3 Things You Shouldn’t Overlook When Creating a 360 VR Video
We've recently been featuring 360 virtual reality videos on Reload Sessions (watch the video below). These videos allow the viewer to see a 360 degree view of the shooting location; a truly immersive experience. With Facebook and YouTube integrating the technology into their video services we thought it was a good time to share a bit of insight on how we film these videos. Here are a few things we've learnt along the way.
Our live acoustic sessions are usually filmed with a three camera set up, allowing us to cut to three different angles as the artists performs for us . However, we thought it would be interesting to give the viewer a 360 degree experience allowing them an insight into the whole production of an acoustic session. With this in mind, we brought in a 360 camera setup. Our ‘camera’ was comprised of a 6 GoPro set up, using a 360Heros rig.
It’s safe to say the entire process from filming to editing the 360 video was a learning experience for me and hopefully this article will help you avoid some of the mistakes that I originally made. Being used to manning a camera and paying attention to the framing & composition it was a strange feeling to place the 360 camera a few metres away from me, leave it alone and just let it record the entire room. Having recorded a few sessions with the 360 rig, I have come up with the top three things that I have learned whilst filming in the 360 degree format
1. Don’t Forget to Set Up Your Sync Point
Using either motion or audio to help sync the 6 cameras together is really really important in the editing process. When dealing with six separate videos, each camera will need to be synchronized in some sort of way. Being aware of this, at the beginning of every recording I would usually clap (simulating the effect of a clapboard) to help the software (Autopano Video Pro) search through each clip to find the specific moment I clapped and synchronize all six videos to it. It’s such a simple process that can be easily overlooked when filming. However if forgotten, during the editing process the software cannot find a point in time that syncs it all together making it 100 times harder to edit the 360 video. I have heard that using motion is a more effective method to use, it’s something that I have not tried just yet, but will definitely experiment with it, for now though the audio sync is a vital bit of information that will help you get started with your edit.
2. Less Is Not Easier
Filming in low light or on black is difficult to stitch in post. Similar to photography or videography the same rule applies to 360 filming - lighting is important. Detail or texture in the video is needed to allow a better stitch, when there is low light it makes it difficult for Autopano to analyse the frame and understand what it’s stitching it to. It’s beneficial to make sure the room or environment has a sufficient amount of light to allow the software to analyse each video and make it easier to stitch all the videos together.
3. Masking Is Your Friend
The masking tool is very useful, after I started getting the hang of this tool it made the video infinitely better. When all six videos are stitched together (depending on how many cameras you’re using), there are moments where a person's face or an important object is inconveniently placed along a stitch line, making the face or object look deformed. So how can you counter this? With the masking tool. Allowing one frame to have more importance over the other, it makes the desired face/object have the right shape. This tool can be used when people walk through the stitch lines as well, making it seem like a smooth transition. It took me a while to get use to this tool, and it’s something I’m still improving on. However I know once I get better at it, so will the final edit of the 360 video.
So which is the most important bit of advice from the above?
Likely the audio sync (or any kind of sync). Without this it’s going to be tricky to align your videos and the inconsistencies would be catastrophic. If you can nail this on the head at the start of each video you’re making a good start. But at the same time, don’t be scared to experiment.
I’m sure as I keep playing around with producing 360 virtual reality videos, I will learn a lot more in both the filming and editing process. But as the technology is still relatively new, my advice would be to go and experiment with filming and editing, change your ‘test’ locations, try introducing new subjects. It’s this process of refinement that will make your edits neater and overall better.
For now, those were the top three things that I believe are a good starting point. I hope this can help anyone who is starting out in filming in 360, if you have any tips or something to add you can find me on twitter @ReloadSessions.
Below: Watch the same session filmed in two different ways. The 360 VR version was filmed simultaneously as the standard session (right). Best viewed on a mobile device, the video allows the viewer to see behind-the-scenes on a shoot of ours.