360 Videos in Museums: Shot 3 – Dancing at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan

At the November Museums and Computer Network conference, I marveled at the different ways museums around the country are using 360 videos with their visitors or in their education programs. To highlights these different applications, I started this limited series of interviews  – same questions, different institution – so we can look for patterns.

In our third in this series of interviews with museum staff around the country about their use of 360 videos, I got to work a little closer to home. Ellen Bari, curator and writer at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), invited me to walk the ENTIRE two avenues that separate our two venerable institutions and learn up close what they’ve been up to these past two few year (and, if I was behaved, get to do a little dance).

 

Dance at Children's Museum

Every day is a dance party in Let’s Dance! as visitors dance with Féraba – African Rhythm Tap Company on the Dance Portal screen.

Ellen, when did you start exploring 360 video (and if that’s not what you call it, what’s the term round your ways)?

About four years ago, we were developing an exhibit called America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far and wanted to give our visitors an immersive experience with Muslim architecture on a very limited budget. We were thrilled when we found Elumenati, a company that specializes in projection design. We licensed magnificent 360 images of mosque architecture from around the world and displayed them on Elumenati’s off-the-shelf GeoDome Panorama. The result – families were able to enjoy a truly unique immersive experience.

At this point, just 360 still images, not video yet, right?

Right. At this point we were featuring still images shot in 360 by various photographers around the world. The response from visitors young and old was so favorable that we applied for a grant using similar technology to create a Dance Portal introducing the world of dance through immersive video footage. We received the Museums for America Award FY2016 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and began prototyping. The beta version of the Dance Portal was so well received that we were inspired to develop an exhibition/dance space around it. Let’s Dance!, currently in CMOM’s lower level gallery, introduces children and families to the delights of dance. The Dance Portal is the cornerstone of that exhibit.

What is the content you are working to put into 360 videos?

Dance in all its multicultural glory! We divided the content into simple categories: SEE, for performance clips, DO, for tutorial clips, and LEARN, for cross-cultural explorations of basic choreographic terms.

One of the great challenges to producing and curating the Dance Portal was that there is a very limited amount of dance footage that has been shot in 360. This prompted us to shoot some original video of our own. Working with videographer Paul Anderson, we shot 180 degree video in the studios of a number of world-class dance companies including Camile A. Brown & Dancers, and Elisa Monte Dance. We also filmed a number of dance companies in 180 while they were in performance at the Children’s Museum including Ajna Dance Company, Féraba – African Rhythm Tap Company, Kanu Dance Theater and Thunderbird American Indian Dancers.  In addition, we were able to procure a number of 360 clips and decided to include some HD footage, even though it does not fill the screen in the same way.

CMOM educators dance with visitors in Let's Dance!, while Elisa Monte Dance demonstrates a Soul Train on the Dance Portal screen, which is flanked by mirrors and a ballet barre.

CMOM educators dance with visitors in Let’s Dance!, while Elisa Monte Dance demonstrates a Soul Train on the Dance Portal screen, which is flanked by mirrors and a ballet barre.

Why doesn’t it fit the screen?

The portal screen is a ½ dome – basically a semi circle. It’s looks like a blow-up amphitheater. Video shot in 360 or even 180 will fill the portal screen from end to end.  Standard HD footage, will display in the shape of a rectangle, or traditional video format, which has an aspect ratio of 16 x 9. We were able to stretch our HD footage a bit, and found that these clips have impact as well, in part because the content is so compelling, but also because many of our viewers are small and the screen is big.

Most 360 footage displays, whether in a dome or on a standard screen, allow viewers to scroll around the video to explore every angle. We eliminated the interactive aspect of scrolling so that our visitors will be moved to dance, as opposed to getting caught up in their ability to control the video.

What goes into obtaining and editing the footage?

Beyond filming our own material, lots of research, personal referrals and persistence. A few of the large international dance companies have some 360 footage but the licensing was either unavailable or out of our reach financially. Others were very generous, like Blanca Li Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Martha Graham Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre who all gave us permission to use their footage.

I found some wonderful surprises online too, like an authentic hula performance shot in 360 atop Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. We also had a wonderful collaboration with Mickela Mallozzi who shared more than 30 multicultural HD clips from her Emmy award-winning show “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi.”

Filming Elisa Monte Dance for the Dance Portal in the company's Queens rehearsal studio.

Filming Elisa Monte Dance for the Dance Portal in the company’s Queens rehearsal studio.

Who is the 360 video designed for, and where will they encounter it?

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the Dance Portal daily in the Let’s Dance! exhibit. Each video clip includes a short description of the featured company and dance located on an interactive tablet near the domed screen. Museum educators and adult caregivers use the Portal as a jumping off point to get children moving.

The Dance Portal content is reinforced throughout the exhibit. For example, the Dance Parade photos highlight the diversity and energy of New York City’s dance community. Children can engage with colorful bolster pillows with the same choreographic terms that are featured in the Portal—skip, jump, turn, etc.— and they can enjoy fun dress-up opportunities inspired by the dance groups.

What are you hoping 360 video will help you or the museum to achieve?

By offering our families the opportunity to immerse themselves in dance forms that they may not be familiar with, we are hoping the Dance Portal will inspire our visitors to seek out more dance in their own lives, at home, in school, and in their communities, both as dancers and spectators.

Do you have any initial findings?

The Dance Portal has been very well received thus far. We look forward to adding content and increase the offerings as 360 video becomes more popular and as we continue to host dance performances of all kinds at the Museum.

If you have a 360 dance video clip, please reach out to me at ebari@cmom.org.

 

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360 Videos in Museums: Shot 2 – In the Field with the Field Museum

At the November Museums and Computer Network conference, I marveled at the different ways museums around the country are using 360 videos with their visitors or in their education programs. To highlights these different applications, I started this limited series of interviews  – same questions, different institution – so we can look for patterns.

Today we turn to Eve Gaus, the Manager of Digital Learning at the The Field Museum (a natural history museum in Chicago with scientists that conduct research on all seven continents). Centered in the Learning Center of the Museum, Eve connects visitors and youth with their collections and research through technology (games, 3D printing, animated video series, and more).

Eve, When did you start exploring 360 video (and if that’s not what you call it, what’s the term round your ways)?

360 video, which we also refer to as immersive video, has been on our radar since late 2016, and in summer 2017 I was green lit  for the project. I was drawn to immersive video because of its rich storytelling capabilities. Since our scientists are carrying out research across the world, and in many cases, in areas that are difficult to travel to, 360 video offers an opportunity to immerse our viewers in our research in a whole new way.

What is the content you are working to put into 360 videos?

We’re using 360 to explore our collections and research in two different ways. The first is by taking our viewers out into the field with our scientists. Our scientists see and experience the diverse beauty of our natural and cultural world, and we want to bring our visitors along on that journey. And, as any of our scientists will tell you, what they collect in the field is just the beginning of the journey, and so the second way we’re using 360 videos is going behind the scenes to capture our collection. We’re creating a story arc for our visitors to walk alongside our scientists as they engage in a process of exploration and discovery.

What goes into obtaining and editing the footage?

When our scientists head out into the field, we equip them with a 360 camera (we’re currently using Garmins and will soon be adding a GoPro to our collection), a couple of extra batteries and SD cards, and some solar charging panels. Before they leave, we sit together and rough out a shot list. Of course, the reason our scientists are in the field is for research purposes, not to capture amazing video content, so we go in with pretty flexible storylines that we can easily adapt.

Taking the footage behind the scenes is a bit easier, but still includes a pre-conversation and a shot list that we co-build with the scientist so we’re all on the same page about what story we’re telling through the footage. We use an Insta360 for our behind-the-scenes footage. After we collect the footage, we work with our scientist and our video editor to craft and edit the story.

Who is the 360 video designed for, and where will they encounter it?

The videos are designed for visitors to the museum (children through adults) and they’ll be able to encounter them in a variety of ways. The videos will be available on The Field’s Youtube channel, and select videos will also be featured in our Grainger Science Hub, a dedicated space in the museum for visitors to meet our scientists, engage with our collections and learn about our latest research.

What are you hoping 360 video will help you or the museum to achieve?

The purpose of the videos is to help connect our visitors with the science of The Field, and also to explore why we conduct the research we do. It is one thing to talk about conservation and the critical importance of biodiversity, but it is another thing altogether to hike through the Solomon Islands, to be on boat going down the Amazon, or to be working alongside communities in Kenya providing rabies vaccinations for dogs — that has transformative power. We hope that through our 360 videos, visitors to the Museum, and even those who may never walk through our doors, feel excited and empowered to embark on a journey of discovery with us.

Do you have any initial findings?

We’re launching in 2018, so will have some findings by spring/summer 2018!

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Caught in Time: a photobooth project (Dinos, Space, Hall of Pacific People, Together)

Check out the entire Caught in Time Project here or start at the beginning. Or visit the full set on Pinterest here.

Photo 1: Dinosaurs!

Photo 2: Outer Space…

Photo 3: Partner’s choice (Leah choose Antro! With Hall of Pacific Peoples)

Photo 4: Together

 

 

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360 Videos in Museums: Shot 1 – Underwater at the Shedd Aquarium

At the November Museums and Computer Network conference, I marveled at the different ways museums around the country are using 360 videos with their visitors or in their education programs. To highlights these different applications, I started this limited series of interviews  – same questions, different institution – so we can look for patterns.

Today we turn to Miranda Kerr, the Manager of Digital Learning at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Miranda, What is your role where you work?

As the Manager of Digital Learning, I work with our Learning Group departments to set up digital frameworks and respond to evaluation and research trends as they relate to digital programming and audience needs. I use evidence-based decision making to pilot and integrate digital learning experiences and concepts into Shedd’s on-site, off-site and online programming channels.

When did you start exploring 360 video (and if that’s not what you call it, what’s the term round your ways)?

Part of my job is to follow what’s new in the museum technology space and any digital tools that are trending in other spheres, then consider implications for the work we do in Learning at Shedd.  I don’t remember exactly when 360 video came up on my radar, but I purchased our first equipment in the summer of 2016, a 360 camera and a set of 5 unlocked phones and VR headsets to enable us to pilot both creation and viewing of 360 video with learners.

Then in late summer and fall of 2016, along with a few other staff members, we did a 360 video pilot in one of our programs.  The Park Voyagers program brings educational programming to Chicago Park District facilities often in underserved communities. Shedd works in collaboration with 10 other Chicago museums to provide this free after-school program for children, ages 8 to10, and their families.  The 360 video and headsets were the technology we needed to answer the question, “How can we bring the experience of viewing Shedd Aquarium’s exhibits and animals to children offsite?”  We recorded 360 degree videos in three of our exhibits that would connect to the three ecosystems explored in the program.  To learn more about this pilot, check out the blog we wrote: “Virtual Reality: Bringing Shedd Aquarium to Learners in 360”.

What is the content you are working to put into 360 videos?

Our first attempts at integrating 360 video have been capturing our exhibits to share in other locations.  Because we have fishes and other animals that are swimming around, a simple photo doesn’t capture this in the same way.  We also have done some pilots to see how 360 video can capture our programs in a new way, which includes taking the camera on a snorkel during High School Marine Biology, or on a nature hike during Summer Road Trip.  The most recent 360 videos we’ve captured have actually been inside our exhibits with the animals, which provides a completely new experience.  You can view the underwater Caribbean Reef Exhibit 360 Video here:

What goes into obtaining and editing the footage?

The process for obtaining 360 video depends on where we are filming. If we are hoping to capture a 360 video of an exhibit, we aim to film before the aquarium opens so the footage is just the exhibit without guests in the shots.  In the spring of 2017, we acquired an underwater 360 camera.  To film underwater, we’ve explored a number of creative techniques including  having SCUBA divers and snorkelers hold the camera on a selfie stick, setting up a tripod inside of our exhibits and using zip ties to attach it to an underwater robot.  You can see examples of all of this footage on the Shedd Learning YouTube page.

Editing 360 video footage is a simple process with the software available, but time consuming.  The Ricoh Theta S has a user friendly cell phone app that makes for quick editing, and you can even tweet 360 photos directly from the app.  We shared a 360 photo of campers doing water quality tests at a nature center in a tweet:

The Nikon Keymisson editing works better on a desktop computer, and is a free download.  This process can take hours, even for a video that is just a few minutes long, because of how large the files are.  Although the process is not difficult, each of the steps takes time, transferring from camera to computer, then trimming or editing, and then adding meta-data to be able to upload to YouTube.

Who is the 360 video designed for, and where will they encounter it?

We have used 360 video in a handful of programs to connect with different audiences. In Park Voyagers, Learning staff brought the 360 videos on our devices to be viewed by kids using our VR headsets.  In the Teen Work Study program, teens created their own 360 video, and then shared with guests waiting in line to buy tickets using our VR headsets.  The 360 videos are also posted to our YouTube and shared on social media channels.

What are you hoping 360 video will help you or the museum to achieve?

My big question is, how can 360 video take our learners to new places and enhance experiences?  This year, Park Voyagers participants are viewing 360 videos from inside our exhibits, to have an underwater view and see fishes swimming right at them.  We captured 360 underwater video at the 2017 underwater robotics competition, so that students at the 2018 competition can view a 360 robot-eye view of the underwater course.

Do you have any initial findings?

I have comments from the Digital Learning Staff Reflections completed by Learning staff.  From the Teen Work Study project, “Teens gained skills on the applications of VR, including design goals concerns and troubleshooting of the equipment…Teens were able to bring the Wild Reef [exhibit] out to our guests!”  We also gathered reflections from the teens themselves who did that project:

“Finishing the VR project was a pretty big victory for me. I don’t finish things when I start them, and I finished a lot of things being in the teen lab.”

They were all happy with the outcome of the VR project. They were scared of not doing a good enough job on it or not finishing it. They thought it was cool when the adults they look up to got excited about their VR project. They felt special.

“I was scared of technology – terrified of technology  — until now.”

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wish I had asked?

What’s next for 360 Video?

Although I don’t know for sure where we’ll take 360 video next, I do know the entire Learning group has this technology tool in their pocket now.  Every year for every program, we do a technology brainstorm we call a SAMR brainstorm.  We can think about how we could use 360 videos to bring Shedd Aquarium to new audiences or give learners additional experiences like 360 videos from inside other exhibits.  We can also think about how to use 360 video assets we collected last year, like from underwater robotics and snorkels in the Bahamas.

Next up: 360 VR at the Field Museum…

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Making a Dino Dance video from MCN 2017

Last November I was in Pittsburgh at the Museums and Computer Network conference, now one of my favorite. I offered a session called Making a Dino Dance: integrating a user-centered design process into a natural history museum, a ten minute overview of our work in FY17 (re: Prototyping Interactive Data Viz: Lessons Learned in FY17). It was a nice opportunity, among peers, to explore how the sausage is made.

The first “slide” is the YouTube video of JUST the audio. All the slides then follow. I recommend you open this page up in two windows – hit play on one to listen to the audio and use the other to click through the slides.

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Caught in Time: a photobooth project (Dinos, Space, Marine Life, Together)

I’d like to go on a journey, and invite you to join me. I’m not sure exactly how it will go, which is scary, but that’s part of why it’s exciting, and why I don’t want to go alone.

Last week I watched the latest episode of Netflix’s remarkable series, ABSTRACT: The Art of Design, featuring the photographer Platon, A British portrait photographer. At the same time, I was listening to the Photochemical episode from the podcast Love and Radio, about, let’s just say, photobooths. That got me thinking about professional and amateur photography, about the photobooths I pass every day in the Museum, and all the opportunities I’ve clearly been missing.

Meags loves photobooths. From http://loveandradio.org/2017/10/photochemical/
I thought,  There must be something I can do here, something curious, and small, that can gain meaning as the collection grows (like the Wonder exhibit in D.C.).

I considered how photobooths capture people in place, and in time. They can be personal, letting us share a creative, maybe even vulnerable, side of ourselves. They can be unexpectedly intimate, providing us with the unusual opportunity to ask someone else to join us in a cramped space, in public yet behind a curtain. And they can force us to take risks, challenging us to improvise in front of a camera’s recording eye.

So what did I want to focus on?

The place? My Museum.

The people? My colleagues.

The topic? Our relationship with the Museum, and each other.

So starting in January I am going to aim to do ONE a WEEK, for the entire year (not counting when I go on vacations). I am curious to see how it develops and changes over time.

I did a test below, theming it as follows.

Photo 1: Dinosaurs!

Photo 2: Outer Space…

Photo 3: Partner’s choice (Asish below chose Hall of Marine Life)

Photo 4: Together

We’ll see over time how the photos theme’s shift. And I am curious to hear what prompts YOU would like to see us use (and if you’d like to join me).

But here we go – the first test:

Caught in Time: a photobooth project (Dinos, Space, Marine Life, Together)

Visit the full set on Pinterest here.

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Snigglings (tooting my own horn)

Here’s a post listing some recent mentions of the work I’ve been privileged to be involved with.

Last week I was in Pittsburgh at the Museums and Computer Network conference, now one of my favorite. I offered a session called Making a Dino Dance: integrating a user-centered design process into a natural history museum, a ten minute overview of our work in FY17 (re: Prototyping Interactive Data Viz: Lessons Learned in FY17). It was a nice opportunity, among peers, to explore how the sausage is made.

Christine Murray, from Antenna International, wrote in her report-back from MCN that this session provided her with one of her key takeaways from the event:

Match Content Goals to Technology

The best example I saw of this in the VR space was Barry Joseph’s presentation on the usercentric approach to data visualization adopted by the American Museum of Natural History.  For one exhibit, they tested three ways to communicate a complicated concept about space: stars appear two-dimensionally in the night sky because our eyes view them from a fixed point, but actually, those stars are in motion, moving at different speeds.  The museum took an agile approach, prototyping great interactive experiences employing a different kind of technology or gaming strategy each time.  Their prototypes failed, and then failed again, until they discovered that VR – and the inherent nature of the medium itself – was the best tool for their message.  VR allowed visitors to “physically” move through constellations, changing their relative perspective and seeing the results in real time, which helped them grasp the concept instantly.  This was the first time deploying VR has ever made sense to me in a museum context.

Thanks Christine! So glad to see it was useful.

A broader review of our work, both here at the Museum and, in my previous life within the Online Leadership Program at Global Kids, became the subject of a delightful podcast with Marc Lesser, of the after school program Mouse, in his new series No Such Thing. In “Episode 9: New Realities in Museum Learning,” Marc, whom I have known for years, invited Jessy Jo Gomez (a former student of mine, now educator herself) to join in as co-host for the episode. We talked about games-based learning, how to parse VR, AR and other emerging media platforms and what they afford for learning, and shared how much we love each other (because we do!).

If you’re ready to feel the love, check it out here.

Finally, StoryEngine is the Mozilla Foundation’s “deep listening, learning, and impact narrative methodology.” In other words, they interviewed me, about my 17 year history in youth development, with a focus on digital learning, and where it aligns with Mozilla’s interest in an open and safe Internet. Read it all here.

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