3D RC Car POV
3D point of view footage from an RC car around the campus.
A 3D YouTube video meant to be viewed on a VR headset or 3D glasses
This project uses a combination of camerawork techniques to create a unique experience for the viewer. By attaching two cameras to my remote-controlled car, I was able to create an immersive viewing experience from the perspective similar to that of a small dog. The final video above can be viewed with a VR headset for the 3D effect, allowing the viewer to feel like they're sitting on the front of the car, like a bug.
You can view the original project documentation on the class website.
I inspired by C’était un rendez-vous (1976), a high-speed, single-shot drive through the streets of Paris in the early morning. I was really taken by the sounds of the revving engine, the shifting gears, and daredevil speeds through the cramped and winding streets of this old city.
I wanted to parody this video by creating a choreagraphed scene through the streets, sidewalks and buildings of the Pitt and Carnegie Mellon campuses, but ultimately it ended up being a collage of various scenes.
There is something very intimate about the underside of a vehicle, says Professor Golan Levin. Something almost not meant to be seen and a fascinatingly unique perspective. Professor Levin specifically enjoyed the test footage of me driving underneath a few parked cars in a garage.
Building and Planning
The modified Traxxas RC car I created was the perfect medium for this project. The completed rig was only about 6 inches in height and could drive up to 85mph, allowing it to catch up to anything and drive under most vehicles I encountered, such as city busses.
The cameras were set wider apart than normal human eyes, however that worked to my benefit as that “exaggerated” the 3D depth effect, which helps make objects in the distance look more 3D than real life. This helps because the GoPro cameras naturally have wide-angle lenses that often make close-looking objects appear farther away, so this wide-set camera setup helped bring those far-but-close objects to life.
I travelled to different on- and off-campus locations, mainly focusing on how to integrate cars and traffic into my shots. While it was fun chasing after cars on the streets, driving under buses and even a police car in a traffic stop, many of the more interesting shots came from the social interactions that occurred on-campus. From my high-above viewpoint of a third-floor studio, I was able to chase kids and follow students around campus. One particularly memorable moment was driving through a college tour group.
Unfortunately a camera was knocked out of place without me knowing, and I was unable to use much of the day’s footage in the final video.
This is a photograph of me waiting for a bus to arrive. I am laying down so I could (safely) drive under the bus as it pulled up, and the low angle would provide me better visibility to make sure I don't drive into the wheels or people's feet.
Testing the driving ability of the car, including underneath other cars (at the end of the clip), in a zippy and control fashion.
Video Editing and 3D
Creating stereoscropic video for YouTube turned out to be very simple. All I had to do was squish the left and right side videos into the 16:9 video frame (full HD or higher resolution), so the clips are full height but half the width.
When uploading to YouTube, there is a simple checkbox that automatically converts the video to three versions; a mono-channel (regular-looking) version, anaglyphic version (old-school red/blue stereoscopic 3D) and a version for VR headsets (such as Google Cardboard).
Throughout this project I discovered a few unexpected problems and/or risks:
- Cameras becoming mis-aligned (esp. after bumps/crashes), causing synchronization issues for 3D effect
- Car sagging/scraping in the front (fixed)
- Car being run over (this luckily didn’t happen)
- Cameras are farther apart than eyes in real life (extreme depth)
- Rain / water
- The built in microphones for these protected GoPros were terrible quality.
Although the final video is best viewed with a VR headset, the best I could do for showing the entire class at once (during my critique) was to use the old-school stereographic glasses (with the red and green lenses). Seeing the whole class wear it was pretty entertaining and had a retro feel to it!