The Octagon Project | 360° Tour of the Holy Land
The Octagon Project is a non-profit charity, whose founder Dr. Gary Crossland, produced a 30-day 360° video tour to the Holy Land. As a seminary professor, videographer and veteran tour host, it seemed like a natural convergence of everything he had ever done, comprising art, education, travel and inspiration.
After several months of trying to develop their own 360 editing system, they discovered a better solution with Mettle 360/VR plugins for 360 post-production.
The Octagon Project-2-minute trailer
Q&A with Gary Crossland, Founder, The Octagon Project
How did you come up with the idea for this project? Was it a passion project?
We have guided many tour groups to the Holy Land. But for every person who joins us on this expedition, there are many more who cannot, because of financial concerns, scheduling problems, family issues, or mobility restrictions. We developed The Octagon Project with these very people in mind. In addition, no tourist who goes to Israel can see literally everything. Fortunately, we spend about three months out of each year filming in the Middle East, and our crews have literally captured every site that any tourist could want to visit.
Why did you decide to do it in 360/VR?
We have been filming documentaries in Israel, Egypt and Jordan since 2005. In 2012 we heard about the emerging technology of virtual reality, and from that moment we decided to film in the Holy Land exclusively in this format. Unlike conventional video, VR technology gives our viewers the most immersive and realistic exposure to this part of the world without actually being there.
How did you pick the sites?
The Octagon Project follows the chronology of a book that Gary Crossland wrote, called The Merged Gospels, which became our field manual. Literally every geographic site that is referred to in this book is part of our tour, and it includes over 200 sites.
What was your general production workflow?
We capture our content using either a 7 or 10 camera rig configuration, and we stitch with Kolor’s AVP and APG. Once we have composite raw footage, we create a story line with that content in Premier or FCPX, and develop a basic script around it. When the clips are organized, and a basic outline has been achieved, we begin editing using a multitude of Skybox tools. Several shots require element removal, animation of titles, or a basic stitch touch up, using Skybox, After Effects, and Photoshop. The AE comps integrate seamlessly into Premier, where we add additional titles with both still and video insets using Skybox VR tools. Once assembled and checked in VR, we use additional effects to complete the look and tone of our videos. The final tour is then uploaded to our own proprietary viewer at www.octagonproject.com.
Tell us about your 360/VR post-production workflow
We needed a system that allowed us to put high-resolution pictures and motion graphics into our 360 videos. We had to use a graphing system, and several programs to properly warp, and maintain the quality of our insets. It was a good system, but took several months to develop, and several hours just to complete one inset. Within a week or two of creating the “perfect” system we discovered Skybox – a much better system that lets us achieve our goal of implementing insets, and a lot more.
Dr. Gary Crossland
More About the Octagon Project
Dr. Gary Crossland is a Biblical Greek Professor, as well as an historian, author and documentary producer. For many years, he has been leading tours to the Holy Land, publishing videos about Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and guiding fellow scholars to rare and significant Biblical sites. In his journeys Dr. Crossland has literally retraced every recorded footstep of Jesus Christ, studying each site, and archiving thousands of hours of video footage.
He is also the author of The Merged Gospels – the only book in history to literally translate the four canonized Gospels from the original Greek, breaking them down into four columns, then word-by-word, and reassembling them into a flowing narrative, without removing one word of Scripture. Scholars have called The Merged Gospels “a masterpiece”, “excellent”, “indispensable”, “a major work”, “powerful and unique”, and “highly recommended”.
In our many travels to Israel, we have to come to realize that for every person who is fortunate enough to visit the Holy Land, there are hundreds of others who want to go, but cannot for various reasons – finances, health, mobility, scheduling, or family conflicts.
In 2012 we learned about the emerging technology of virtual reality (used mostly by gamers), and its younger sibling, augmented reality, which primarily uses 360° live-action video. Through the convergence of history, Biblical geography and this new immersive video technology The Octagon Project was born in 2013.