Come for a VR Hike

I meant to blog every day of this journey as it happened.

What was I thinking? We hiked all day. We drank beer. We ate dinner. We slept hard. We ate a big breakfast. Lather, rinse repeat.

The best I could do was occasionally offload the footage from the VR camera and make room for more. Especially after I filled up my SD card with footage of the interior of a sock. (I still think it made a fine camera case.)

And then once I was back home, forget it. A million other obligations take priority. And every step of editing, previewing, re-editing, and uploading VR content takes hours, even days when it comes to YouTube processing it. Compressing all the visual quality out of a decent video takes time you know!

Anyway, a month later it’s finally finished. I’ve watched this video in its entirety 6 times now. 37 minutes seems like the perfect length to really capture the spirit of our walk, while definitely feeling like you’ve earned yourself a beer by the end of it.

For Ma

While I hope you all enjoy the video, I wouldn’t have made it if not for my mother. Just 6 years ago we were hiking through the Yorkshire Dales together, just one section of the amazing Wainwright Walk, 192 miles coast-to-coast across England.

Shortly thereafter she received a life-altering diagnosis of ALS, which has put a significant damper on her hiking career, to say nothing of her Olympic dreams. (Luckily her sense of humor will be the last to go!) With that said, she just so happens to have a VR headset and is kind of a maven…

Don’t watch the video at the end of this post

I’m not just saying this. It’s the difference between watching someone else hike vs. being there yourself. If you watch on regular old 2D YouTube, you’ll get the gist of where we went and what we did. It’ll show you a monoscopic view that you can pan around. Better than nothing, sure. And if that’s the best you can do, at least maximize the YouTube window size and set the quality to the maximum available via the gear icon.

If you do have a VR headset, or know someone who does, watch the video in YouTube VR. It’ll be stereoscopic 3D, with a 180° field of view. (Trust me, if anyone you know has a VR headset, they’ll be thrilled to demo it for someone, anyone. Just ask your people!) Also, I make house calls, and my Oculus Quest 2 travels easily on a plane. Or they’re $300 at Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Just download the YouTube VR app onto your headset if you don’t have it yet, and enter the title of the video into the search field, or even just “yorkshire” will work when combined with the 3D or VR180 buttons.

Instead of typing, try clicking the microphone icon and saying “Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales,” but don’t forget the VR180 or 3D button!

I tried to be sensitive to those with weaker stomachs while filming, avoiding fast camera pans. But there are a few spots that may make you queasy. Just breathe through it! Deep breaths work great for me.

About the camera

For those curious, the best sub-$1000 (and maybe the best sub-$5000?) camera I could find for this trip was the Vuze XR by Humaneyes. (Get it?)

Released in January 2018, almost 4 years ago, it’s a bit long in the tooth technology-wise. Yet its only real consumer-level competition for a 3D VR180 capable camera, the Insta360 EVO, is no longer available for sale at all. The only newer 3D video cameras since then are big heavy professional models in the $5000 to $15,000 range, and beyond! So I’m pretty happy with the results from my little $430 camera.

It’s really only when I was in motion that the compression artifacts really creep in big time. And I can’t blame it all on YouTube. The Vuze XR simply can’t record to SD faster than 120 Mbps. So the shots where I’m stationary, and not much changes frame to frame, look a lot nicer than the ones where I’m running down a trail. But even when, nay especially when, I’m running and it’s blurry, or there’s rain landing on the lenses, or there’s lots of wind noise, or Seth’s farting in Surround Sound, I feel fully immersed and right back in the Dales.

I hope you feel like you’re there with me and Seth, too. 🍻