Using 360 Virtual Reality to Capture the Future of Clean Energy

We’re longtime fans of The Atlantic’s journalism and innovative storytelling approach. So when their marketing arm, Re: think, asked us to help with a highly technical video project showcasing Siemens’ work to modernize energy systems, we jumped at the opportunity. Teaming up with two amazing Re: think producers (Sarah Sherman and Danielle Elliot), we shot for six days over a couple of weeks in 3 cities across the U.S., marrying our expertise in 360 video production with our skillful use of drone technology. Once we finished shooting and the Re: think team shared their interviews, we got to post-produce all of the pieces in this package, adding motion graphics and a custom spatial audio mix for an awesome finished product.

“Power Move” Q&A with Brett Singer

What was the vision and inspiration behind the “Power Move” video series you made in partnership with The Atlantic?

“Power Move” features three cities that are using innovative energy solutions to supply power to their citizens. We knew that the plants themselves weren’t photogenic in the traditional sense, but the scenery around each remote site was amazing. We wanted to use that contrast to our advantage and create something visually dynamic that showcased the size and scope of each plant and how they’re connected to the natural environments around them.

Why was this project a 360 video series versus a traditional HD video series? Did you have to do anything differently to capture such vast expanses of land?

The Atlantic team approached us after pitching Siemens on making these videos 360 experiences. We’d visit power grid control centers, massive solar farms, and top-of-the-line waste treatment facilities during the series. The Atlantic team wisely thought that 360 video would give the viewer a true VIP pass into these highly guarded, innovative public works spaces. For the 500 acre solar farm, shooting it exclusively from the ground wouldn’t capture just how massive and powerful it is: we needed a bird’s eye view. Using drone technology, we were able to capture the full scope of it all. We also used drones over two other towns as dramatic establishing shots to literally give us the lay of the land of our story.

Does combining 360 video technology with drone recording present any unique challenges?

We love drone footage. Done well, it’s spectacular. We’ve been experimenting with combining drone technology and 360 video for a while. We love experimenting with new tools and get excited any time a project comes along that lets us push the limits of what new filmmaking techniques can do. For each location we connected with a different drone operator. Like us, they’d been playing in the 360 space and had designed their own 360 camera gimbals that were mounted to their drones to ensure a smooth picture during a bumpy flight.

What elements contributed to the effectiveness of the storytelling in these videos?

The teams that managed these power sources are incredibly dedicated to their jobs and communities. Their interviews and stunning visuals took this project to the next level.

How did your approach to this video help to communicate the significance and scope of these energy innovations?

Each video opens with gorgeous shots of the towns and communities these energy services impact. It gives the viewer a better understanding of how many people rely on these innovations to live their day-to-day lives. After that, the interviews and the footage from the plants drove it home. It’s fascinating to hear from those who built and operated these facilities or designed solutions that helped create these critical community facilities.

Did any obstacles come up while making this video? If so, how did you work around them?

Luckily, we had a pretty smooth go with this project. The people at Re: think and Siemen were great to work with. They made our jobs easy.

What was your favorite part of the project, and why?

Using innovative video tech to talk about innovative energy tech. Making this video really felt like taking a glimpse into the future. These solutions are not hypothetical anymore: I was there and I saw just how effective they can be. These are real solutions that should be replicated across the world.

Did you learn anything about clean energy during this project that surprised you?

Anything? More like everything. I never thought I’d say that hanging out at a waste treatment facility was cool. I’ve been spitting out clean energy facts left and right since we wrapped.