Our Guide To Filming, Recording & Enabling 360 Media, Communications & Editing

virtual reality 360 camera recording tips

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360-degree video is a mostly new form of filmmaking. With specialist equipment now accessible to consumers, it’s easier to make great 360 videos than ever before. If you want to become an immersive film director yourself, nothing is holding you back…except any uncertainty as to how to get it right.

In many respects, 360-degree film production is a lot like making a traditional film – you have a location, a script, actors and props…but you shoot from multiple angles at the same time. There are also many quirks owing to the immersive nature of the medium that mean you have to make some extra considerations. With all this in mind, you may be at a loss as to where to turn. This is why we want to share our top 10 dos and don’ts when it comes to making your own mesmerising panoramic motion pictures.

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DO: Decide on a good height and angle at which to film

As a general rule of thumb, the camera setup should be positioned no lower than eye level. Placing the camera too low might make your audience feel uncomfortable and intimidated by their virtual surroundings.

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DON’T: Place objects too close to the stitching area

Before you start your cameras rolling, you have to have a good idea of where the stitching areas are going to be in your film. These are the points at which the footage from your camera lenses will be ‘stitched’ together during post-production to make one panoramic film.

If an object of focus straddles across the stitch line in the final film, you’ll know it. It could end up looking bodged together, wedge-shaped, or even invisible at one side. The closer the object is to the camera lens, the worse the effect looks, so be mindful of where you position everything!

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DO: Get the plate!

Plate shots are still photos or video recordings taken of the scene albeit with no action. They themselves might not make it into your final film, but trust us: having them to hand will save you a lot of hassle during post-production!

Once you’ve done all your filming, you’ll have to edit out the tripod in post-production; if your eagle-eyed viewer looks down where their feet would be to find three metallic legs straddling across the floor, it’ll break all immersion (or make them think they’re supposed to be a telescope!). If you’re filming on a flat surface of a single colour, you might just get away with airbrushing it out in post-production. You couldn’t get away with the same trick if the ground surface is visually more complex, however (e.g. if you were filming on a bridge or a patterned rug).

This is an example of a scenario where plate shots of the ground come to the rescue. These should be as close to the original setting as possible, snapped by a camera at approximately the same position and angle as your filming rig.

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DON’T: Move too much

This is one of the biggest mistakes you could make when filming spatial reality content.

That’s not to say there can’t be any sense of movement at all in a 360-degree film; you just have to be mindful of how you convey it. Perhaps the best way to create a comfortable illusion of motion is to use what’s sometimes known as the cockpit effect to your advantage: this is where there is a stationary frame of reference from which the audience views everything else moving (e.g. imagine you’re in a car or a plane). Otherwise, make sure you move the camera at a gentle, natural pace.

Don’t rotate the camera either: remember that one of the biggest pulls of 360 video is that it grants viewers the ability to look around the world themselves!

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DO: Keep your camera stable

Unsteady camera footage is nauseating in any video, but just imagine watching a shaky 360-degree video; we bet it’d probably feel like the whole world is shaking around you, or that you’re on a horrible theme park ride you just can’t wait to get off!

You don’t want your audience to feel like that when they view your content. Fortunately, virtual worlds of wobbling can be easily prevented: just make sure your camera rig is set up on a tripod and/or a stable surface where it won’t rock or topple over.

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DON’T: Hesitate to overshoot

It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend any more time filming than you have to, whether your SD card is filling up fast, or you just want to pack up and go home as soon as you can. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

It’s always better to come away with more material than you need, rather than realise you forgot to include a particular shot or there’s a glaring error in some of your vital footage.

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DO: Pay attention to the lighting and weather

Most cameras just don’t work as well in the dark as they do in well-lit environments, and unfortunately, 360-degree camera setups are no exception. That’s not to say every immersive film should take place in broad daylight, but if you want your audience to be able to discern their surroundings as they look around, it’s best to set up at least some sort of lighting in a dark setting.

If you are using a panoramic camera, keep in mind that their lenses are even more prone to rain droplets than fixed frame cameras as you can’t cover them up as easily.

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DON’T: Switch between scenes too quickly

If you are going to transition to other environments within your film, make sure you do it gradually and give your audience a chance to peruse each one.

Because the primary purpose of 360-degree video is to let your audience explore the world around them, changing between settings quickly and frequently can break the immersion and cause confusion.

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DO: Be prepared for intensive post-production

The post-production stage of creating a VR film is just as important a process as the filming itself. Not only will you have to stitch all the footage together, but you’ll also have your work cut out colour-correcting, sound-editing and everything else!

It may take longer than it would for a typical film, but it’s all worth it if you want to deliver a  truly seamless experience to your audience!

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DON’T: Expect post-production to fix everything

The “we’ll fix it in post” attitude is a harmful one when it comes to any type of film production. Post-production is a crucial stage that can either make or break your film, but you still have to be careful not to think of it as a crutch. Video editing software is constantly getting better at ironing out the kinks and little imperfections you notice in your recordings, but it still can’t make a cinematic masterpiece from inherently bad footage.

Instead, think of post-production as the stage where you can filter out the things you notice later on down the line. When you’re in the process of producing your own 360-degree film, try to film your raw footage in the right ballpark as much as possible: if you notice something wrong during filming, rectify it yourself if you can and capture another take. You’ll also save yourself a heck of a lot of hassle if you took all of these pointers beforehand!

Portalco delivers an alternate method of delivery for any VR or non-VR application through advanced interactive (up-to 360-degree) projection displays. Our innovative Portal range include immersive development environments ready to integrate with any organisational, experiential or experimental requirement. The Portal Play platform is the first ready-to-go projection platform of it’s type and is designed specifically to enable mass adoption for users to access, benefit and evolve from immersive projection technologies & shared immersive rooms.

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