As VR producers in 2018, it’s exciting to be at the forefront of VR and 360 video productions. VR production companies are quickly learning new techniques for shooting the best VR videos and improving its recording equipment.
While creating 360 video, similar equipments and techniques are used as in traditional video, though VR video makers must adapt to them for making 360 video.
In terms of equipments, recent improvements in 360 camera rigs, surround sound microphones, and ambient lighting options have improved VR recording quality. Post production software and techniques are making it easier to format and edit VR videos. Finally, production crews are perfecting tricks for shooting in 360 degrees and changing the user experience in the process.
360 Video Production Equipments
360 video requires similar equipment like traditional video. Namely, cameras, microphones, and lighting help capture panoramic, three dimensional scenes. Recently, these tools have evolved to better capture the 360 environment.
Cameras are the most obvious tools to receive a VR makeover. Instead of a single lens pointed toward the scene, VR camera rigs hold 3 or more cameras each facing a different direction. The feed from each camera is then “stitched together” in post production to make one seamless video.
GoPro has capitalized on the VR movement by making VR camera rigs that hold up to seven GoPros. These GoPro rigs have the ability to shoot impressive VR video. Hello World, a 360 video production company, has used this type of rig in a number of its productions. One of these is HOME a 360 video following UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon confronting the refugee crisis in Africa and the Middle East.
If something more powerful than GoPros is required, similar systems for more powerful cameras have been produced for higher quality video. We use the Mooovr system equipped with five Sony a7S IIs for certain productions. In particular, we have found that these systems are ideal for low-light settings. We have also produced ‘6 Degrees of Hell’, a VR horror film, as well as a video for casino, ‘Mohegan Sun’. These projects would not have been possible with other camera systems.
In addition to cameras, specialized microphones have been developed to film 360 videos. An important part of these microphones is the ability to record ambisonics. ‘Ambisonics’ is a type of surround sound that has a vertical as well as a horizontal component. This means that ambisonic soundscapes are spherical rather than circular as they are in traditional surround sound. This allows the video to change the perceived source of a sound anywhere the viewer may be oriented in a 360 video space.
A cutting edge ambisonic microphone on the market today is the Sennheiser Ambeo VR microphone which has four directional microphones that can be isolated and manipulated for incredible audio flexibility.
Lastly, lighting proves to be more challenging for VR production than it is for traditional video ones. Rather than lights behind the camera, VR shoots rely on strong ambient lighting for its scenes. This is most easily achieved by using lighting sources readily available in the scene. By using lamps and ceiling lights with high voltage bulbs, ambient light strong enough for 360 degree scenes can be achieved.
If a stronger light source is needed, lights such as soft tubes and Litemats can be placed in a variety of situations, such as behind window treatments, to add ambient light. Other lights can be placed directly beneath the camera.
Shooting 360 Videos
360 Video production means to redefine an ordinary occurrence into a more solid, adventurous and a life-changing experience. Unlike traditional forms of media, VR video production is very dynamic in nature with an innovative story telling method and a completely unique format and so it is also termed as ‘Spherical video’. The best part about it is how the videos are made; the whole process is very interesting divided into pre-production, production and post-production segments.
Similar to shooting with other video cameras, here too you need to focus on the right type of equipments needed for the project, be it the monopod, tripod or even a camera. The field of the shoot should be clear and the video recorder should be placed in such a way that it could capture very angle keeping in mind the 360 degree angle.
(i) This is the stage where all the work happens. Once all the equipments are set, the video could be started to record. The person recording should focus on covering all the angles and areas of the camera, so that the field of view for every individual could come in contact and go beyond the surrounding field of view. Both the field of views could come together and form a complete picture of what could be viewed by the audience. In addition to specialized equipment, VR production companies also need to use different techniques for filming. In traditional video the crew simply stands behind the camera to remain out of the shot.
(ii) In 360 video, everything around the camera is part of the scene. Therefore the crew and any props either need to be hidden or integrated into the scene. Microphones, lighting, and other filming accessories are also hidden from view in this way. If the shoot is inside, this can be as simple as the crew standing in another room or integrating into the scene as ‘extras’. Lighting tends to be more ambient, coming from props in the scene such as lamps. Lastly, microphones are either attached to the actors or an ambisonic microphone is used to create a 3D soundscape.
(iii) Outdoor scenes tend to exacerbate these problems. Crew need to hide from view any way possible: behind trees or other natural scenery, in cars, etc. Microphones need to drown out ambient noise from the environment while clearly recording the scene. And lighting is virtually limited to natural lighting. There is no wrong method for overcoming any of these challenges.
(iv) Furthermore, camera placement is especially important in 360 video. This is because VR video is a wide angle shot in the center of the scene. The camera should therefore not only be placed in the center of the scene but also closer to the action than a traditional video camera.
(v) In addition, camera height is important for the viewer’s perspective. Placing the camera low, high, or at eye level drastically changes how the scene is experienced. This is especially when viewed with a VR headset.
(i) Finally, post production also poses unique challenges in 360 video production. In particular, stitching together all the videos from each camera to create a single 360 degree scene in a skill unique to VR productions.
(ii) Stitching is the act of editing together all the feeds from each individual camera on a 360 video system to create the 360 degree scene. Stitching proves to be a tricky and frustrating part of VR post production due to parallax concerns. Stitch lines can be a nasty side effect where actors and props disappear if one or both cameras were not stitched together properly. This is not part of traditional video production and poses a new challenge for the VR filmmakers to overcome.
(iii) Creating the desired user experience is also an important part of post production. Wearing a VR headset allows the user to look in any direction. For holistic scenes this is not a problem. But if the action of a scene is concentrated in one direction, the production team must decide whether or not to include ways to draw the viewer’s attention to the action.
(iv) Furthermore, the user may be able to virtually interact with the scene. This includes moving around the virtual space and clicking on, or interacting with, objects. The VR producer needs to decide how they want to handle the viewer’s autonomy while in the 360 degree environment.
(v) Here the role of the video editor is very important. His task is to synchronize all the seven angles and make them into one panoramic shot. This shot is then made visually alluring by bring in some graphics, sound designs and color template through the process of color correction. The video stitching is done with the help of various softwares like ‘Orah 4i’, ‘Freedom 360’, ‘Kolor Autopano’, and ‘Knight Lab Studio’ and many others.
(vi) Once the video is edited, it could be uploaded to 360 players. The video is thus converted and uploaded through various social media channels and the audience could avail this amazing experience of 360 video from their homes with the help of their VR headgears.
VR video production is definitely a blessing for today’s generation’s filmmakers and videographers who would want to create a magical experience with the help of their video and present something to the audience that is so distinctive and incredible to watch.
Benefits While Shooting for 360 VR Videos
(1) The Whole Experience
VR videos instead of providing different sections of the video could easily show the whole picture with all the angles and this is the reason the experience of 360 VR video is ecstatic. The editor here does not need to choose a single frame but he could keep all the sections open for the audience to decide what they want to watch.
With a lot of social media channels accepting this new form of communication with the audience, 360 video streaming is available easily for the audience and so the maker does not have to worry about the streaming of videos.
(3) Great Entertainment Options
If the VR video is shot in 3D, it provides the viewer with an experience of physically moving along with the video through positional tracking methods. The video designer could play with the audio through stereoscopic sound design and this could bring a lot of scope in the video and its story. The cameras and equipments to shoot are available in the market and anybody could avail them and create something exceptionally good. With the right knowledge and proper care, the 360 VR videos could be streamed and presented to the viewers providing them with an incredible experience and progressive entertainment.
Limitations When Shooting for 360 Video
(1) Technical Intricacy
The new 360 video along with being the most modern and amazing to watch is definitely not a cake-walk to film. Due to its significant angle features, the person shooting the video has to take into consideration a lot of factors like:
(i) The camera movement should be even
(ii) The object that is being shot should be at least 3-4 feet away from the camera fix to avoid distortion. Objects that are further than 20-25 feet from the video camera often lose their stereoscopic intensity.
(iii) The camera rig should be kept still. The person shooting cannot rotate, zoom in or zoom out the camera.
(iv) The volumetric capture should be paired with the positional trail.
(v) The video should be taken in one shot as it is very difficult to hide the cuts.
(2) High Costs
360 video needs a lot of editing softwares for stitching of the video and also a particular set-up for shooting, which makes it very expensive for the Director to shoot a VR video.
(3) Time Consuming
Shooting of a 360 VR video needs a lot of planning, no. of equipments, resources, editing after the video is done and is very labor intensive as well. Hence the time to shoot and complete the video is more and the audience might have to wait a little longer before accessing the video in their homes.
(4) Setting the Background
The frame should be clear for shooting and the actors have to see to it that they do not cross the stitch lines which could result in blurring of the video. The Director too is not supposed to be near the shot. He could view the live action from another room with the help of a live stream. Lots of good lighting is needed as these videos require a very bright backdrop and looks lousy in the dark.
Vision & Mission of 360 VR Videos
360 video is certainly a game changer for traditional film makers and cinematographers. 360 videos are embraced by brands, social media, news organizations and consumers. The VR tools and cameras are producing high quality and immersive content providing the viewers with a life changing experience.
(1) Interactive Platform
The unbelievable technology of interactive experience is here to redefine the purpose of media. 360 VR videos are engaging, entertaining and easily accessible to a lot of people, especially the youth who are in need of constant change and a more personal experience.
(2) 360 Degree Time Lapses
Many 360 cameras allow us to capture a time-lapse, which is a sequence of 360 images recorded at set intervals to trace changes that take place gradually over the time. Simply pace up the frames and the outcome can be extraordinary for something as subtle as the ‘Milky Way’ budding at night.
(3) Live Streaming of 360 Videos
360˚ video cameras are perfect to capture live-stream spherical images, and online platforms and most popular social media have recently been updated to hold the 360 content. Viewers can also tune-on to live 360 broadcasts and also have an option to download the video afterwards.
(4) Immersive Journalism
A 360 video camera’s knack to capture is truly an essence of progressive media for the future journalists. The New York Times has started publishing ‘The Daily 360’, a short 360 news report – often in 4K resolution – with multiple cuts between inert shots, and a reporter acting as a narrator. 360 add an exclusive eyewitness feel to storytelling, reporting and journalism.
The future holds a very promising growth for the 360 VR videos. It would be no surprise if the viewers in upcoming years could watch the 360 videos without any headgears like Oculus Rift, Google’s Daydream, HTC Vive or Samsung’s Gear VR. It is a market that is emerging tenfold each year.
In all, while the process for 360 video productions is similar to traditional video, there are some new challenges facing filmmakers producing VR video. Equipment should be optimized for 360 degree scenes, including using specialized systems with multiple cameras, using ambisonic microphones to create 3D soundscapes, and using ambient lighting as much as possible. Furthermore, new techniques are being developed for shooting VR such as where to hide production crew and recording equipment. Lastly, post production, particularly stitching together VR video from all the cameras, poses new difficulties. However, perhaps the biggest trend of all is 360 social; with live streaming from 360 cameras now emerging. The growing 360 community has plenty to say – and it’s coming our way now and primed to make forthcoming years of 360 video and VR.
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