Imagine you’re considering applying to become a helicopter pilot. How would you rather learn about the job: sitting through a boring presentation or watching a VR helicopter experience?
Now, potential enlistees in the Austrian Armed Forces have the pleasure of the latter through a VR film called Black 72. Black 72 follows a young helicopter pilot on their first mission to rescue a wounded soldier. The virtual reality recruitment experience helps provide a more immersive and realistic look into the Austrian Armed Forces and what it’s actually like to be a helicopter pilot.
To help create the experience, the Austrian Armed Forces turned to vrisch, a virtual reality production company. Vrisch shot the film with the cinematic VR camera Insta360 Titan, even mounting the camera outside of a helicopter for some shots.
You can now watch the film online on the Austrian Armed Forces’ YouTube channel in 4K quality (English subtitles also available):
Read on to hear from Gabriella Chihan Stanley, co-founder of the vrisch, about how they brought this VR helicopter experience to life.
1. Can you briefly introduce your company and this VR helicopter experience?
Vrisch is a production company from Vienna, Austria, dedicated to developing purposeful and meaningful XR software development and experiences. Together with an extraordinary team of XR professionals, we plan, design, and produce immersive content for enterprises and institutions around the world using XR as a creative approach to digital transformation. Our goal is to help humans (and ourselves) understand and enjoy the world beyond the abilities of their physical bodies.
The Austrian Armed Forces approached us to create an effective virtual reality recruitment tool as part of their new corporate innovation strategy. The goal of this tool was to enlist additional pilots due to an increase in their helicopter fleet. The process had to accurately illustrate the complexity of the staff training program for military helicopter pilots while simultaneously awaken the interest of potential candidates. And this is how Black 72 came into existence.
2. From a storytelling perspective, how did you film this VR helicopter experience?
For this VR helicopter experience, we put the viewer in the physically and mentally highly-demanding position of a military helicopter pilot that is flying his or her first mission.
We used elements like a first-person view, flashbacks, and aerial recordings, a custom made ambisonic music score and sound design, and rapid edits to transmit what a young pilot would feel in such a situation. This stereoscopic 360 video immerses users into the excitement and anxiety of a rookie pilot, the thrill of conquering the skies, and the immense satisfaction of a successful mission.
To create a genuine feeling and atmosphere of flying a helicopter mission for the first time, Black 72 incorporated the latest 360 video technology available in the market, such as the Insta360 Titan. The production also included in-house solutions to fix cameras in and outside helicopters, resisting extreme curves, airspeeds of 300 km/h, and altitudes up to 800 meters.
This stereoscopic 360 video immerses users into the excitement and anxiety of a rookie pilot, the thrill of conquering the skies, and the immense satisfaction of a successful mission.
Black 72 also integrated a specifically-tailored film score and ambisonic sound effects that put an additional accent on the story and emphasize tension. As a result, viewers could experience the same adrenaline rush, emotions, and feelings of a military pilot on a mission.
In addition, we actually decided not to use the Titan’s stabilization option because unstableness was an added value to the narrative. Characters were running, fighting, and constantly under pressure. We decided to break the rules of camera stabilization to reflect that anxiety while, simultaneously, using the high-quality resolution of Titan to add a sense of presence and realism.
3. Why was a premium-level camera like Insta360 Titan essential for this project?
Aerial shots like the ones in this VR helicopter experience require a high fidelity in detail since many features in the scene are far away and appear small in the image. With Insta360 Titan, we can finally say that we have an all-in-one 360 camera that delivers the quality that modern filmmakers are expecting.
The dynamic range and 10-bit color profile performed fantastically with changing light conditions. We had one shot after sundown, where the large Micro Four Thirds sensors gave us very sharp images with very little visual noise.
With Insta360 Titan, we can finally say that we have an all-in-one 360 camera that delivers the quality that modern filmmakers are expecting.
The whole post-processing pipeline worked fantastic from quickly creating ProRes proxies for the offline edit to color grading in DaVinci.
4. What was it like filming in a helicopter with the Titan?
Some of our most significant projects have been created for the Austrian Armed Forces, an institution that demands the highest level of safety standards. Over the last few years, we’ve gained a lot of experience with different mounts for different 360 cameras on all kinds of vehicles. We’ve filmed in tanks, pick-up trucks, passing through transport aircrafts, and in this case, helicopters.
When it comes to mounting, we think the sweet spot is between stability, vibration damping, low profile mounting, "stitchability" of the image, and the desired perspective. In this project, we spent about two days and conducted several test flights to find the right combination of pipes, mounts, and suction cups. During the whole process, we were very pleased with the Titan’s reliability during temperatures around 0°C and at speeds of 300 km/h.
Being able to have a live stream from one helicopter to another and to give real-time directions during low-level flight was a truly fantastic experience!
The Farsight monitoring system was an essential tool for the director during this project. Being able to have a live stream from one helicopter to another and to give real-time directions during low-level flight was a truly fantastic experience! The camera’s long battery life also came very in handy when we had to repeat takes for long low-level flights because of changing weather conditions.
5. Why do you think virtual reality recruitment experiences are so powerful?
Black 72 has become a paradigm of next-gen high-quality 360 video thanks to its immense leap of quality in equipment and unique storytelling. As a result, the Austrian Armed Forces gained an innovative new approach to military recruitment that provided aspiring candidates with an authentic and engaging taste of a military career experience.
Virtual reality recruitment experiences are an outstanding tool for companies and institutions to communicate to candidates what the work experience can be like from their potential coworkers’ perspective. The viewer can instantly become a part of the company or institution for the duration of the experience. And they can gain a richer understanding of both the advantages and implications of performing that particular position or set of tasks.
While virtual reality recruitment experiences might not work for all companies or institutions, it’s definitely a perfect match for the Austrian Armed Forces. With this 360 video, they can better recruit young men and women who want to serve their country and are up for the adventure.
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