OutThere Colorado and virtual reality is a match made in an outdoor enthusiast’s heaven. “Our goal is to create this immersive, content-rich platform from which people can explore and experience the Colorado outdoors. We knew we had to try 360-degree filming and virtual reality,” says Charles Roach, the General Manager of OutThere Colorado.

From rafting the Arkansas River to a road race up Pike’s Peak, riding the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak to fly-fishing on the Tarryall River, virtual reality films allow you to dive into an activity that you may not have tried before or explore a place you haven’t been. This cutting edge storytelling tool will open up the outdoors and the outdoor lifestyle in a way that can’t be done with text and still photography alone.

We’ve learned a lot of things since we started filming in 360 in early 2016:

1. Simple is better.

There’s no need to over-direct a scene with a 360-degree camera. In the case of OutThere Colorado, letting the landscape speak for itself has resulted in some of the most powerful films.

2. Think in 360 degrees.

Virtual reality films are truly immersive because they’re dropped into a scene in medias res (in the middle of the action), rather than viewing the action along a horizontal, landscape-oriented plane. Therefore, when you’re filming, you have to think spherically. Is the view behind me as awesome as the view in front of me? If not, readjust or scout a slightly different location so that the viewer can ultimately experience the immensity of the canyon in the same way you did or squint upwards to see the tops of the redwoods like you had to.

Additionally, we’ve found that destroying the fourth wall is a totally effective way of engaging the viewer. Pretend that the camera is your hiking buddy and point towards the mountains in the distance. Because the camera orients itself right in the middle of the action, the more you engage with the camera, the more the viewer can suspend their disbelief and jump into the scene with you.

3. Mount the camera on the most static surface possible.

“We could not wait to mount the Samsung Gear 360 on a drone. But when we took a look at our initial footage, we realized that we had to adjust our flying technique,” explains Roach. “A shaky camera meant a shaky and inconsistent horizon line. Since then, I’ve been launching the drone, finding an epic spot, and hovering in place for about two minutes. It’s working a lot better.”

Samsung Gear360 - OutThere Colorado
OutThere Colorado’s Samsung Gear360, aka our favorite toy.

The best mounting platform is a steady tripod, but we’ve also found that platforms running on smooth tracks (think: chairlifts and zip lines) have worked as well.

If Crested Butte looks this epic in summer, just wait until ski season is in full swing.

4. Editing is hard.

Virtual reality technology is getting more and more sophisticated as the biggest names in tech and journalism jump on the VR wagon (see: the New York Times and Google). Six months ago, 360-degree cameras couldn’t shoot in 4K resolution. Now they can. Pretty cool stuff.

The biggest barrier that remains is the stitching process, i.e., the process of combining the multi-angle shots into one single, focused file. Different lighting from opposite sides of a scene can result in funky looking shots. Kolor, a program recently bought by GoPro, is currently the most efficient software on the market. It has the ability to stitch files together from multiple kinds of cameras (Samsung Gear 360, GoPro rigs etc.). You can create templates to streamline the editing, rendering, and stitching processes to accelerate and hone production. The problem is that it’s not all that user-friendly (read: tech and film editing experience required).

5. The Spatial Media Metadata Injector is not the advanced weaponry of a space-age villain.

Once you figure out Kolor, you’re going to want to add finishing touches like music and intros to your clips. You can actually edit the files in Adobe’s Premier Pro and Final Cut Pro.

Enter the Spatial Media Metadata Injector. In spite of the software’s nomenclature, running your films through the Injector is the last and very necessary step to uploading your clips to Facebook and YouTube.

Pro Tips:

Nikon has outdone itself with the KeyMission 360—a camera that shoots 360 degree 4K Ultra HD video and still photos. This seven-ounce camera has two lenses and to image sensors that truly create a seamless 360 degree viewing experience. It also is shockproof, waterproof, and freezeproof and has electronic vibration reduction—it’s ready for all of your adventures. We just got ours in the mail, and we’re so excited to capture some new footage with this awesome camera!

Nikon KeyMission 360 - OutThere Colorado
Nikon KeyMission 360.

If you’ve never interacted with a virtual reality film, here’s the least fussy way to enjoy this amazing technology:

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What We Believe

We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More