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How to Shoot a 360 Video

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UNLIKE TRADITIONAL VIDEO cameras, which capture whatever is happening in front of them, 360 cameras capture everything happening in every direction, offering a full spherical view of the surroundings.

Get the Right Camera

Each of these all-seeing mechanical eyes is different. The best ones are truly omnidirectional—meaning they capture their full surroundings instead of a truncated portion of the scene. The most convenient cameras also produce videos that can be edited and shared with simple software tools and don’t require any laborious stitching or post-processing. For the purposes of this article, we’ll look at the cameras that hit those points: 360 degrees of capture with an easy path to editing and sharing.

Some of the best are the Ricoh Theta, Nikon’s Keymission 360, Samsung’s Gear 360, and Kodak’s Pix Pro Dual Pack. All of these cameras use two fisheye lenses pointed in opposite directions. The images from these two lenses are stitched together by the software that comes with the camera to give you a truly spherical video. There are other cameras, like the 360Fly, which use one ultra-wide-angle lens, that don’t offer a full spherical view. You can apply some of the advice in this article to using those types of cameras as well, you’ll just get different results.

Take a Stand

These cameras capture everything—including the tripod you’re using to prop it up. So, you’ll need a tripod without any adjustment arms that stick out into the shot. Travel tripods are ideal for this. They typically have a ball head that’s adjusted with a knob instead of an arm. Also, they’re lightweight and fold up into themselves. Since these 360 cameras lack a carrying strap and are a lot smaller than DSLRs, you can just walk around with the camera mounted on the tripod. It’s much more convenient.

Tip: If you don’t want to pay more than $100 for a new tripod, you can use a light stand instead. They’re made for holding up lights at photo shoots, but they work for 360 cameras too. They’re lightweight, cheap, and most importantly, don’t have arms or levers that will get in the way.

 

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Think of the camera as a human in the scene. Where would you stand? NICKSMITHWASTAKEN

Find Proper Placement

An omnidirectional camera works best if you plop it in the middle of your scene. When the viewer watches your video in a full headset or a Cardboard viewer, they’ll have the freedom to turn their head and look at anything they want. It’s one of the revolutionary features of this medium, but it also means they could completely miss what you’re trying to show them.

Think of the camera as a human in the scene, and find the best place for them to ‘stand’ to witness the action.

You decide what the viewer’s vantage point is within the scene. Make use of this power! Show the viewer a subject that cannot be adequately captured with a normal camera. Place the camera (ie, the viewer) somewhere visually stimulating, with lots to look at in every direction. Or, provide the viewer with a unique perspective such as a bird’s-eye or ant’s-eye view of the world. You could even put them in the middle of a conversation between two people, making them feel like they are a part of it.

Think of the camera as a human in the scene, and find the best place for them to “stand” to witness the action. For example, if you were recording in your car, a bad shot would be placing the camera in the passenger seat—only half the video would contain any substance, while the other half would be a riveting image of a car seat. A better shot would be to put the camera between the dashboard and the windshield. This way the viewer can look around to see the driver and the road ahead.

These 360 consumer cameras utilize fisheye lenses. The curved lenses widen the camera’s field of view to capture all 360 degrees, but the also substantially distort the image. This means you have to keep some space between the camera and the subject. Not too much, or else you lose clarity and definition. The sweet spot for the placement of the camera is usually between three and five feet from the subject.

Learn Your Moves

For action shots, keep the camera steady and limit quick movements. If someone is watching in a headset and the camera is bouncing up and down, their experience may end in copious vomiting. Even if they’re just watching in a browser, it ruins the experience.

Also, there’s a user interaction factor to consider. 360 videos let the viewer look at whatever they’d like, but when the camera is moving, the user suddenly isn’t in total control of what’s in the frame, and this creates a disconnect. The viewer may decide they want to look at something that’s zipping by, but if the camera keeps moving, they’ll be fighting against the momentum. Eventually, they’ll get tired or angry and exit the video. It’s not a firm no-no to have movement in your video, but try to keep the experience friendly to the viewer.

Mind the Gap

Since 360 cameras are essentially just two cameras strapped back to back, there is a parallax effect where they meet—a non-congruent place in the image.

 

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Learn where the stitch point is, and always be aware of it. NICKSMITHWASTAKEN

The software that comes with these cameras mostly mitigates the parallax effect. It doesn’t completely fix it, but it just makes it looks like a minor glitch in the image. When the camera is moving as it records, everything the camera passes will be affected by the stitch line. That stitch point becomes quite noticeable when it cuts objects in half, so be careful not to position it point over something that’s visually interesting.

Record and Run

Most 360 cameras have a mobile app that allows you to hit record or pause remotely. If you don’t want to be in the shot, you have two options: run and hide, or blend in with the environment. Trees and poles are great for hiding behind. You’ll get weird looks, but you’re probably already getting those looks because your camera doesn’t look like a normal camera. Weird looks come with the territory, get used to it.

Edit on a Curve

Editing, like everything else in this process, is different than it is with traditional video. Most 360 cameras do the hardest part for you: the stitching. Consumer cameras stitch your video with the press of a button either in a mobile app or in a free desktop app. When it comes time to edit and add titles, it gets tricky. You’re pasting the titles onto a round surface, not a flat one, and the spherical nature of the video means you can’t just plop text in like you’re used to.

 

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If you’re using titles, form them properly. NICKSMITHWASTAKEN

To make something appear flat on a sphere, you need to distort it to match the sphere’s curvature. If you’re a casual creator, professional-looking titles may not matter to you, but if you want to up the quality of your 360 video’s on-screen text, you’ll need a special video editor. There aren’t many options here. Adobe has a downloadable assets package that allows you to see your video in a 360 viewer, but it doesn’t let you add text or edit the video. Mettle, a 360 video-editing software maker, has a downloadable plug-in for Premiere and After Effects. It’s pricey ($189 and up), but it’s basically your only option. At least you get your money’s worth as you can do everything from adding simple text, to masking out the tripod or adding 2-D video. Navigating the program isn’t easy, but Mettle has a wide range of tutorials to help you get started.

Tip: When changing scenes, use transitions so it isn’t so jarring for the viewer. A half-second cross dissolve will make a world of difference.

Don’t Forget the Metadata

You’ll need to add metadata to the video before uploading to Facebook or YouTube. Without it, the video player won’t know it’s a 360 video, and your work will play as a flat, 2-D video. YouTube has a step-by-step explainer for this process that works with Facebook, too.

Upload Away

YouTube and Facebook are two of the most popular landing spots for 360 content, but you can also upload it to Samsung VRLittlstar, or JauntVR. Each of these sites are fairly straightforward and will take you through a process similar to what it’s like to upload 2D video.

Find Something to Watch

You can watch content on any of the the sites listed above, but you’ll find the largest selection of videos on YouTube and Facebook. The Virtual Reality channel on YouTube is a great place to start. It aggregates the most popular 360 videos on the site, and has everything from horror to journalism.

Since the phone is also a VR device, the App Store and Google Play are littered with virtual reality apps. Some of the top creators in the field have apps, including WithinDiscoveryVRNew York Times VR and JauntVR. You just need a Google cardboard or a similar phone-based VR headset to watch.

In Fact, Watch Our 360 Video

We captured the interior of Magnus Walker’s garage—where he stores is insane collection of hand-modified Porsches—using a six-GoPro camera rig.

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https://www.wired.com/2017/02/shoot-360-video/

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