I’m the Underwater DP for this really cool film project coming up. But as always with UW stuff, a lot of testing needs to happen before any adventure I decided to do double duty and do a sea star wasting syndrome survey at the same time as testing out kit. Results of the survey were grim, only a few mottled stars and no ochre stars, sunflower stars or urchins on the pilings.
This Monday I got to do something i've been dreaming of for over a year now! I got to test out shooting 360 video with a TRIDENT ROV!
In preparation for the coral bleaching and restoration portion of the film, Cloudbreak, it became clear that being able to survey larger areas of the reef before jumping in with the 360 cameras would be super helpful.
I'd chatted with Zack from OpenROV about catching up when he was in town, but we hadn't really nailed down and exact date until last week. I'd been wracking my brain about 'optimal' set up for a 360 flying ROV. Would it be pole out front, would it be the 3 camera array mounted on top, the options were numerous.
In the interest of efficiency and utilizing stuff I already had sitting around the house (and limited options on hand for mounting brackets etc) i figured why not give the method that Kodak Pixpro already uses for flying on aerial drones. With the original OpenROV that wouldn't be a real option due to shape, but with the new TRIDENT, its slim and trim design could work.
So we opted to use the standard mounts (luckily I found two in my random accessories drawer) one on top, one on the bottom and hope for the best. I knew going into it that the stitch would be a bit of a challenge, considering loss of FOV with the small dome ports and parallax from the distance between cameras (less of an issue on a drone because everything is so far away) but figured if this is just for surveys and not for client footage, that what the heck, why not do a proof of concept!
We met up at Cove 2 as the passenger ferry was fortuitously not running, and got started! Introductions to the Trident were made, if you are familiar with the earlier generation OpenROV, this is basically worlds apart. The TRIDENT really is what the DJI Phantom Drone was for aerial, it is stunning. The build quality is top shelf, it is robust and magnificently easy to master the controls. This immediately boosted my confidence.
Once the cameras were securely mounted on the TRIDENT we removed the saltwater weights as the Kodak Pixpro's are a little negative and got started!
The trim compensation worked well to level the TRIDENT out, even though she was nose heavy from the cameras, in future tests I'll probably make some little syntactic foam floats for the top camera, as although trim compensation worked well, I'd like to keep her floating in trim comfortably as that makes for more stable footage which is necessary for a good 360 viewing experience.
We flew the TRIDENT #360 around for a good half an hour which was a blast. Again, if you have only experienced the earlier models of OpenROV, you REALLY need to give this a try, seriously night and day.
Sadly my lenses fogged up on the Kodak housings (humidity and all can be a bear in the summer) but luckily I still managed to get enough video for our proof of concept. Watch the video in the youtube app at highest resolution for best experience!