Watching a 360-degree video on your VR headset or mobile phone is a fantastic experience and a great way to immerse yourself in a different reality. Although up until recently, filming these videos required costly equipment and there were few platforms to share them on, you can now set up your own 360-degree filming rig and share your work on YouTube or Facebook.
However, filming and editing a 360-degree video is not as straightforward as a regular video. Whereas traditional videos have a "fourth wall," an angle that is never seen by the audience, spherical videos show absolutely everything, making the scene much harder to set up and control. Here are some tips on how to make your own immersive video
Choose Your 360 Video Camera
The first thing you need to do after you've decided you want to shoot a 360-degree video is choosing the right equipment for the job. As this is a relatively recent technology, new devices and equipment are continually in development. At the moment, if you want to film your own spherical videos, you have two main choices when it comes to picking your equipment: buying a single 360 video camera or setting up your own rig.
Most 360-degree cameras on the market will do a great job, and new ones keep being launched. They typically consist of two back-to-back wide-angle camera lenses that combine into a single spherical video. They also give you the option of creating a standard two-dimensional video by picking a certain angle of the 360-degree footage. Resolution and image stabilization are the two main elements you need to look for when selecting such a camera, but remember that even a high resolution will not look as good as it does on a "flat” video because the pixels are stretched.
If you're more of a DIY type of person, you can make your own 360 video camera rig from regular cameras. GoPros are typically the camera of choice for this, mainly because of the excellent image quality and high durability. You can place six GoPro cameras on a rig that you buy online, make yourself, or 3D-print. The more cameras you add, the better the image quality will be. Although purchasing a single 360-degree camera is a much simpler and more affordable option, there are still many editing tools and formats for those who want to make their own rig.
The camera isn't the only piece of equipment you need to worry about when attempting to film a 360-degree video. Lighting equipment is also a significant issue because, unlike regular video, every angle around the camera must be well-lit. Given that you can't just add light sources, as they would be visible on the footage, the easiest way to get proper light is by buying or setting up your own lighting rig right on the 360 video camera. This way, everything will be well-lit, and the lighting source won't be exposed.
Decide on Your Content
Now that you have the right equipment for 360-degree filming, it's time to decide on what you'll actually be shooting. Although it may seem so at first, not everything is suitable for spherical videos. Scenes where you have one clear focal point, like a dance performance, are much more suitable for traditional video, as most people only want to watch the person who's performing.
On the other hand, videos that showcase specific experiences and that have the viewer as a central point are perfect for 360-degree videos. In other words, the best thing that these immersive videos do is recreating experiences. If you want to give people a full view of the African savannah or let them wander through the halls of a luxurious palace, watching a 360-degree video on their phones or VR sets will do precisely that.
360 Video Editing
360 video editing is slightly more complicated than a regular video, but it's not something you can't learn with a bit of practice. First of all, if you are using a multiple-camera rig, you will need software that stitches all the angles together smoothly and naturally. Autopano is one of the most popular, as it automatically takes all the angles and stitches them together into a 360-degree video, among other features.
You will then need to decide on a video format and edit your video. The most widely-used formats are fisheye and equirectangular, with the latter being the format of choice for those looking to recreate reality accurately. The actual editing is pretty similar to editing a traditional video, with the obvious difference of having more angles to sync, dissolve, cut, and level. Also, just like with regular videos, you can use software to add extra visual elements to your videos.
Upload Your Video
Now that your video is complete, it's time to share it with the world. The largest 360-degree video platforms right now are YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. The only real difference between uploading a regular video and uploading 360 video to youtube is the fact that your 360-degree video needs to have the metadata already embedded in the file. If your camera doesn't do this automatically, you can simply install YouTube's Spatial Media Metadata Injector, and it will do the trick.
Uploading your video on Facebook is somewhat similar, as they also require your video to have 360-degree metadata already included in the file. As previously mentioned, the easiest way to do so is by using YouTube's Spatial Media Metadata Injector. From then on, the process is pretty straightforward, with the addition of a “360 Controls” tab that lets you fine-tune your video even more.
Filming an experience in 360 degrees can expose the viewers to multiple angles and dimensions, allowing them to immerse themselves into different realities for hours on end. Now that you know what it takes to create a proper 360-degree video, it's time to find the right equipment, pick your spots, edit your footage, and find the most suitable platform to share your work with the rest of the world.