Making interactive 360 video (this ain’t no 2D barn dance y’all)

Making interactive 360 video (this ain’t no 2D barn dance y’all)

So, you want to jump on board the VR train and give your stock standard corporate video an interactive update? We say, go for it! But, we’d also like to gently warn you that making interactive 360 video content that is actually worth watching, is not as technically straightforward as 2D and going back and forth between the two isn’t easy or realistic, so you need to be sure of which format you want when commissioning. You cannot, for example, in the middle of your shoot, suddenly decide that the scene in the glass elevator travelling up 50 floors would be just fabulous shot in 360. 

Your VR video must be a standalone project and it’s going to demand two things in impressive quantities: planning and patience. When both are in abundance, the pay-off is priceless but of course, the reverse applies too. Most marketing managers don’t have the luxury of generous deadlines which is why, when it comes to VR, pre-production is crucial. 

Producing interactive 360 video is, as it happens, something we’re really good at. Our video company team understands how to plan a 360 project from start to finish and knows exactly how to guide you through the entire process. When it comes to VR, here are six areas of production that need a whole new approach. 

1. Movement
 
Let’s say your 2D video has a tracking shot that takes the view through the woods and you want to replicate this in 360. Our crew will need to carry out a location recce and some test shots to work out how the dolly equipment will be edited out in post-production. The thing about 360 video is that all the equipment that is necessary to take the shot, will also be visible to the camera, but can’t be in the final video. What we usually do to prepare for this, is take what is known in the biz as a ‘plate’ of the ground where the rig would be set up, and then superimpose this over the equipment in the edit. 
 
This applies to all moving shots. If you want to replicate a 2D drone shot in 360, we’ll need to assess how the drone’s propellers can be ‘plated’ out in post-production. 

2. People and gear
 
A 360 camera rig will see everything and everyone in shot – that goes for you, the crew and that random colleague down the hall.  In a 2D video all of these human factors – as well as other equipment such as lighting gear - are positioned behind the camera. Not so on a VR shoot. To prepare for this, our production team normally draws up a lighting plan that either hides the lights or puts them to practical use as functioning pieces of production design to light the scene.
 
All humans on location have to hide – or get dressed up to blend into the scene. There can be up to six cameras filming at any given time so without a clear handle on the who, what, when and where, a 360 shoot can become a logistical nightmare. 

3. Grip equipment
 
A 2D video project uses very different grip equipment to a 360 video production. The common tripod, for example, dominates a shot and is incredibly difficult to composite out. Typically, a 360 rig is placed on a monopod as it has less surface area and tends to disappear between the stitch line of a camera (see our previous blog to understand more about stitch lines).

4. Audio
 
In a 2D video the sound operator can simply stand just out of shot with the microphone hovering above frame. However, in a 360 video this is not the case and more thought needs to be given to the placement of the radio mics. One option, could be hiding them in the subject’s clothing. Whether filming in 2D or 360, syncing the audio is a lengthy process that needs to be accounted for by the production team.
 
One possibility when filming interactive 360 video is to include omnidirectional audio, which adds a level of realism, changing as a viewer moves within the space, making the film that much more immersive. This does make matters more complicated however, as specialist mics are required. 2D audio is simpler with only mono or stereo tracks. 

5. Distribution

It’s no good producing 360 video content if you don’t know how your target audience is going to view it. Immersive, interactive content can’t be displayed to its full potential on a company website – it requires a 360 headset. Your distribution channels will ultimately determine the type of headset that's suitable, but this is another factor to consider when planning.
2D content doesn’t need anything but a box of popcorn to be enjoyed. VR video is a little more demanding and viewers will need a headset. There are a few different makes on the market – each with their pros and cons. 

6. Headsets
 
Google Cardboard is a cheap and effective way for an audience to view a 360 video. However, this headset is cheap for a reason and its design is pretty basic.  
 
The Samsung Gear headset provides a clearer and more immersive way to view 360 content but is more expensive and your entire audience will also need to own a Samsung phone – which is unlikely. 
 
Oculus is one of the most the most immersive ways to experience a VR video and is on a completely different level, along with VR from Sony and HTC. It doesn't just let your audience turn their heads left, right, up, down and backwards, but also allows them to move within the video. It’s expensive though so not a lot of people have one. Shooting VR content for an Oculus viewing experience is also very resource heavy. 
 
One thing that hasn’t changed in the world of video production is the importance of compelling content. Who cares if your corporate video is shot in 2D or 360, if the story is dull or irrelevant, no one will watch it or remember it. A good VR headset can’t make crap content good. 

Making interactive 360 video content that rocks is far simpler with a kickass production team on your side. If you’re interested, we can help. Please get in touch with our director Jamie to discuss your brief.  

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