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A 360 Stories Web Tool Showcase: M/Y Khalilah Superyacht

James King-Thompson / over 4 years ago

We recently worked with Viditour on an original 360˚ production of a 49m, all carbon, gold coloured superyacht: M/Y Khalilah. We wanted to create an interactive 360 tour of the yacht using 360 Stories; our platform that enables you to easily create interactive 360˚ experiences that can be published across websites, ad networks and social media.

We caught up with 360˚ content creators and video tour specialists, Viditour to find out about their involvement in our joint project.

To kick things off, tell us a bit about Viditour?

We are a company of five employees based in the Southern part of the Netherlands. Everyone in our company is either a friend or a family member, so there is a very good atmosphere in our office. We think that in order to enjoy life it's important to enjoy your work!

Although we are based in Europe, we work with clients across the whole world. We like that every one of our customers is different. Most of our clients are in healthcare or in industry. Not the most logical combination perhaps, but both areas of expertise require more depth than just making a beautiful piece of content.

"We are genuinely interested in our subjects' stories and always curious about the people behind the organisation"

The storytelling in our images can vary from informing patients about healthcare institutions, to addressing false prejudices about foreign production facilities. In all cases the story needs an extra layer of meaning which we include in our images. We are genuinely interested in our subjects' stories and always curious about the people behind the organisation.

All our customers have a passion for what they do and are very proud of their companies and organisations. This love for their businesses and their involvement is something we love to show in our imagery.  

"We never say no to exploring new techniques and experimenting with assignments that seem almost impossible"

Besides that, we thrive on technical challenges. We never say no to exploring new techniques and experimenting with assignments that seem almost impossible. We mainly focus on producing 360˚ immersive panoramic photography and video, but we don't exclude other production techniques if they suit our client's story better.

How did this opportunity come about?

To remain informed of the latest developments we follow seminars and visit conferences. We are a member of the International Virtual Reality Photography Association (IVRPA) and in June 2017 we visited their annual conference. This year it was held in Vienna, where we met Rachel Dennis, Blend Media's CMO & Head of Content. We had an inspiring conversation and she introduced us to Blend's COO and Co-Founder, Chris Helm, where we learnt more about Blend Media.

In July 2017 we visited London and had a second meeting. We discussed the benefits and differences between 360˚ video and 360˚ photography. We really enjoyed the open atmosphere in the Blend Media office and the friendly and passionate employees too. We showed Rachel and Chris some of our recent still photography panoramic work of a Chinese factory and they were impressed by the quality.

A few months later, you contacted us and asked us whether we wanted to take 360˚ photos of the M/Y Khalilah superyacht which they would later build into a 360 stories web tool showcase. We of course accepted and were soon introduced to Senior Producer, Stelios Theocharous with whom we planned the rest of the shoot. Although ships are not our customary subjects, we were incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to capture such a unique superyacht.

Talk us through the project, from preparation to the final 360˚ photos produced

We planned the shoot meticulously. First, we made a floor plan and marked all the areas we wanted to shoot. We received excellent production support from Stelios, with whom we touched base on a daily basis. He connected us with the captain of the yacht. Because M/Y Khalilah was moving around and we didn't know when the weather would be ideal for us to shoot, we couldn't book any flights or hotels in advance. The combination of loving to drive by car and the risk of valuable 360˚ camera equipment getting damaged on the plane led us to our decision to drive to the harbour where M/Y Khalilah was located.

When the captain told us the weather forecast for the upcoming week was good, we packed all our 360˚ photo gear and drove up to the city of Imperia in Italy. This area has a very photogenic coastline with coloured houses so we were very happy about the location.

The first day we met the crew and they gave us a tour of the superyacht. We discussed the final preparations and made a very detailed timeline so the captain and crew knew what to expect.

The next morning we started shooting the 360˚ photos. The crew moved the yacht outside the harbour and anchored about 700 meters from the coast at a spot with a nice coastline view. In two days and one evening we captured 360˚ photo panoramas all around the yacht. We shot 30 different locations, from the Sun Deck to the Wheelhouse, from the Master Bedroom to the Beach Club.

After getting lost a few times during the first few hours of being on board, we quickly found our way around M/Y Khalilah. A nerve-racking moment was when our equipment was transferred to the small tender to shoot the superyacht from the outside. Fortunately, nothing got wet and we had a lot of fun with the crew whilst shooting.

After completing the 360˚ photo shots we checked and double checked everything onboard. When we were sure all images were correct, the crew moved M/Y Khalilah back to the harbour.

Back at our office in the Netherlands we started the immense job of post processing, which up until now took us about 150 hours of image editing. But we are very pleased with the results!

The Blend Media production team soon after got to work and created an immersive and interactive virtual tour showcase of the M/Y Khalilah superyacht with their easy-to-use web tool, 360 stories.

Check out the interactive 360 stories showcase below:

What did you enjoy most about working on this project?

Not everyday do you get the opportunity to take 360˚ photos of an impressive superyacht! We had a lot of fun preparing for the shoot indeed. All the other people that were involved in the shoot were absolutely amazing. It was very nice to know that we had full support from Stelios and the Blend Media team if needed; day and night.

We are very grateful for the tremendous amount of effort and help given to us by the Khalilah crew before and during the shoot. All areas were in spotless condition and we received all the help we needed at all times. The yacht was manoeuvred so we had perfect sunlight on the Sun Deck, the interior and exterior areas were cleaned spotlessly, they helped carry our heavy equipment around the yacht and even fed us delicious food. The captain and his crew were extremely hospitable, so we felt really welcome onboard.

We sincerely see this as a co-production between Blend Media, the Khalilah crew and Viditour. The level of dedication the Khalilah crew demonstrated saved us a huge amount of time and made our 360˚ photo shoot a lot more fun.

Were there any challenges involved?

We wanted to keep the interiors and exteriors as true to life as possible to ensure an honest representation. But 360˚ camera sensors are technically not capable of shooting such high contrast situations. Of course we shot on a sunny day, so the contrast between inside and outside was way too large to be captured in one exposure. To solve this we used several exposures for each angle of the panorama. Normally these exposures can be blended into an HDR image, but since the shots were captured from a floating vessel, no automatic alignment was possible. So we had to manually blend all the exposures in Photoshop.

A 360˚ photo panorama is made up of individual photographs stitched together. When shooting the different angles to create the 360˚ photo panorama, the waves and swells also made the yacht move. This resulted in a skewed horizon with twisted elevations and lots of stitching errors. While we fortunately didn't suffer from seasickness during the shoot, we almost became seasick while post-processing! These manual corrections more than quadrupled our normal 360˚ editing time.

Besides these technical challenges we also had to consider the weather forecast. Of course we wanted to shoot on sunny days but in October a lot of rain was predicted. Since it took us one and a half days to travel to the location where the yacht was located, lots of consultation between Stelios, the captain and us was needed to pick the most perfect time to shoot.

Apart from the weather, we needed to create a good plan together with the captain, who was on a tight schedule due to required maintenance. But his full cooperation and the commitment of his crew made everything go very smoothly. For instance, when we wanted to make a night 360˚ photo panorama. Sunset was around 8pm but the harbour already closed at 7pm hours.

So the captain arranged for the yacht to be anchored outside the harbour for one night so we still had the opportunity to capture these 360˚ photo shots, even though he and his crew were obliged to stay on the yacht that night. After the successful capture of the nighttime 360˚ photos, we shared some delicious Italian pizza on board with the crew and they arranged for us to be brought ashore with a small tender. Their full collaboration eased a lot of the challenges involved.

Why do you believe 360˚ photos are more effective that 2D photos?

With regular photography, the viewer remains on the 'outside' of the image. With 360˚ photography and 360˚ video, the viewer becomes more than a passive observer. He or she can actively interact with the 360˚ photo, which makes it more immersive. 360˚ photos give the user a closer representation of actually being there in person. This can inform, convince, involve or comfort a person more than a regular 2D image.

"When interacting with 360˚ photo content, the user gets a much more transparent impression"

360˚ photos and videos also enhance credibility; they give a more honest impression. With a regular photo, things can be cropped out of the frame or exaggerated by using a wide-angle lens. When interacting with 360˚ photo content, the user gets a much more transparent impression. For instance, last year we shot a factory in China. Their main objective was to dispel prejudices about their quality standards and employment conditions. Therefore, we needed the viewer to be able to experience the action from every angle. The visitors, as a result, were able to understand the bigger picture.

What equipment/cameras did you use?

To build the 360˚ photo panoramas we needed a high quality source material. We used a Sony A7RII camera with a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens. Our setup includes a Nodal Ninja panoramic head and several Manfrotto tripods. Because of the movement of the ship we needed a heavy setup to stop the camera from tumbling over. But we also needed a small footprint and soft rubber ball feet to prevent scratching the deck of the yacht, so we used a custom built baseplate.

For static 360˚ videos we also used this setup and filmed with the Sony camera. For the moving 360˚ video shots we used an Insta360 Pro. The 360˚ sound was recorded with a Sennheiser Ambeo VR Mic.

Thank you Viditour for all your great work!

If you want to learn more about our new 360 stories web tool, follow the link below:

Easily Build Interactive 360˚ Experiences