Shooting 360° VR Video: 4 Things I Got Wrong

We here at Tribe Pictures are conducting and documenting frequent tests in 360° video. There are a few reasons for this:

Viewing platforms are ubiquitous. As opposed to other kinds of Virtual Reality (i.e. interactive, 3D, or gaming), 360° video can be viewed by mousing around on a desktop in your browser or,  better yet, using your finger on a mobile device. While you can use Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, or another VR device for viewing, it’s not necessary for the experience and therefore has a wider audience potential.

The technology of the equipment, cameras, and post production workflows are maturing quickly. The quality is up, the price is dropping, and more creators are using 360° video so the market is hungry. There’s a need for developers to keep creating and supporting this new technology now.

That said, 360° is still in the “Wild West” stage in terms of use. There are lots of predictions, but no one knows quite how 360° video will be used, what its best uses are, or if it will catch on. So testing seems practical.

360° has the “Wow” factor. Every time we show a 360° video to someone who’s not seen or used it before the reaction is the same: “Wow, that’s so cool!” This won’t last forever but getting in on the ground floor is exciting and could be a boon to our clients.

Of the four sub-categories of Virtual Reality, we feel that 360° video has amazing potential for Tribe’s clients. (More on that later.)

The latest 360° test is a documentary of my commute, best viewed on Chrome directly from YouTube. Check it out.

The camera used for this test is a Ricoh Theta, a small Flip cam-like camera. There are significant drawbacks to this camera for professional applications. For starters, the resolution is not very good.

On the upside, though, it features auto-stitching (the process of knitting together all the different camera angles). Without auto-stitching technology creating a 360 video is a very time consuming and cumbersome process. Auto-stitching removes a significant barrier to 360 production.
Running tests on the Theta has another benefit: it helps me as a director learn and develop the visual grammar differences to shooting in 360°. There’s a lot of planning and trial and error involved. With 360°, the process is a bit different. The method of telling a great story remains the same, but conceiving a story in 360°, then dealing with usual issues like lighting and camera placement requires a different way of thinking. How to communicate a good story in this new environment?  This is the fun of it, and also the value of testing.

Here are 4 Things I Got Wrong:

1. Height of the camera should be what we experience as human . If you notice in the shot of the train pulling into the station, I placed the camera at a low angle. In 2D this angle makes the shot dramatic and give the viewer the impression  of power. In 360°, however, the low angle shot feels unnatural and makes the viewer feel like they’re sitting down.

2. Camera motion creates a feeling of “cyber-sickness.” My commute is full of motion, and while it’s interesting to watch, between the camera position and the camera’s is forward momentum, especially in the bike shots, for example, the feeling is a kind of dizziness, or seasickness. 360° is best suited for a stationary camera position to allow the viewer to look around, but I’ll continue to test this theory.

3. Lighting is a challenge. One major issue with 360° is lighting; this camera does not deal well with extreme lighting changes. It only really thrives in naturally lit or outdoor environments. Also we’d see lighting equipment since we’re capturing everything, (nothing is “out-of frame”).

4. I should have rotoscoped out my hand. Since the camera’s handheld, my hand remains in the shot. Next time I will take the time to rotoscope or remove my hand since it’s distracting and pulls the viewer out of the immersive quality of the video.
The techniques of shooting 360° are quite different than 2D, from a directorial perspective. We here at Tribe believe that 360° has great potential as a storytelling device and the ability to make strong emotional connections because of its unique ability to give the viewer freedom to choose what to look at.

360° video is another arrow in the quiver, another very exciting tool to tell the best stories and solve clients’ business challenges.

Are you using 360° yet?

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