Against the backdrop of COVID-19 in the past year, the need for VR videos has been increasing rapidly as they allow remote sharing of realistic 360-degree spaces.

Today we’ll interview Mr. Nagahama from Omura Printing Co., Ltd. They create VR videos shot with a THETA 360-degree camera and provide VR experiences to a broad range of people, thanks to their Auggle S2 VR goggles, which can be purchased for 1 dollar per unit*. Read his interesting story about how the needs for VR content have been changing and some tips for VR creation!

* For orders over 3000 units

Takahisa Nagahama from Omura Printing Co., Ltd.

Demand for VR content grows during the pandemic

About a year and half ago, we interviewed you about your paper VR goggles and VR videos. Has there been any change in demand in the VR business over the past year during the corona pandemic?

Due to the pandemic, demand for our 360-degree VR videos and paper VR goggles skyrocketed. We were flooded with inquiries around mid-April 2020, when self-quarantine became pervasive.

Omura Printing Co.’s paper VR goggles and THETA V

We print our client’s introduction on the paper goggles, along with the QR code and the YouTube URL to their 360-degree video. Users read the code on their smartphone, put on the paper goggles, and watch the video on YouTube. This way they can easily experience a 360-degree VR world.

We can also provide the paper goggles only and the client can create a 360-degree video themselves.

Accessing YouTube using the QR code printed on the Auggle S2

What kind of clients do you often have?

We used to have many clients that wanted to introduce their company at employment seminars, or clients that wanted novelty items for kids events.

Watch VR videos on Auggle S2 with smartphones

But during the corona pandemic, the number of requests from schools has increased dramatically. I’d say almost all of our recent inquiries were from schools. There were many schools that could no longer hold open campuses, and they wanted to utilize 360-degree VR content to introduce their facilities. In particular, many private schools did so.

VR video shooting scene for open campus at Yasuda Academy

Right, I’ve heard many schools are having trouble opening their campuses to prospective students. How do you distribute Auggle S2 to viewers?

Since school information sessions were often held online, the school sent the Auggle S2 in advance to the students planning to participate. In the case of students who request a brochure, we send the goggles along with the documents. Students can have a virtual tour of the school while at home.

Yasuda Academy’s open campus VR video

You can still watch 360-degree YouTube videos on your smartphone by moving the view around with your finger, but with the VR goggles, it feels more realistic.

What other clients do you have besides schools?

More and more companies request VR videos for recruiting purposes. Many companies couldn’t do internships in 2020, so they are using VR to introduce their company to potential recruits, or they use VR content in virtual internships.

We also receive offers from nursing homes and funeral facilities.

In order to prevent new corona infections, it seems that many facilities are not open for visitors who are considering them. So, those facilities want to give virtual tours with a 360-degree VR video.

VR introduction for Ecclesia Minami-Izu nursing care and welfare facilities

It seems that a common problem is that businesses can’t show their facilities to the public due to the corona pandemic.

We had to be very careful when shooting nursing care facilities because the number of people infected with corona was increasing rapidly at that time and many of the residents were at risk.

However, shooting with THETA is very easy, so basically it could be done by one or two people at most.

A lot of staff might be required in the case of normal video shoots, for example for the camera, sound, and lighting, but shoots with THETA can be done almost entirely by a single person. That is also a big plus for us.

Location scouting at strawberry farm, ICHIGOYA SUN

VR videos shot with THETA

You use THETA V. Can you tell us why you chose it?

Actually I have another 360-degree camera that’s not THETA. But I like THETA because it has good stability and good sound. The sound is totally usable with only the THETA V itself. Still I’m interested in the TA-1 3D microphone, which allows us to record in higher quality in 360 degrees.

With the recent firmware update for THETA, the image stabilization improved. More than half of our content is meant to be viewed on the YouTube app on smartphones, so having 4K is great.

Sometimes, 360-degree video can be confusing because the viewer may not be looking where the action is, but your 360-degree videos are easy to follow thanks to your excellent direction and use of presenters and notes in the video.

We use professional software to edit our 360 videos and add subtitles for important things.

We go location scouting and consider the appropriate places for shooting with THETA, making sure the composition suits the facilities well. We also direct the performers who introduce the facility to give clear directions, such as “please look here” to make the video more clear to the viewer.

I watched the video, and the performers introduced the facilities very well!

Actual students and staff from the schools make an appearance. However, we can’t use cue cards because the 360-degree camera shoots in all directions (laughs). So, we have to ask our performers to memorize the script.

Yasuda Academy VR video shoot on location (THETA V in the center of the room)

Oh, indeed! So where are you during the shoot, Mr. Nagahama?

While shooting the video with THETA on a stand, I’m hiding nearby and giving them instructions. Many of the performers are nervous at first because they are not used to speaking in front of an amazing 360-degree camera. So I always try to help them relax.

Do you have any tips for shooting?

Since THETA shoots in such a wide-angle, I direct the performers to stand as close to THETA as possible. In my opinion, standing about 1 to 1.2 meters away from THETA looks good in the footage and makes it easy to pick up their voices, so with tape I mark the position where I want them to stand.

I use the string shown in the photo above to quickly measure the distance from THETA to where the performers should stand.

I was wondering what the string was for. Now I know!

The performers basically don’t move around so much as it’s 360 degrees, and we ask them to stand within the range of the string and just make small movements.

Shooting with THETA on a drone

I’ve heard you are also trying to shoot with a drone recently.

Yes, I mentioned in the last interview that I bought a drone. Since then, we have done a lot of aerial 360 photography for clients using the drone and THETA.

Shooting scene with THETA attached to a drone

If we want to attach something different to the drone, such as THETA, it’s considered a modified aircraft, so we need to apply for permission from the Civil Aviation Bureau. In addition, there is a standard limit for maximum takeoff weight in Aviation Law, and only large aircraft can go beyond this limit. Fortunately, our drone meets these requirements, even with THETA attached.

VR video of the Illuminated lights of the Tokyo German Village

Ah, that’s why your drone is so large. This drone has THETA underneath, so how does it take off and land?

THETA would hit the ground in the drones standard configuration, so we made a platform for takeoff and landing. Actually, landing is the most difficult part, and I practiced over and over until my fingers were sore from the joysticks (laughs).

Takeoff and landing scene of a drone with THETA attached to the underside

What kind of requests do you receive for shooting with THETA on the drone?

Most of these requests come from large tourist facilities, for example the Tokyo German Village in Chiba prefecture, which is famous for its illuminations.

The future of VR

What do you think about the future of VR content in terms of the corona pandemic?

Even though the pandemic was the trigger, I think that remote communication and media will continue to grow from now on in organizations such as schools, facilities for the elderly, and funeral homes.

In the future, I think 360-degree streaming will be a good business opportunity, for example in the case of weddings. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use VR and 360 degree video in my business.

Thank you Mr. Nagahama for being a faithful THETA user. We’ll be glad to see you sharing more VR THETA content!

Omura corp.

* THETA V has been discontinued. If you are considering THETA series having a continuous 360-degree video recording function for 3 minutes or more, please purchase RICOH THETA Z1  with the highest quality of still images.

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