360 GoPro Rig Underwater BTS

I didn’t drown but, when it came time to stitch the video I almost wished I had.

Let me back up, though, I recently went scuba diving with a 360 GoPro rig.  The rig contained 6 GoPro’s in a waterproof housing attached to a boom pole and secured with a safety string (this proved invaluable since the whole thing fell apart mid-dive). 

The whole setup came with a remote to start all the cameras running at the same time but in the field, I had trouble getting it to work- aka I had already done one dive that day and I was just not having anything that complicated at the moment.  So I had to turn on each camera individually and then hit record for each of the 6 cameras.  

Turning on each camera individually would later lead to some mild confusion in post but I was unaware of this at the time.  With all cameras in the casing turned on and recording I then had to finalize putting on the bits and bobs of my scuba equipment and only then could I hit the water.  Once in the water, I tried my best to maintain relatively smooth camera and enjoy the dive.  I had trouble equalizing (relieving the pressure in my ears due to the change between land pressure and water pressure) because I was holding the rig but eventually got that straightened out and then I petted a turtle and explored a dark cave that actually didn’t show up well on camera.  

   Upon surfacing the next step in my workflow was to copy over the footage from all 6 cameras.  As you can imagine this was simply a delightful task that took several minutes.  The footage was about 20 or so minutes long and 4K 30fps for every camera.  Interesting fact GoPro’s save their video in an odd way when you get files this large. They auto generate some files with .lrv and .thm extensions.  Perhaps the tech savvy among you may understand what that means but I certainly don’t.  Anyway, after I had copied and organized my footage I then went to a hibachi grill where the chef told me and every woman there that he loved us and we should call his number 911.  Of course, that’s a story for another time, back to the task at hand.

The next step was to sync the files and stitch them together.  I naively tried to drag the corresponding clips from each camera angle straight into a stitching program called Autopano video by Kolor.  I say naively because while Autopano video has synching capabilities you should not rely on them.  As I found out Autopano is for stitching video and just because there is a sync feature does not mean you should use it.  After spending a frustrating day slowly realizing this fact it became clear that I would have to sync the videos in premiere pro and then export each individual camera angle before I could even think about bringing it into Autopano video.  It was at this point that I also edited a decent chunk of the footage, dividing it up into 3 main sections the longest of which was 2 minutes.  With my freshly exported clips, I was still blissfully unaware of the nightmare that was to follow.  

After all this effort I was sure I could see the light in the distance at the end of the tunnel.  I began my first synch with the clips of me standing on the dock and jumping into the water.  From Autopano video, I immediately went to its sister program Autopano Giga to fine tune the stitch.  

The stitch wasn’t super great but this was my first time working with the gear so I was satisfied with the mediocre results, it’ll be better next time right? Wrong!

   Turns out most of the underwater footage is blue and green.  This makes it harder for the program to discriminate among camera angles which lead to a worse stitch.  I watched several tutorials and tried countless times to get the stitch to work not only in the color programs but it was to no avail.  I also tried stitching in other programs such as VideoSttich, and the after effects extension Mettel.  Sadly none worked for me.  

However, I know this is not an impossible task because I’ve found other 360 scuba diving videos on youtube and they have successful stitching. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=360+scuba

I am not sure how they could possibly manage this but they are clearly more skilled in the area than I.  Here is my attempt:

On the plus side, the individual videos from each GoPro are beautiful 4K shots.  The cameras also all came back in one piece and were not destroyed by the water.  Additionally, the internal audio underwater sounds quite good.  Everything was shot decently it just fell apart in the editing room.

Nevertheless, I managed to make a video.  It wasn’t what I intended but it exists. You can watch it here: