Mar 5, 2016 | By Benedict

A group of Russian filmmakers, working under the name VRability, have been shooting 360-degree videos of disabled people participating in sporting activities. To achieve the immersive virtual reality video effect, the group used a 3D printed GoPro mount attached to a helmet.

Just over a year ago, VRability technical director Stanislav Kolesnik suffered a serious injury and became temporarily confined to a wheelchair. The filmmaker was frustrated by his incapacitation, but resolved to maintain an active lifestyle. As he began to identify more and more with the disabled community, Kolesnik decided to embark upon a filmmaking project like nothing he had attempted before. Using a 360-degree camera setup, the young Russian would use virtual reality video to demonstrate that disabled people can still do incredible things with their bodies.

The soon-assembled VRability team was well-equipped for the task at hand. Georgy Molodtsov, project director, already had much experience in PR, and Kolesnik had undertaken similar technical projects. With a wealth of filming experience at his fingertips, Kolesnik decided that a 360-degree, virtual reality video would suit the task perfectly: Viewers would be able to experience the events of the film as though they were personally experiencing them. What better way to show an audience what it feels like—and how non-disabling it can be—to be disabled?

“We decided to create a project not only to help disabled people, but to enable everybody to see this world,” Molodtsov explained. “There’s no other way to understand it: you have to be in their shoes, even just for a moment. VRability is the first trans-media, documentary, social VR project which helps people to see the world in 360 degrees through the eyes of disabled people.”

Before shooting could begin, Kolesnik and Molodtsov needed a way to capture their extreme sports footage in 360 degrees. They had the cameras, but not the helmet mount, and sought the help of 3D printing to provide that necessary piece of equipment. The customized 3D printed helmet mount can house 5-7 GoPro cameras, footage from which can be edited into a fully immersive, 360-degree video. Before each shoot, the team can sometimes spend up to 14 hours testing the equipment to ensure that it is adequately calibrated.

When filming is complete, the team edit the footage together to produce a 360-degree video of the events. This footage can be viewed on a computer screen, with angle fully adjustable using the cursor, or on a VR headset—an experience which allows viewers to really experience what it is like to be disabled and play sports. “A user can move their head around while watching the video and see all around—even more than the filmed person can,” said Molodtsov. “You feel total immersion in the video.”

Thanks to a search carried out by Perspektiva, a Russian disabled charity, several participants have already volunteered to take part in the project, donning the 3D printed GoPro headgear before engaging in sporting activities. "I've been in a wheelchair for 12 years, said partipant Maria Gendeleva, “but I didn't even know that there was a chance for me to fly a hang-glider. I totally loved this adventure!”

VRability is currently shooting a feature-length film about Maxim Kiselev, a wheelchair-bound professional athlete who dances on ice and on the floor. The film tells Kiselev’s story in first person, with the 360-degree shooting method utilized to put viewers in the athlete’s shoes. Kiselev first started dancing as a method of rehabilitation, but soon took up the sport professionally. Six years ago he became the first wheelchair-bound dancer to perform a routine with an able-bodied figure skater as his partner. "This really fascinated me because something like this does not exist in Russia," said Kiselev regarding the film.

After removing the 3D printed headgear, Gendeleva acknowledged the benefits that the VRability could provide for the disabled community. "If you see that a person with your condition is capable of taking this step, then you are immediately motivated to somehow change your life,” she explained.

Molodtsov and Kolesnik hope that the project will benefit disabled and able-bodied viewers in equal measure. "We show strong personalities who achieve unbelievable results by overcoming themselves," said Molodtsov. "If these people have the strength and the desire to do something, then why shouldn’t the wider audience try it too?”

Try out the 360-degree experience in the YouTube videos below by adjusting the navigation wheel in the top left corner.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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