Fou Fou Ha - Bringing fun and games direct from the heart of San Francisco to the world of immersive cinema.

These four short experiences are best viewed on a headset in the SamsungVR app, which is available for the Samsung GearVR and Oculus Go headsets. In the SamsungVR app please search on my last name “Yost” to find my channel (remember to click on the channel button) and before you watch this in the app, PLEASE download the file locally to view without having to deal with the latency and resolution artifacts inherent with streaming (unless of course you have Gigabit wi-fi at your home). The few extra minutes it’ll take to download the file are more than worth it, and you can free up the space after watching. If you don’t have a headset you can order one here for only $200. Until then, you can watch it in your browser by clicking on the thumbnails above and watching directly on your screen on Youtube. Alternately, if you have YoutubeVR you can save the links in this playlist to your own playlist and watch it on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Google Daydream or Samsung GearVR.

One of the big motivations for my immersive video work is to bring happiness to the world and maybe even sometimes a bit of consciousness. Perhaps its a way of atoning for all the technology I’ve brought into being by manifesting Autodesk 3ds Max many years ago. (There are only so many video game and visual effects death and destruction sequences that a person can handle before wanting to create something life-affirming.)

San Francisco is the home of so many creative people who perform experiences that make me smile and feel happy that I live in such a positive ebullient place. This year I’ve been looking for opportunities to show up at these experiences and capture them in an immersive way to share our outrageous arts community with the rest of the world — you may have seen some of these already with the Acrobatic Conundrum, Con Brio, and Carnaval/SF pieces.

In August, while perusing the arts section of our local newspaper I saw a reference to a burlesque clown troupe called Fou Fou Ha. Their costumes were outrageous (!) and immediately caught my eye — when I researched them further I saw a sensibility that was as San Francisco as it gets. The Fous mix dance theater and character/audience interaction along with a crazy fashionista trickster magic to create a kind of post-modern theater of the absurd. They’ve been around for over 15 years and even have a branch in New York City (“Fou York”). This is the kind of stuff that embodies a combination I love… totally uninhibited sex and body image positive performance and most of all an outrageous sense of humor.

So I contacted their founder Maya Lane about collaborating. I said that I wanted to work with her troupe to create experiences that would make people happy… that perhaps together we could come up with a set of cinematic immersive videos that would make people feel good to watch them. I was particularly thinking of people who aren’t able to get out and party much due to sickness or other physical handicaps, maybe even those who are stuck in a hospital or nursing home and want to do more than just remember the good old days.

Maya was into it right away! We began to look for opportunities to see how the 3D 360° experience could capture Fou Fou Ha in the best way possible, and that led to the experiment we conducted on 12/13/18 at the Rickshaw Stop in downtown SF. Maya was workshopping a new act called “The Estrogen Mafia” in preparation for a major performance at the blow-out Edwardian Ball next month at the Regency theater on January 25, 2019. Here’s a video of the outrageous piece they performed at the Ball in 2016… you can see why I’m excited to capture this with the Z CAM V1.

Maya has been an enthusiastic collaborator and I look forward to a long relationship creating feel-good experiences that transport people into other dimensions. Her background as a couple’s therapist (she won the SF Bay Guardian’s ‘Best Therapist in San Francisco” in 2017) gives her a perspective inside of people’s heads that is particularly valuable as a theatrical director and performer. Here she is in her character of Mama Fou at the Rickshaw Stop creating a “close up” during the show. (Of course the only way to create wide, medium and CU shots with the V1 camera on a monopod is to block the performers to move relative to the camera and the V1 handles close proximity better than any other 3D 360 camera, making truly dramatic close ups possible.)

Lessons learned:

Floor bounce has become one of my biggest issues when shooting live shows. Most clubs and many theaters have “sprung” floors to make them more comfortable to dance on. This springiness translates through the monopod into the camera and bouncing makes the viewer feel nauseous in a headset. For this shoot my friend and collaborator David Lawrence had his hand on the monopod the entire time to stabilize it. This is far from an optimal solution and although I could’ve removed him and the rig from these shots in post, I wanted the viewer to look around at the club and that step wasn’t really necessary. Right now I’m looking at the possibility of adding the Rig Wheels “Cloud Mount” between the monopod stalk and hi-hat feet in cases like this. I’m hoping to get one for evaluation and will report back with my results. Click on the image for the B&H order page.

Distance from subject to camera. The sweet spots for the V1 3D 360° camera tend to be 1-2’ for extreme closeups, 3’ for closeups, 4-6’ for medium shots and 6-12’ for wide shots. You can see all of these blocking examples in the Fou Fou Ha pieces, and how the blocking works best when there are multiple layers of people within the CU-wide range. We learned that sometimes there are too many people upstage in the wider part of the range without enough action downstage… useful information.

Stitching and post-production. I stitched the quick offline versions of all seven numbers they performed in MistikaVR (which I always do because it’s so incredibly fast). After choosing four of them to finish, I then stitched those with Wonderstitch at 6144x6144 and WS did an incredibly amazing job. The stitch is beautiful and there are absolutely zero optical flow artifacts evident, which I attribute mostly to the low-frequency background of the curtain behind the stage. After stitching I ran the sequences through Neat Video to clean up some of the noise and then BorisFX VR Sharpener plus a LUT to provide a bit more contrast and saturation. Finally I downscaled the pieces from 6k to 4k for distribution and voila… absolutely gorgeous imagery that plays back beautifully in the Go.

Lighting. I asked the lighting director at the club to keep some of the lights on over the audience… particularly the Christmas lights strung along the ceiling. Unfortunately he turned those off and kept the overall level in the audience area lower than I would’ve liked. A bit more light on the audience would’ve provided a more-immersive quality to the piece in general and I’ll be more diligent about this in the future.

Additional interesting articles about Fou Fou Ha and their philosophy.

SF Examiner: Fou Fou Ha! clowns around conventions in ‘Whoa-Man!’

Burning Man Journal: Oh Là Là! The Psychology of Fou Fou Ha

Psyched in San Francisco: Whoa-Man! A Fou Fou Ha Performance

gblog, BlogGary YostComment