Shooting for 360° video

© Retinize

I believe that VR is here to stay – it’s the new medium from which we’ll consume movies, shows, music videos, brand experiences – we’ll visit historic landmarks that have been brought back to life through graphics and animation – we’ll go to far off locations and sample hotels before booking them. VR will offer us all a unique way of absorbing content.

For the last year and a half I’ve been working with a studio in Belfast to create stereographic 360° content for virtual reality headsets. What you soon realise when it comes to shoot this kind of video for VR is that 360° film has its own set of rules – most of which are still being discovered by a new generation of film-makers. Just as cinema had to discover and evolve its language, so does 360°.

We spent a lot of time experimenting with different shots, locations and themes – evaluating what worked and what didn’t, what was interesting or what would resonate well with an audience. I thought it might be useful to share some of this…

  • The kind of quality you want to achieve will influence the camera / rig system you choose to shoot with. We found that a number of cameras positioned in a circle gave the best results but this created seams in the footage – basically the difference between one camera and the next. For example, if you have someone moving around in the 360° scene, there will be a visible seam as they move across the cameras. This can be nasty to deal with but there is software that can help ease that headache. So before you shot, consider what will be moving around in your scene. If something moves across the camera then the seams will be more visible (even moreso if they’re closer) meaning you spend more time on polishing it up.
  • Think about the “framing” for want of a better word. You’ve a full 360° environment to use so stage it well. As we shot in 3D we liked to make sure the scene also had plenty of depth as well, we used the environment to its max which also helped sell the sense of immersion. Consider how certain things might feel to your audience.
  • You can still direct in 360°. Action can be separated into quadrants or sectors and you can use motion or sound to lead the viewers attention.
  • As your set will be vulnerable to the full 360° you’ll have to keep in mind that no crew can be seen – no equipment should be visible – if you’re using extras, they’re always “on” and always in-shot.
  • The sense of immersion 360° video gives means that the camera(s) aren’t just the eyes of the audience, they’re the presence of the audience. The viewer will be able to look around and get a sense of their environment, a feeling of scale – where you place the camera and what height you place it at will affect all of this.
  • Will you integrate motion graphics or VFX into the shot? If so then consider how to best use the scope that 360° gives you, you can take advantage of VR to really engage with your audience.

Remember to experiment, this is a new form of storytelling so in some ways, we have to forget what we learned about storytelling in 2D, this is a brand new language.

Stereoscopic 360° © Retinize

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