppliers are taking with VR, and help you find kit, storage solutions and workstations to support the direction you want to take, as well as advice on how to fit them all together.

For more on the cost of bringing VR in house, take a look at this sister article for finance teams. If you want to know more about VR, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email If you’re ready to start shopping head to our design store, hereFor everything else, including the latest news and reviews, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

Post with the Pros pulled together its most impressive roster yet for our virtual reality showcase. Demos from manufacturers HTC, NVIDIA, HP, Imagineer, Dolby and EditShare were followed by an expert panel led by our very own Jamie Allan, featuring Mike Davis (Creative Director at Alchemy VR), Oliver Kibblewhite (Head of Special Projects at Rewind), The Mill’s Creative Technologist Kevin Young and Halo’s Head of Audio Operations, Richard Addis. 

Highlights of the night included workflow tips from EditShare (above and beyond “use EditShare”, they recommend an Adobe editing workflow aided by Mettle’s SkyBox Studio 2 plugin), previews of of NVIDIA’s upcoming offerings (a VR WORKS 360 Video SDK that enables realtime stitching of 4K; Pascal architecture that’s up to 95% faster than the previous generation and capable of rendering out both ‘eyes’ of content for a head mounted display simultaneously), and the chance to try out immersive content from a range of our customers, as well as sampling content from the manufacturers themselves.

Story telling vs story living

While the VR market is growing massively, it’s still a relatively new medium, and our panel were keen to pin down how it should and shouldn’t be employed. Our experts were cautious of projects that treated VR like a new version of 3D TV rather than a unique medium, insisting that it needs to be applied to projects where “you think ‘there’s no way this could be any better in any other technology’.”

Rewind’s in-house philosophy makes a clear delineation between story telling – linear narrative, often delivered via 360 video – and story living – immersive experiences delivered via devices like Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE, where the user chooses their own path through the world and the creator’s job is to make sure that a) there’s somewhere for them to go and b) it can be rendered quickly enough when they get there.

Know your technology

Another challenge posed by VR, and often not realised by clients, was the cost of post-production. Not only is there a lot more footage to process, as rigs can run up to dozens of cameras, but as Mike pointed out, “A lot of people don’t think about the cost of painting things out of shot [when shooting 360]”. In Richard’s experience, “VR is rarely longer than 20 to 30 minutes, but the time you spend in post is far in excess of what you’d spend on a 60 minute TV show.”

The challenges aren’t limited to post-production, however. Different cameras will have fractionally different start times and colour differences that need to be compensated for; different brands have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to stitching several shots together to make a single VR space, and lengthy testing is needed to find out whether, for example, your actors can walk across one of these stitch lines without their face warping, or if you need to set up very specific marks and limits.

There’s also the fact that stitching the individual camera outputs together to make the final shot can take several days, so a director used to seeing instant playback will have to deal with long delays before they know whether they have the shot they want. (This can be sidestepped by strapping a handful of secondary cameras on top of your rig to give them a very rough onset stitch, according to Oliver.)

Devices and delivery

Richard predicts that over the next few generations, the hardware market for VR – which is currently very segmented – will coalesce, allowing for content to be delivered to multiple devices, or be optimised for one platform “so it’ll be like delivering for PlayStation or Xbox” rather than the current system, in which you need to know your target device and its limitations before you begin pre-production.

Oliver’s hopes for the future include “a target baseline level of controls – your HMD should include some sort of haptic feedback, it should have positional tracking, and you should make sure that you can meet a minimum level of experience, especially for interactive content.”

Is it worth it?

While Mike and the rest of the panel were aware that we hadn’t found “the ‘must-have’ content for home VR, like the Queen’s coronation was for television”, they were adamant that tackling the challenges of VR was worthwhile, and that rather than “3D, which got in the way of TV, which people were already comfortable with”, it offered a unique experience for the viewer that was distinct from any other media they have access to. “People are moved by VR in a way that they’re not by TV,” Kevin told us. “It’s something quite special.”

Here’s the full panel, for anyone interested:

Want to know more about how we can help you incorporate VR? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Here’s what you need to know about Mocha VR

Here’s what you need to know about Mocha VR

Imagineer’s Mocha VR is here, and it’s something we’re really excited about. It brings top quality visual effects and post-production workflows to 360°/VR filmmaking, and offers up an efficient workflow for editors, compositors and finishing artists. 

Rooted in Imagineer’s Academy Award-winning planar tracking algorithm, Mocha VR is the first plug-in to utilise native 360° optimised planar tracking, masking, object removal, and horizon stabilisation tools. It’s available for Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Avid Media Composer, The Foudry’s NUKE, and Blackmagic Design Fusion. The planar tracking functionality can even be used to iron out any common issues associated with 360° post-production, like aerial footage stabilisation and camera removal.

Check out what Mocha VR can do:

360° planar tracking. The planar tracking solution powers the workflow for advanced masking, graphics inserts, object removal and new reorient/horizon stabilisation.

360° workspace. Optimised workspace and toolset works simultaneously in rectilinear and lat/long views bringing 360° capability to a variety of applications. Editors and artists can easily track, roto, create effects, and insert graphics without worrying about equirectangular seams or distorted pixels.

360° masking tools. Unlimited X-Spline tools for articulate shape creation and masking, which saves hours of time versus traditional keyframing techniques. Roto-masks can be rendered back to host or exported to most editing and compositing systems.

360° object removal. Mocha’s famous Remove Module now works on 360° video by analysing temporal frames and removing unwanted camera rigs, shadows, crew members, and more for massive time-savings.

Horizon stabilisation and reorient. Designed to reduce unstable motion, the new reorient module can drastically improve nausea-inducing VR experiences by smoothing or stabilising shaky, handheld, and drone captured footage. Driven by robust planar tracking, a user can even track and stabilise difficult and out of focus footage.

Lens distort workflow for 360° compositing. Mocha VR’s plug-in based lens correction workflow converts between lat/long and rectilinear for a simple workflow to add titles, graphics, patches, and non-360 enabled filters to your 360 project.

Buy Mocha VR plug-in for Avid, Adobe and OFX here.

Buy Mocha VR plug-in for Avid here.

Buy Mocha VR plug-in for Adobe here.

Buy Mocha VR plug-in for OFX here.

Want to know more about Mocha VR? Give us a call on 03332 409 306, email or pop your details in the form below. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Your virtual reality content kit list

Your virtual reality content kit list

If you want to get students creating virtual reality content of their own, you’re going to need to get your hands on the right hardware. As well as the very chic headsets you’ll have seen demos of, you’re also going to need a workstation and a VR-ready graphics card. Here’s what we recommend.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive is our favourite of the recent crop of headsets. It’s designed for ‘room scale’ VR, in which each participant interacts with objects, characters and environments in a limited space (so ideal if you’re converting a broom cupboard in your media department into a VR space).

Each player is equipped with a wireless sensor that boasts 24 sensors and SteamVR tracking technology, which combine to give realtime feedback on a player’s location within the room, enabling more realistic interactions and unobstructed movement. To counteract participants’ tendency to wander into walls while immersed in VR, the Vive has a built-in guidance system called Chaperone. If you double tap a menu button, or are about to hit a real-world obstacle, Chaperone drops an overlay of the real world onto your VR environment, so you can veer away from any walls, furnishings or people you don’t want to collide with.

Bear in mind, though, that having the headset alone is not enough – you need to opt for a kit that includes base stations, link boxes and face cushions to ensure that you’re ready to go. HTC are offering a Business Edition of the Vive that combines all of these, and adds in a commercial use licence should you want to put your Vive to work recouping its own cost.

HP workstations

Rich media work is always demanding on your hardware, and creating and powering virtual reality content is no exception.

If you’re already using Avid-approved HP workstations for video editing, animation, or VFX-related courses, the top end of these will be suitable for virtual reality work, too – we recommend an HP Z840, as these workstations are not only powerful in and of themselves, but allow plenty of room for expansion should you want to increase your capabilities in the future.

As well as the towers themselves, we offer accessories, warranties, storage and infrastructure solutions, so can help you update an existing media lab, install a new one, or add additional machines on their own network so that working with VR content doesn’t slow things down for anyone else.

One thing that you need to bear in mind, whether you’re buying new workstations or updating existing ones, is that you’re going to swap out your standard graphics card for a 3D-ready one.

A 3D-ready graphics card

NVIDIA/PNY have already got two cards ready for you: the 16GB P5000 and 24GB P6000, both of which should work with your HP workstations. These cards harness NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU technology, and offer enormous memory capacity so that you can work with ever-larger data sets and more complex visuals.

If you’d like a hand putting your 3D workstations together, you can get in touch with our team on the details below, or come along to our virtual reality event on 8th February to see how industry professionals are using VR in their new projects (you can register for that here).

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Get immersed in the Sennheiser AMBEO VR mic

Get immersed in the Sennheiser AMBEO VR mic

If you’re creating virtual reality video and want to match your VR video content with proper VR audio too, take a look at Sennheiser’s new AMBEO VR mic, designed to seamlessly record 3D immersive audio for captivating VR experiences.


From the outside, the AMBEO VR looks and feels like any other Sennheiser mic, but it’s the clever bits inside that give it its VR capturing capabilities. Fitted with four matched KE 14 capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement, the ambisonic mic captures the sound that surrounds you from a single point, giving you fully-spherical, 360-degree sound to complement your VR video content – all in an easy-to-use, elegant design.


The Sennheiser AMBEO VR has been developed in conjunction with virtual reality content creators, and with cinematic VR in mind, as well as live action capture for traditional film. Other uses also include live-streamed virtual reality content, live-streamed content for sports or current events, and audio capture for virtual reality games and other interactive VR content. Bundled in with the mic is also Sennheiser’s A-B encoder software plugin, which can be seamlessly embedded in your post-production process. Check out the recording workflow diagram below for an idea of how it all works:

Sennhesier AMBEO DIAGRAM 2016

Those Sennheiser AMBEO VR key features at a glance:

– Single-point microphone for Virtual Reality content.
– Four matched capsules in a tetrahedral cluster.
– Captures spherical, fully spatial audio in Ambisonics format.
– Pairs well with 360/VR video capture.
– Portable and rugged for various recording conditions.
– A to B format encoder included: VST and AAX (for Mac and Windows; a standalone version will be available at a later date).

Want to know more about the Sennheiser AMBEO VR microphone? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news and reviews, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.