This article is part of an extensive series of articles to walk creators through the process of making a 360-degree video, from start to finish.
When it comes to 360 video, forget everything you know about film best practices. I’m only half joking.
In fact, if you look around the 360 video industry–and I have–you’ll find that a great many people don’t even have video backgrounds. Although knowledge of video basics will certainly help, shooting 360 is an entirely different beast.
That said, here are a handful of 360-specific tips I put together alongside YouTuber Lok Cheung (in the video above).
1) Get used to shooting blind–at least at first.
Unless you buy a higher end 360 camera, chances are you will not be able to see what you’re filming as you film it. For example, the Insta360 One X and GoPro Fusion both offer a preview of the scene before you click record, but the second you press that button you will be flying blind.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive due to the large file sizes of 360 footage, shoot more than you think you will need. For example, if we plan to use 10-15 seconds of a shot, we normally capture around one minute of footage to ensure we get the shot.
This is especially important in shots with people. Not a shoot goes by where a stranger doesn’t walk right up my camera to get a closer look. This is especially common as the size of the camera I’m using increases. For example, the GoPro Odyssey rig of 17 GoPros looks like a UFO more than a camera! Plan for this to happen to you, even if you’re shooting on a much smaller camera.
2) If you can see the camera, it can see you.
With traditional film, it’s easy to stand behind the camera, previewing your shots and directing as needed. This isn’t the case with 360. Unless you plan to roto yourself out (good luck), you either have to plan to be in the shot or you’ll need to hide somewhere nearby.
3) Choose locations wisely.
With 360, there’s also no possibility to frame your shots. You can, of course, anticipate where your audience might look, but you have no control over this. So, if there’s something ugly/distracting/etc. behind the camera, realize it will be in your shot (since there is no “behind” on these cameras!).
4) Bad weather, bad lighting.
Unfortunately, most 360 cameras just don’t cut it in low light conditions. Of course, this depends on the camera you’re using, and all cameras of every price range are getting better in this regard. But, for the time being, even a cloudy day could make it difficult to get a good shot.
And if it’s raining? Forget about it. Drops of water on the lenses will be nearly impossible to avoid since you can’t exactly cover the camera the way you would a fixed frame camera.
5) Add light, when possible.
The first–and easiest–thing you can do to improve the lighting of your shot is to utilize available light in the space. Turn on lights and lamps, open blinds, etc.
If that still doesn’t cut it, you may need to implement professional lighting. With 360, this can be tricky, since the lighting equipment will be visible in the shot. So, you’ll need to be creative.
For example, in one piece we did, we placed a light outside the window to beef up the amount of light pouring in from the window without seeing the light in our shot.
I’ve seen people tape rope lights hidden within their scene. I’ve seen people attach multiple tiny-but-mighty lights like the Lume Cube to their monopod. I’ve seen people wrap their monopod in rope lights! There are even cylinder-shaped lights you can attach around your monopod specific to 360 shooting. (LINK)
6) Balance light across the lenses.
Essentially, you want to make sure your The measurement of the brightness and range (latitude) of light being captured by the camera. Exposure is governed by ca... More across the camera’s multiple lenses is as even as possible. For example, if you’re using a two-lens camera like the GoPro Fusion, put the sun in the stitch line.
If you aren’t using MistikaVR to stitch–for example, you’re using your camera’s free companion software–this is all the more important. MistikaVR has a wonderful tool to balance The measurement of the brightness and range (latitude) of light being captured by the camera. Exposure is governed by ca... More, if needed, whereas many free stitching tools do not have this feature.
7) Stay out of the stitch.
Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. care to ensure important objects aren’t located within the stitch line. This can be especially difficult in shots where people or things are moving around, however, do what you can to minimize it or you’ll be creating plenty of headaches for your future self when you start stitching your shots!
8) Watch objects’ distance from the camera.
Every camera has a minimum recommended distance, often dependent on if the camera is monoscopic or Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More and how many lenses it has. A general rule is the more lenses a camera has, the further away objects must be to avoid being warped by The seams in a 360° video where footage from one camera has been combined with another. and plagued with The optical effect where an object’s position appears to differ when viewed from different positions, i.e. the left ey... More issues.
This is one reason why even professional crews may sometimes use small, two-lens cameras like the GoPro Fusion.
9) Tripod removal.
Later in this series of articles, we’ll talk about a handful of solutions to remove your tripod from the shot. After all, you don’t want the viewer to look down and see your tripod legs!
For this reason, you will probably want to use a monopod with feet or a light stand or some other stabilization tool with a narrow form factor. You can find our recommendations here.
You may also want to prepare for your eventual tripod removal and put the tripod on a surface with a pattern or texture that would be simple to clone stamp out.
10) Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. good notes.
Like, really good notes. Of course, this is also important in flat video, but all the more important for 360 video. Not only will you have longer shots to review, but you’ll also have more “shot” to pay attention to and no frame to remind you what you thought was important about each shot you captured.
11) Never say, “We’ll fix it in post.”
You won’t. And if you do, it will Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. you way, way longer than it would in a traditional video. Solve every problem you possibly can before you hit record.
12) Use the right camera settings.
In many cases, shooting on auto with these cameras will work just fine (and the control you have is much less than any DSLR). Not in every case, but in many cases. For the cases where you need to use manual controls, what you know from the traditional video world still applies.
There are other settings, though, that you may want to switch up.
For example, should you shoot at 30 fps or 60? Some experts say they prefer shooting at 60 because the smoother video looks more realistic in a headset. However, every camera is going to force you to choose between a higher frame rate or a higher The number of pixels in an image, typically presented as a ratio of the total pixels on x axis to the total pixels on th... More. For example, the GoPro Fusion can shoot 3K video at 60 fps and 5.2K at 30 fps. In most instances, outside of stories with lots of action/motion, a higher The number of pixels in an image, typically presented as a ratio of the total pixels on x axis to the total pixels on th... More will offer an improved experience for the most viewers.
You may also be choosing between shooting stereo or mono. With cameras like the Insta360 Pro and Pro 2, as well as VR180/360 convertible cameras such as the Kandao QooCam or Vuze All of immersive media encompassing VR, AR, MR and beyond. camera, you will have the option to do one or the other. The right choice here depends on how you expect most viewers to watch it. In most cases, 90 percent of viewers will watch on YouTube or Facebook from a computer or smartphone–not in a headset. If that’s your audience’s situation, then mono will work just fine and save you many headaches. However, if you’re shooting something you expect to hit the festival circuit for group headset viewing or something like that, stereo might be worth the extra pain.
It’s important to note that it is possible to mix monoscopic and Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More shots within one video. For example, editor Duncan Shepherd talks about how he will use a stereo shot for the beginning and then intersperse monoscopic shots that required the use of an action camera where necessary.
Lastly, a number of 360 cameras offer LOG shooting modes so you will have the most control over your color grading. This list includes all of our recommended cameras, listed here (LINK). If you plan to color grade your footage, be sure to shoot in LOG from the start.
13) Get a variety of shots.
Initially, shooting 360 may seem limiting, with the lack of control you have over a shot’s The layout and relative position of the objects within a shot.. That makes it all the more important for you to get a variety of shots, including first-person point-of-view, over the shoulder, various distances, unique angles/perspectives, motion shots form rovers, drones or even walking, etc.
14) However, motion shots can make people sick.
This was a big deal when the 360 video industry was young. Now, cameras with solid built-in stabilization features are making it less of a problem. In fact, you can often get away with using hand-held shot with these cameras in many cases (in other cases, we recommend a gimbal like this one.
If you do use motion, stability isn’t the only thing to consider. You may also want to maintain a constant, comfortable motion. For example, walking speed. Or, putting the camera on/in an object that naturally moves, such as the passenger seat of a vehicle.
15) Natural pace, natural place.
In addition to maintaining motion that feels natural, some experts say it’s important to place the camera in locations that seem natural. Although I don’t completely agree in every case, I do agree when it comes to placing the camera at or near eye level.
In shots with people, you will likely want the camera to be at their eye level. In shots without people, you may want the camera to be around average height eye level. If you don’t, things will feel “off”.
Where I disagree with the whole “natural locations” debate is when it comes to putting the camera in unique places a body couldn’t go. For example, inside a locker or refrigerator. These are creative shots used in traditional film that we used to think wouldn’t work in 360.
However, I’ve since changed my mind. Mostly due to the fact that the majority of my work is watched without a headset, on desktop or mobile via A method of viewing 360 content where a rectangular frame acts as a portal to the larger, spherical recording. The viewe... More mode.
Perhaps this type of creativity wouldn’t work in a film that is specifically aiming for viewer embodiment, but can work in many other instances.
16) Break all the rules.
The most important rule about 360 video is that there are no rules. And, while I think the best practices outlined here provide a good starting point for beginners, they are not written in stone. I’ve changed my mind (multiple times) about the “rules” listed above.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, mess around, try new things. Be a part of pushing this new format forward! Who knows, you could define the best practices for tomorrow’s immersive shooters.
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