Deschutes beer with a shot of virtual reality

Video lets Black Butte Porter lovers see the beer’s namesake location

By Joseph Ditzler, The Bulletin, @josefditzler

Thanks to a Bend production company and Deschutes Brewery, lovers of Black Butte Porter can visit the beer’s namesake location without leaving their couches.

Impossible Engine, which specializes in animated video for advertising and other uses, assembled a three-minute, virtual-reality excursion to the Metolius River and Black Butte. The video, released July 8, is the first of two. A similar trip to Mirror Pond is scheduled for release Aug. 4.

Viewers can watch the high-definition version with an Oculus Rift, a $599 virtual-reality headset, or through a roughly $15 Google Cardboard viewer with a mobile phone and the YouTube app. It also works as a 360-degree viewing experience on a mobile phone with the YouTube app.

“When the virtual reality stuff and the 360 films started to pop up, it was, like, we should totally just do that,” said Scott Oliphant, founder and creative director of Impossible Engine. “That would be so cool to show people these places that we love that are just amazing.”

Oliphant and Josh Rosenquist, associate creative director, came up with the idea and in March pitched it to Deschutes Brewery Marketing Director Jeff Billingsley and Digital Marketing Manager Jason Randles. The concept fit nicely with the fact that two of the brewery’s flagship beers — Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale — are named after real places.

“I didn’t know that before I moved here,” Oliphant said. “I thought that was really cool to discover that all of these places are real places.”

Oliphant, his wife, Shelby, and their two young sons moved from Austin, Texas, in April 2014. He kept the Austin office and started a second shop in Bend.

The Deschutes Brewery virtual-reality project provides a platform that shows off not only Central Oregon landmarks, but Deschutes beer and what Impossible Engine can do for its clients, Oliphant said. He foresees similar projects in the future. He would like to do a personal project filming the Cascade Mountains for educational videos using the same method he employed for Deschutes Brewery, on an aerial drone.

To film the video, Impossible Engine attached 14 GoPro Hero cameras to a circular plastic rig that resembles a wheel; the cameras point in every direction. One scene captures the ride on U.S. Highway 20 as the crew and cast make their way from Bend to Black Butte. The video opens along the banks of the Metolius River, where a fly-fisher arcs his line into the clear waters. Then a handful of Deschutes employees make their way up the trail to the top of Black Butte, where the producers tagged for viewers the Cascade peaks on the panoramic horizon.

“We wanted to focus on beautiful things other than Black Butte,” Oliphant said. “We had a guy fly-fishing in the Metolius and the springs in the Metolius. There’s a little bit about the beer but not-so-heavy-handed marketing and more about the location.”

In post-production, Oliphant’s crew sewed the separate videos together using software similar to the way a digital camera sews separate photos together to make one panoramic photo. Only the virtual reality version is much more complicated. Oliphant said much virtual-reality production relies on trial and error, with producers making up their own techniques as they go.

The brewery plans to make the Black Butte and Mirror Pond virtual-reality videos available with Oculus Rift equipment at its traveling Street Pub, which next stops in Chicago on Aug. 6, Randles said. He said plans are to post the videos on the Deschutes Brewery homepage and someday install a viewer at the Deschutes tasting room on SW Colorado Avenue.

“The comments we’ve received so far have been super positive,” Randles said. “There is so much competition with so many craft brewers out there that the more you can tell your story and connect Bend with our fans out there, you hope that stays top of mind when they’re in the grocery store staring up at that huge wall of options.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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