Every project is a stepping stone to other opportunities, and such was the case a few years ago when I had the honor of helping Nikon launch the KeyMission 360, a dual-lens action camera that shoots high-res stills and motion in full 360 degrees. That project was both exciting and challenging because it landed me and my team at the cutting edge of virtual reality filmmaking. I knew at the time that what we were doing was exciting, but I had no idea where this project would send me next.
Fast forward two years, and I found myself directing a series of VR (virtual reality) episodes for the Olympic Channel in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Over a few short months, I worked as a director with a production crew that visited nine countries. Using everything from the Nikon KeyMission 360 to the top-of-the-line Jaunt VR cameras, we shot hundreds of terabytes of footage and ultimately produced what I’m told is one of the longest episodic sports series ever shot in VR.
Viewing “Trending Gold”
“Trending Gold” is a full VR series that profiles a number of hopeful Olympians training and preparing for South Korea 2018. We profiled a women’s bobsleigh team from Nigeria, two big-air snowboarders from North America, and two ski racers from Europe. All the main episodes can be viewed on the Olympic Channel website.
The best way to experience these videos is with a Jaunt compatible headset using the Jaunt VR app. It’s really a different level of immersive experience that you just won’t get if you open up a web browser and try to pan around the video using your mouse. I highly recommend a headset but at the very least, please download the Jaunt VR app for your iOS or Android device—all of the main episodes are available in the app.
More info about Jaunt-compatible headsets and the Jaunt VR app is available on the Jaunt website.
Stay tuned because I’ll also be sharing stories and background about each individual episode and my experiences with the athletes over the next few weeks.
BTS of a VR production
One of the great aspects of this project was the opportunity to use any and every piece of VR-capturing camera technology currently available, from $100,000+ Jaunt VR cameras down to compact, portable Nikon KeyMission 360s. This was a production where technology played as much a role as our creativity, which was a fun challenge. In truth, this is just the beginning of a whole new world and way to experience immersive visual stories, through VR.
To kick off this series, I wanted to actually show you the Behind the Scenes (BTS) piece about my role as the director because I think it provides a good overview of what this series was about, and how we approached capturing these stories. My friend Bryan Liscinsky shot a majority of this BTS piece, and Eric Whalstrom edited this video. Great job to you both!
Please enjoy this BTS video on the Olympic Channel!
I think one of the great joys of being a director is the access it provides. That access could be anything from securing an incredible location for shooting, or it could mean getting to know a person really well and seeing the inner mechanisms of their lives and how they’re able to do such great things.
For this segment, I spent some time getting to know two very unique and very talented big-air snowboarders: Jamie Anderson and Max Parrot.
Jamie actually grew up near where I live in South Lake Tahoe. She has an amazing amount of natural talent and seems to be motivated as much by the lifestyle as the competition. She calls herself a “soul rider.”
Max, on the other hand, is a training machine who approaches big-air snowboarding comps with the kind of rigorous training that you’d typically expect of any Olympian.
There are lots of different ways to skin a cat—or potentially win a gold medal—and these two athletes certainly show that different approaches, attitudes, and lifestyles can produce real excellence. I’ll be looking forward to rooting them both on in South Korea next month!
For this segment of Trending Gold, we ended up doing two different trips to Canada to shoot with Max—first at his home in Bromont and later on the slopes in Whistler. This ended up being my first time to Whistler when there was actually snow, and, wow, it certainly lived up to its name as one of the best mountains in North America.
With Jamie, we shot three locations: first in South Lake Tahoe; then, another trip to Whistler (where we sadly got weathered out, which seemed to become a theme for this series). Finally, a second unit team met up with Jamie in Mammoth Mountain, without me present, to capture Jamie doing what she does best.
Part of what makes sports so fascinating is that they are unpredictable. For this segment of Trending Gold, a VR series I directed for the Olympic Channel in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics, we profiled Slovenian ski racer Ilka Stuhec and Swiss ski racer Luca Aerni.
The focus of this episode involved capturing both Ilka and Luca in moments of peak action, training, and lifestyle. Due to frequent bad weather/conditions and several logistical issues, this ended up being the most difficult episode of our whole production. Multiple teams took numerous trips to Europe, everywhere from Switzerland to Slovenia to Italy, to capture Ilka and Luca.
But ultimately we persevered and came away with a fast-paced episode that hopefully captures what it’s like to tackle a mountain course at full speed. Unfortunately, Ilka ended injuring herself last year and she’ll be missing the Olympics this winter, though I know she’ll be supporting her team.
What this experience showed me is that to be an Olympian, you need to be talented, work hard, and have all the other obvious traits that go hand in hand with world-class champions. But you also need that element of luck. And as a director working in changing environments, that’s certainly something I can relate to.
This is just a great story. These three women are going to be the first team, men’s or women’s, from the African continent to compete in the bobsled event in the winter Olympics.
Huge thanks to the Olympic Channel and Jaunt for trusting in me to take on such a groundbreaking series, and to tell the stories of such incredible people. Big thanks to Doug Allenstein and Lucas Wilson at SuperSphere, and the amazing Colleen Kessler. I couldn’t have asked for better travel and production partners for this project! Looking forward to pushing the boundaries with you guys in the future.
A huge thanks must go to Canaan Rubin at Jaunt for his vision and drive. Also, a huge thanks to the VR editing team at Jaunt, a job well done!
We hired lots of local crew around the world, so thank you to everyone who pitched in to make our productions successful. For this project I also got to work with some of my good friends and regular partners in crime, including Dane Henry, Bryan Liscinsky, Bligh Gillies, and Ben Ditto. And of course, thank you to the Novus team back at the office, including Amy McCormick and Josh Marianelli.
And of course, thank you to all of the athletes I got to meet and work with on this project. Of course, some of the athletes are now realizing their dreams and preparing to head to South Korea next month. Some have experienced the harsh realities of being a world-class athlete, which include injury. Either way, this project would not have happened without all of you being so generous with your time and allowing us into your lives. Thank you to the Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team: Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga. Thank you to snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Max Parrot. And thank you to our skiers Ilka Stuhec and Luca Aerni.
tay tuned for more stories about our “Trending Gold” series!
And again, please enjoy this BTS video on the Olympic Channel!