Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Virtual Journeys

A couple of years ago I took up running--and discovered that I loved it!! I totally get a runner's high. But keeping it up hasn't always been easy. The most convenient time for me to run is at the end of my day, between 6 pm and 8 pm. In the wintertime, it's dark. In the summer, it's often still 90+ degrees, and as much as I enjoy running, I don't much fancy the idea of heat stroke. So I got a treadmill. Problem solved, right? Now I could run in the comfort of my own home at any time of day or night no matter what the weather. Ok, that's all well and good, but now I had a new problem. Running on a treadmill was boring. B-O-R-I-N-G. I mean, I was staring at a wall the entire time. A white wall. With no window. You get the point: boring.

Then, quite by accident, I stumbled onto a company called Vita Digital Productions online. These people have a wonderful product for the bored treadmilling likes of me--virtual jog/bike ride videos. You see, Vita Digital Productions is run by a retired videographer and his wife. They do a lot of traveling, and they go on walks/bike rides in beautiful locations around the world, filming from the point of view of the walker/rider. These videos are meant to be watched while on a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical trainer, so you can go on a "virtual jog" in these beautiful places.

Here's some sample footage from their bike ride around Loch Etive in Scotland:

And here's a walk on the Isle of Capri:

And here's one of my favorites, a walk through swampland in a Florida national park:

I've ordered lots of their videos: Scotland, Ireland, Egypt, Florida, Hawaii, Italy. And yes, my treadmill time is a lot happier and more exciting now. And interestingly enough, it just seems to fly by because I'm enjoying the virtual scenery so much. 

It recently occurred to me that I love these videos for the same reason I love a good setting in a book: it sucks me in and makes me feel like I'm there. I can hear the birdsong in the trees, see the sunlight glint off the water. I can hear the hustle and bustle of the crowds, see the people rushing past, hear the dogs barking in the distance. From time to time, I notice little details that really give me a sense of place, like the beautiful wrought-iron gate gracing the front of an Italian villa, but, of course, it's the large details that really grab hold of me, like the sweeping cliffside ocean view. I'm not stationary but moving through the scene, seeing it through the eyes of someone who is actually there.

As writers, what we do is pretty comparable to making a virtual jog video. Ok, I know that sounds strange, but think about it: we're taking readers on a virtual journey, too. So remember, no white walls--make the scenery worth it :)

-Dawn Lairamore

photo credit: kaneda99 via photopin cc


  1. I love the way you tied this to our writing. And you're SO RIGHT!! No white walls. :-)

  2. What a cool idea! I run, too, and find a treadmill up against a wall makes me feel caged in. Give me outside any day.

  3. How do they keep the camera so steady? Amazing.

  4. I was wondering the same thing--if I tried to make homemade virtual jog videos, they'd be so shaky I'd probably get seasick :(

  5. Great post. Good analogy.

    And by the way, the first person who came to mind when I saw the virtual treadmill type thing was our very own Paul Greci. I mean, if you visit his blog you'll see his homemade treadmill computer.

  6. I thought of Paul too, Mike.

    I'm not much of a gym rat, but when I do go, I read on the stationety bike. Treadmills make me feel weird. (Or is that wired?)

    I do agree with your thoughts on description in novels, Dawn--something we should always be contemplating.

  7. I do my best writing on the treadmill.

    By perching a spiral notebook on the front display, I run and write.

    4 mph is the best I can do and still write legibly but exercising clears my mind.

  8. Wow. Thanks. I think I might try these.

  9. Mike & Michael, I thought of Paul, too, having seen photos of his treadmill set-up. I'm not coordinated enough to compute & run at the same time, so I'm super-impressed he can work that way.

    Doubly so for you, Huntress. I can't imagine being coordinated enough to write and run at the same time! :)

    Linda, I love these videos. They make my treadmill time just fly. Scotland, Amalfi, and Florida are my favs.

  10. Wow, that is so COOL! I am definitely going to look into those for my treadmill runs, which I'm doing a lot of these days as a result of it being February. :-)

  11. I'm on the treadmill (my archenemy) every day. I always end up watching Bravo or ID Investigates. Real Housewives and murder make for a great workout! Ha, ha! ;)

  12. I spend some of my writing time on my treadmill, walking slowly so I can type. When I use it for running I usually put music on....but the videos look captivating. :-)

  13. nice idea! you're right about taking a reader on a virtual journey. For me, it's easier to write if I keep the moving picture of the story in mind.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!