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Blend Media's Hack Day!

James King-Thompson / about 4 years ago

What's a Hack Day? You may be asking. A Hack Day is about brainstorming, exploring new project ideas and determining whether these ideas are feasible or not. It's a great opportunity to take a breather from your day-to-day activities, work closely with different people in your company and have the freedom to bounce different ideas off each other. It's really about having fun and if anything valuable comes out of it then that's a bonus!

The evening before the Hack Day, the Blend Media team got together and pitched a range of innovative project ideas. It was important to think about how the idea could benefit our business and how different skill sets could come in handy. There were some incredible ideas.

Once everyone pitched, we all voted for our favourite projects. The four most popular ideas were selected and the people who put forward these ideas were automatically selected as team leaders. We then had the freedom to choose which project we wanted to work on.

Find out more about the individual teams and projects below.

Team: 360˚ Livestream Story

The idea for this team was to attempt to make 360˚ live streaming possible within our new web editing and publishing tool '360 stories'. The other part of the idea was to create our own production piece which we would then livestream into a 360 story.

In the morning, with what seemed like a real challenge ahead of us, we got together and started coming up with ideas of how we could make a live 360 story work. There had to be a reason for viewers to flick from one live 360 story scene to another. We came up with a variety of ideas revolving around fake news reports and treasure hunts. The final idea was to roughly replicate the story behind the Ready Player One book and film - where characters compete in virtual reality to find clues that lead to a series of keys and finally an egg which grants the winner the ownership of an entire island.

Of course, the engineers in our team had to actually work out the code for integrating live into 360 stories for this to actually work. They got their heads down and amazingly worked out how to do it a lot faster than expected. One of the most challenging aspects of the project was getting each handheld 360 degree video camera to work correctly without the connection dropping.

After endless planning, getting into character, running around London with 360˚ cameras, hiding keys in strange places and getting a few puzzled looks from passers by, it was time to showcase our project.

Although I was supposed to be searching for a key in Spitalfields while 360˚ live streaming, the connection kept failing right before we were about to present our live demonstration. Frustratingly, this went quite smoothly during the trial run. Instead, during the demo, I ended up unknowingly live streaming from a meeting room in our office building. Meanwhile, other team members had similar issues and ended up live streaming from somewhere else nearby. We were however still able to successfully flick between live 360 story scenes!

In the 360 story we also managed to integrate a live 2D stream of one of the team members from America, who played the narrator of the Ready Player One scenario. Another member stood in front of our green screen and live streamed as we superimposed a large map behind her. Her role was to point out where the characters were travelling on their hunt to find the keys.

Although not everything went to plan, we did successfully make a 360 story with multiple livestream portals and scenes. It was a lot of fun and it made us think about the endless uses for 360˚ live streaming for projects in the future.

Team: Meme Magic

The Meme Magic team set themselves the task of creating a concept for a 360˚ viral video.

Aside from that old episode of the Apprentice in which the contestants were running around a field, or decorating cupcakes, much to the bemusement of onlookers; half of the team had little prior knowledge of what a ‘Hack Day’ was and what it would entail. Nevertheless, in spite of any uncertainties, they believed that their team's collective skill set would be enough to tackle what the Hack Day had in store for them.

After tucking into a few fresh donuts, arming themselves with a whiteboard, laptops and a significant sugar high, they trawled the internet for inspiration for their 360˚viral concept. Their journey of exploration took them in all sorts of directions, from large viral campaigns, to memes of a weird and sometimes disturbing nature; all completely relevant to the task at hand of course.

After munching down on some pizza for lunch, they were ready to devise an action plan of how to both present their ideas to the rest of our team, and how they could possibly implement or expand on them after the Hack Day. The team expressed their enjoyment for working with other people from the company who they normally wouldn't work closely with and they felt a strong sense of achievement at the end of the day. Not only was it productive and creative, but a lot of fun too.

Team: Blend X

The Blend X team had a strong yet simple idea based around using Blend's 360˚ video expertise to tailor a product specifically towards the music industry. This would involve offering filming, production and distribution solutions for new up and coming acts. The artists would benefit from the immersive 360˚ video format by using it for promotional purposes; even going as far as creating a music platform akin to SBTV. However, as with all great ideas, sometimes time restrictions and logistics take the initial idea off in a new direction, as the team found with their final idea.  

After a productive brainstorming session and plenty of research, they decided to instead focus their efforts on the retail industry. The idea was to build a food and cookery channel with the same intentions as the initial idea aimed at the music industry.

The team thought that the food and cookery theme would work particularly well in a 360˚ environment. They decided to film the shopping process in a supermarket which they decided would be most suitable to promote, followed by filming the actual cooking process.

The team put together a slick three minute 360˚ video. The end result was fantastic. It had a strong narrative and it was very well received by everyone at Blend Media. They also pulled together some significant industry data to back up why they felt the 360˚ video format would add value to their chosen brand.

The team loved working together and were very pleased with their presentation and short 360˚ film considering the time constraints.

Team: 3D/CG 360˚ Content

This team put forward a straightforward premise; we have a fantastic network of talented creators producing 360˚ video content - how can we extend that to include computer generated (CG) footage produced by 3D modellers and animators?

The team started off the day by brainstorming the basics of 3D modelling and animation. This was shortly followed by a discussion on how feasible this would be for creators to produce and what sort of assets are usually designed.

The team also hypothetically spoke about how they might extend our current business model to incorporate this new type of creator and content produced. It was important to consider what the benefits to our users would be, how easy this would be to execute and how scalable this idea would be.

Finally, the team explored other potential uses for 3D assets for Blend Media users. They thought about how they could integrate 360˚ CG video to our stock video library and CG asset creators to our existing creator network.

After a full day of exploring new avenues, they also thought about investigating the possibilities around adding and manipulating 3D objects within 360 stories, as well as possible applications in the worlds of AR and Mixed Reality.