Virtual reality is certainly one of the most exciting technology trends today with promising applications in different spheres of life, including for non-profit fundraising. 360-degree video, which allows you to look around and be 'teleported' to the field, requires you to forget all the old video rules and develop new techniques.
I decided to learn first-hand by filming my wedding ceremony and subsequent adventures during a one month-long honeymoon trip to Peru. Here is what I learned while shooting our journey with a user-friendly Kodak PixPro SP360 4K.
Convenience vs Quality
Even if the camera's name says 360, not all cameras provide this viewing range. In my case using a Kodak PixPro, one needs to combine two cameras together (dual pack pro) to achieve the full 360 degree spherical range. Obviously, the higher the price of a camera the better the quality, bringing you closer to a full stereoscopic 3D video vs mono 360 footage. Therefore, prices for 360 cameras can range from $350 for Samsung Gear VR camera to $60,000 for an eight-lens Nokia Ozo with the latter delivering a broadcast quality immersive experience. However, everything depends on your objectives: lower res but without post-production video stitching or high res for professional purposes.
Instead of shooting several clips, selecting the best shots and editing them together, try to shoot one single clip of action that is good on its own. From a storytelling perspective, this means it is easier to focus on one character than editing together different stories from a journey.
While traveling in Peru, my husband and I shot 360 clips hiking the Colca Canyon, the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu, and surfing in Mancora in Northern Peru. Unlike filming with your phone, it is not as easy to take spontaneous shots with a 360 camera. You need to prepare it, position correctly, make sure there is enough light, change batteries, etc.
|Llama wanted to be in our 360 video too! :)|
When shooting in 360, everything is in plain sight of your camera, but be mindful of a stitching point. The stitching point is where the video from one lens meets the other. With the Kodak camera I used a mobile app to preview the shot, which was useful. Since the action is taking place all around the camera, you or your subject need to be immersed into the scene and let the story unfold all around you. Be aware of your facial expressions while the camera is recording ;)
Lower the Ground
For users of the Kodak 360, or other semi-hemispherical fisheye cameras in order to capture all the action taking place around the camera, it is better to position it lower than usual shoulder or chest-height. It is useful to bring it to the knee- or even ankle-level, because the bottom of the camera creates a floor (black circle) of the video. For other cameras, the rule of thumb is to 'be the eyes of your viewers', so that when viewing they feel like they are naturally part of the scene.
For example, during our wedding ceremony we placed our VR camera inside the wedding bouquet. Our florist did a great job by constructing a holder for the camera that would not crush the flowers, at the same time being disguised among them. While I walked up the aisle with my father on my right arm and a digital wedding bouquet in my hands, the images came out very close to our chins :) Since not much was happening at ground level and we were in a castle above the city, it worked out quite well. However, for capturing as much of the scenery as possible it is worth experimenting with different camera positions.
In my experience, lots of people when watching VR videos look all around in the 360-degree environment instead of following the main character. In order to keep viewers focused in this new medium, sound quality should be high. Great stereo and 3D sound design helps to nudge people and make them turn their focus where you want them to look. Thus, sound can make all the difference between an amazing VR experience and an OK one.
Good luck and join me in exploring the new frontiers of virtuous VR!