Safe to say, when you get a text informing you that you'll be shooting "bees in 360" the afternoon before the gig, you can't help but be intrigued. Arriving on site the next morning producer Alex Watson informed me we were shooting footage inside a beehive. Soon after, the genius that is Philip Bloom arrived with the 360 gear, and things started to become clearer.
Shooting in a beehive comes with its range of challenges. The most obvious is that you have to wear protective suits, that restrict your vision somewhat, and gloves that can make operating your gear more difficult and reduce your dexterity. This is especially so with particular pieces of kit, including one of the cameras we decided to use for the shoot, the Samsung Gear 360 SM-C200, which is controlled using an app available on Samsung mobiles.
The biggest challenge, however, is light. Light should always be your first concern whether shooting movie or stills. In a beehive this is especially problematic since it is an enclosed and small space. Since inside the hive will be fairly dark any which way you choose to light it, any bright daylight coming into the hive will be blown-out and very unattractive. Any large lighting panels were also out of the question, due to the restricted amount of space. Even reduced to the minimum of two racks of honeycomb which were necessary for the camera to be placed in the middle of, we had a workable space around six centimetres deep on either side to light the hive with. In each of these spaces we placed a battery powered LED panel. Initially these were placed facing the walls of hive to try and diffuse the light, but this proved unsatisfactory, and instead it was decided to shine the LEDs through the honeycomb, creating a deep amber glow that proved attractive. Later, to try and give the shot more depth down into the hive, a mesh was removed from the bottom, and another more powerful LED panel was shone at an angle from below, which enabled the camera to capture bees on the honeycombs in the layers below the camera.
We then placed the camera inside, alternating between the Samsung Gear 360 SM-C200 and the Kodak PIXPRO SP360, and let the bees do their thing, doing several shots using slightly different lighting settings. This was the first time Philip was using his 360 gear as his first camera, and the idea is to use the footage alongside Virtual Reality headsets. This will allow people to get their heads into a beehive, something that it is not recommended to do in actual reality, and have a proper look around a bee's home. It is hoped this will help laypeople to better understand bees, and to get more people engaged in the conservation of bee species which are vital to the UK's ecosystem.
The footage looked great over the phone displays, and once it has gone through the laborious process of stitching, there is great hope that this could be a start-off point for 360 video to begin becoming the next big thing. Virtual Reality has come huge strides over the last few years, and by 2020, who knows what might be possible? All in all, an excellent experience. You can see a preview 360 still from inside the hive on Philip's Facebook page.