Ident Pictures gives viewers a 360-degree tour of the Gotthard Base Tunnel
Roman Lehmann may have achieved his career goals as a cinematographer, motion designer, producer, and video editor working on large scale blockbusters in Hollywood and high profile commercials across the globe, but he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Instead, he’s finding new ways to combine his storytelling skills at Ident Pictures, a full-service agency that produces video, audio, and photography content for television, film, and the web. In the two years since Lehmann founded Ident Pictures, its client roster has expanded to include SWISS, the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) broadcast company, the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation, Saab, and more.
Earlier this year, SRF approached Ident Pictures with a challenge: help produce a short film on the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s largest railway tunnel that happens to run through the Swiss Alps. Similar to the first moving pictures that appeared more than 100 years ago showing a train pulling into a station, this railway project features an emerging form of storytelling—360-degree video. Lehmann eagerly accepted the opportunity to be a part of this historic project and learn the ins and outs of 360-degree video.
Just two months after its release, the German language version of the video now tops 323,000 views and the English version nearly 97,000 views.
How did you get started in the film industry?
Lehmann: Before starting to work in the film industry I was an athlete and then I became a sports teacher. I decided to switch jobs because working in film and TV was one of my biggest dreams. I went to the United States where I attended UCLA film school. After graduating, I worked in a green screen studio in Hollywood for two years. We did a range of projects, from commercials to blockbuster movies including Green Zone with Matt Damon. In addition to the green screen work, we also worked on location in different countries.
In 2008, I returned to Switzerland where I worked for SRF, the biggest TV station in the country, as a system engineer, cameraman, and video editor. Two years ago I started my own company, Ident Pictures, which focuses on commercials for TV and cinema, as well as productions for the web.
Adobe: What is your role at Ident Pictures?
Lehmann: I’m the Managing Director, but I also do a lot of producing, editing, and filming, with about 40% of my time spent behind the camera. I love taking an idea from initial filming through the editing and post-production process. I also have a director and editor working with me at Ident. In addition to the fully produced pieces we do for clients, 20% to 30% of my work is consulting for post-production companies and TV stations to help them develop and implement new editing workflows and digital media systems.
Adobe: When did you start creating 360-degree and virtual reality work?
Lehmann: We always try to be on the edge of what is possible, and virtual reality and 360-degree video is really exciting. SRF contacted me earlier this year wanting to do a special 360-degree video on the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland. I got involved after shooting and stitching the footage was done, so my challenge was to figure out how to tell a 360-degree story.
Adobe: What was your approach?
Lehmann: As an editor I always try to take the users’ perspective during the editing process. This time though, it was all new and I had to guess where and how long people look during different shots. Along the way, people previewed the project and provided feedback. It was important for us to see how people acted when they viewed it on a phone or in a browser window. The feedback was different depending on who we talked to, which helped us to see that there wasn’t just one way to tell or experience the story.
Adobe: Tell us about the video.
Lehmann: The tunnel is expected to open in December 2016, but we produced the video in May for the official opening ceremony. The video moves quickly through the tunnel and also follows the route by helicopter. We used a blur to transition between clips to keep viewers from experiencing any motion sickness, which can sometimes happen with quick movements in 360-degree and virtual reality video.
Often during editing I was respectfully thinking about the workers who made this gigantic hole through the Alps. I especially felt humility for the workers who died during work. Public transportation in Switzerland is enormously important, so one needs to be grateful.
Adobe: Why did you choose to work with Adobe Premiere Pro CC for editing the film?
Lehmann: I’ve worked with Adobe Premiere Pro for three years and I’ve always liked that it can handle huge files, even 5K or 6K video. With a good computer, you can work quite flawlessly during the edit, and with proxy workflows in the newest version of Premiere Pro it is getting even easier. I don’t have to think about codecs and formats anymore because it’s all readable by Premiere Pro, which frees me up to think about the story instead of worrying about the technical aspects. The plug-ins from Mettle work great with Premiere Pro and make this new type of storytelling possible.
Adobe: What other Adobe Creative Cloud applications do you use?
Lehmann: We’ve used Adobe After Effects CC for years for visual effects and motion graphics work and, with the plug-ins and scripts from Mettle, we now use it with 360-degree and virtual reality video as well. Adobe Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, and Audition CC are also part of our workflow.
Adobe: Are you planning to do more 360-degree and virtual reality work?
Lehmann: Yes, I truly believe in the future of 360-degree and VR and their ability to create fantastic experiences for viewers. As video producers, we get the chance to explore new and better ways to tell stories. Technology advances are enabling us to create higher-impact content faster and more easily, while continuing to improve viewers’ experiences. When I imagine well-calibrated, 360-degree cameras with automatic stitching, surround audio, head-mounted displays, and evolving software, I see an incredible future ahead of us that I’m excited to be a part of.
Roman Lehmann will be presenting in the Adobe stand at IBC 2016 on Sunday, September 11th and Monday, September 12th.
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