GoPro Odyssey 360 Camera + BuzzFeed + Xcelerator
In November, Knott’s Berry Farm teamed up with BuzzFeed to film the first-ever professionally produced 360 degree POV video of Xcelerator. We had collaborated a number of times before with the great folks at BuzzFeed. Our first collaboration was in 2015 when they covered their favorite food dishes from the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival. The relationship with BuzzFeed began with a pitch to them from our publicist in 2015 and has continued since then. The Xcelerator 360 degree project began with an email pitch from a BuzzFeed Video producer. Sometimes stories are pitched by us to them such as the recent Try Guys Knott’s Scary Farm Monster Makeover video and like in this instance, sometimes BuzzFeed pitches us a story idea. Through a partnership with YouTube, BuzzFeed Video was provided use of the exclusive GoPro Odyssey 360 degree camera rig. The BuzzFeed team was tasked with brainstorming different ways to best utilize the $10,000+ camera. One of their producers suggested filming members of their team riding a thrilling roller coaster for the first. The GoPro Odyssey packs 16 synchronized HERO4 Black cameras into an all-in-one rig that’s capable of capturing content in stunning 8K 30 FPS video. The footage from every GoPro is then uploaded to the Jump assembler program to create the final video.
Xcelerator Roller Coaster 360 Degree POV
The project was greenlit immediately due to our great working relationship with BuzzFeed. Filming on-ride footage at theme parks can be tricky, time-consuming and requires the cooperation of a number of different departments. Due to this, we are very selective about the projects we approve. Very rarely is a video project permitted to delay a ride opening for the day to the public so it’s essential we stick to our schedule. Every on-ride video project requires coordination between the Marketing Department, video production house (BuzzFeed), Safety Department, Ride Maintenance Department and Rides Department. The BuzzFeed team have always been consummate professionals that work well with each of our departments and stick to the shooting schedule.
The first steps in setting up a video shoot are an initial kick-off call and a few back and forth emails to solidify the date and schedule. This Xcelerator shoot was fairly straight-forward since the crew would be in only one location and filming on just one ride. Many projects, especially TV and movie productions, require multiple setups all over the park with dozens of crew members. Those shoots require much more planning and a very detailed schedule. BuzzFeed is much more nimble and for this simple shoot only had five crew, including the two on-screen talent.
The BuzzFeed team traveled to the park a couple of weeks before filming to meet our Manager of Safety, Ride Maintenance Manager and Xcelerator Mechanic for a tech scout. During a tech scout, we discuss every detail of the filming. The main discussion for this roller coaster POV video was figuring out how to safely mount the GoPro Odyssey camera to the front of a roller coaster. Xcelerator, like many rides at the park, has custom-made ride mounts that have been created by our Ride Maintenance Department and certified by our Safety Department. Unfortunately, the existing mounts were not the correct size for the circular Odyssey camera. The camera weighs over 10 pounds and has a single mounting point in the middle. The Xcelerator Mechanic Joe custom welded together a sturdy new metal mount that could securely hold the cutting-edge camera into place.
Our last hurdle was figuring out how to create a secondary attachment point. Our safety department requires two points of attachment to ensure the camera stays securely in place. Usually that requirement isn’t a problem, but in this case it was difficult since initially there wasn’t a clear way to attach a an attachment strap without obscuring one of the GoPro lenses. Joe came to the rescue again and worked with the rigger from BuzzFeed to carefully place high-strength ties between each of the cameras.
On the morning of the shoot, the BuzzFeed Video team arrived an hour before filming to mount and test the camera. Once secured and checked by our Safety Manager, the Ride Maintenance Team launched the coaster train for multiple test runs. After those successful test runs, the ride was transferred over to the Ride Operations team for their own tests. Only the Ride Operations team is certified to operate a ride when people are on-board. The two on-air talent from BuzzFeed were then strapped in for the ride of their life.
Xcelerator’s launch still takes my breath away. You just can’t get used to going 0 – 82 MPH in 2.3 seconds. We knew the facial reactions of our two riders to the launch would be the highlight of the video. The only downside about the GoPro Odyssey is there isn’t an easy way to immediately view the footage that was just captured. All of the footage needs to be processed through Jump, which takes hours on most machines. The process reminded me of the old days of film where the film reels would have to be processed at a lab before being viewed. We crossed our fingers and captured three takes. The final footage the camera produced is incredible with stunning views of the track and surrounding areas: