Tuesday, April 24, 2018

VR, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Tail of the Dragon survivor 
Some of you may know that part of my "get rich very slowly" plan was to record VR (360 degree) video of the great motorcycle rides of North America, put them on YouTube, and watch the money roll in. 'Cause who wouldn't watch that, right? For this I'm using a Nikon Keymission 360. It shoots 4k video at 24fps, and generally looks pretty badass on my computer. The first indication I had that things weren't going to be easy was when it froze while I was updating the firmware in Texas. I should have been a little bit suspicious when I got zero flack from Nikon about the return. Luckily the weather wasn't conducive for motorcycle riding, in the meantime we moved on to the Keys. Long straight roads in Florida were not much fun to ride (or watch) especially after Irma was done. We spent the next couple of months in Florida and Southeast Georgia, flat country. Finally we had room in our schedule and a tiny weather window to ride the Tail of the Dragon. 

Hard lessons learned so far:

  • Don't mount the camera to your windshield, even with vibration reduction turned on in the camera, the footage is unwatchable. 
  • If it's working DON'T UPDATE THE FIRMWARE. 
  • Don't trust the camera control app. 

Finally we're ready to ride, battery charged, check, mounted to my helmet, check, look like a total dork, check. Off we go. 

One of the interesting things about a VR camera is, there is no room for a display, so to make sure it wasn't pointed at the trees or the ground I had to use "THE APP" (see lessons learned above). So I open the app, it connects to the camera, I adjust the angle of the mount, start recording, and away we go. Our plan was to run the Dragon in both directions, the first time with Shawna in front and the return trip I would gap the traffic as much as I could and haul ass. The first trip went great, verified the video was good and clean. Restarted the app, hit record, waited for the road to clear a bit in front of me and pinned it, I dragged pegs over every inch of that road. Valentino Rossi would have eaten my dust (in my head). Seriously a good run for a fat guy on a 600 pound bike. Wanna guess what happened to that Spielburgesque video? Butkis, zilch, nuthin. Recorded about two minutes of me going about 20 miles an hour gapping the traffic and shuts off. Plenty of battery, plenty of memory, no good reason at all. To paraphrase Stephen King "if Lucy really wanted to fuck up Charlie Brown she'd let him kick the ball once in a while." 

Well I can still do something with the video I've got. The usable video when edited was about 30 minutes and about 8GB. The park we stayed at in North Carolina had a very slow but stable internet connection. I decided to use this instead of our faster hotspots to allow Shawna to work unimpeded. I started downloading at 10am Monday morning, the download failed 4pm Tuesday afternoon (too large a file). Decided to re-download at 1280X640 10Mbps, the file downloaded successfully, but it was unwatchable due to macroblocking and every other kind of compression artifact. Undaunted I re-edited and got the video down from 32 minutes to 19 minutes. Started downloading at 9pm Tuesday evening at 2560X1280/30p 40Mbps and it failed sometime during the night (lost the internet connection). Restarted the download, got to 80% and failed, once again during the night. As a last desperate act I broke the video into two parts. I had been avoiding this option because I like the immersive nature of VR, and having to stop and load another clip would spoil the flow. With two 9-minute clips at least I could use the largest file size.  I was able to upload the first half (it only failed once) and the second half is pending (waiting on a faster internet connection). So for me at least VR has been a tough nut to crack. I'll keep plugging away at it, hopefully soon we'll have something fun to watch.

Fat guy under a tree


  1. Can’t wait to see the video. You should write a review for the camera in a magazine. That might get some attention. Uggh the head banging and nashing of teeth, hope you’re hard work pays off soon.

  2. Thanks, as an early adopter I feel like I'm doing a lot of beta testing for Nikon. The app is getting better I'm not having the connection issues I was having. Sorry about the audio, I'll probably do a voice over in the future