Written by Shelby Dougherty
Traditional video can be a powerful storytelling tool, but it doesn’t always allow viewers to fully grasp an experience. 360° video has become an increasingly popular way for creators to immerse viewers in a visually compelling story.
In the past, 360° video production was both complicated and costly. Multiple cameras were set up in a circular fashion and the footage had to be carefully stitched together in post-production. But recent advancements in technology have made 360° cameras more accessible than ever—the equipment is much more user friendly and cost efficient. For example, Samsung now offers a handheld, high-resolution 360° camera for just $140.00.
I recently had the opportunity to work with 360° camera equipment as part of an “Immersive Storytelling” class at the University of Florida and compiled what I learned from the course into a list of 10 essential tips for creating 360° content.
1. Ask yourself: does this story need to be told in 360°?
360 video is best used to create immersive visual experiences. For some examples, check out these videos: Walking New York or Visit Hamilton Island in 360. When you’re planning your project, make sure the message is appropriate for the medium.
2. Know your medium.
Understand that 360° video is not the best option for detailed close-ups or traditional interview shots. It’s best used to capture visually compelling environments and unique experiences.
3. Place the camera from a viewer’s perspective.
Although your first instinct might be to place the camera in the center of the room, this is not the best tactic for creating an immersive experience. You want viewers to feel as though they are experiencing the environment themselves. To achieve this, set the camera in a place that a real person would feel comfortable standing and keep the tripod at eye-level.
4. Guide your audience.
Provide visual or audio cues to guide the viewer’s attention in the right direction. Do so subtly by including a line of action for the eyes to follow or simply tell viewers where to look as part of the narration.
5. Beware of stitching errors.
Capturing 360° video requires multiple lenses. As a result, stitching errors may occur along the edges of the frame. Avoid filming in areas with mixed lighting and be sure to practice with the equipment before you begin a project. This will allow you to predict where stitching errors may occur and place the camera accordingly.
6. Remove yourself.
Unless your presence is vital to the story, take yourself out of the frame. With traditional video, this typically isn’t a problem, you can simply avoid standing where the camera is pointing. But the 360° camera captures video in every direction. At one point while filming, I resorted to crouching awkwardly behind a bush to avoid being in a shot!
Although you might find it difficult to step away from the expensive camera equipment, it’s necessary to create a fully immersive experience. You don’t have to hide behind shrubs like I did, but at least make sure to take a few steps back from the camera and try to blend in naturally in the scene.
7. Stay within 270°.
Don’t feel obliged to fill the entire frame with interactive media. It’s actually more efficient to tell a story within a 270° frame. This way, the audience is still free to look around and experience the environment, but they’re more comfortable doing so. It can be uncomfortable for viewers to turn their body all the way around, especially if they’re sitting down and their movement is restricted.
8. Keep graphics simple.
Avoid crowding the screen with intricate graphics or long title sequences that might be difficult to read or overwhelm the viewer.
9. Use small, centered text.
Avoid relying heavily on text with this medium, but if you must include it, be sure to keep the font size small and centrally located. Otherwise your text will be distorted and difficult to read.
10. Edit with the latest version of Adobe Premiere Pro
This will really speed up the editing process. Unlike with previous versions, Adobe Premiere 2017 lets you preview videos in “virtual reality” mode. It also features an “offset” effect which allows you to adjust the central focus of the video.
Don’t be afraid to try out this new medium! If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating engaging 360° content.