A new storytelling platform requires new thinking. With the removal of the frame, and the introduction of the 360 sphere, creators get to re-imagine and examine new storytelling principles. As the format and tech develops, the community of makers have the opportunity to test and learn from one another to see what works and what does not.
It is still early days and we wanted to share some better practices we are seeing and experiencing from the early adopters. Here are some considerations and pro tips for making strong content:
Selecting the camera placement is one of your first critical decisions. Where you place the camera is where you place the viewer. Consider where the camera placement will best capture your story. What is happening in front, around and behind? What is compelling about seeing a 360 image in the world you are capturing?
Explore or Direct
While a viewer can look in any direction, you need to seriously consider where do you want them to look? Depending on the story you are telling, you may want them to look in a certain direction at a certain moment. Or you may want them to explore and look in any direction at any moment. There is no right answer and beautiful examples of both. Making the decision in advance will help you tell the story you want to tell.
Make sure to give your viewer a moment to understand the world in which you have placed them. Since you are not sure where they will look for the first few seconds, be sure to give them time to orient and not miss the action.
Look This Way
If you want the viewer to focus on a particular action be sure to keep the canvas uncluttered and allow them time to realize where the action is. Once you have their attention, purposeful choreography will allow you to keep it.
Stabilize the Camera
Rapid movement in an un-stabilized situation gives people motion sickness. Whether on a selfie stick, a tripod, the side of car or the cockpit of the Blue Angeles, secure the camera so that it does not shake, drift or roll.
Honor the Horizon Line
When there is a horizon line, keep it steady. This manages the viewer's equilibrium, shifting it around can give the feeling of being on a boat and can make one sick.
Abrupt and quick cuts are very jarring. The editing techniques we are accustom to don’t always work well in 360. Gentle cuts with the subjects of a scene at a distance are the least disturbing. When the action is very close to camera, the abrupt cut can increase dizziness and story disorientation.
Bye Bye 4th Wall
When capturing content with a 360 rig, there is no such thing as “behind the camera”. Monitors, lighting and crew need to make other arrangements. Cleverly lighting your scene with real-life elements can help.
Finding the right placement for the camera so that people do not look warped (string bean body and watermelon head) can be tricky. Experiment! We have found putting camera at mid chest height can minimize this.
Shooting Direct to Camera
Looking straight down the barrel of the lens has much more intensity in 360. Acknowledging the viewer this way can give the feeling of intimacy and closeness the way a close-up shot does in a 2D frame. Playing with this can be a powerful storytelling tool.
If the sound track is 50% of a good 2D video, it’s importance is even greater in 360. Sound cues the viewer to action happening or about to happen. Sound is one of your greatest creative tools to help guide the viewer’s gaze in the sphere and provide a rich immersive experience.
Working with Drones
Go for it. Shooting 360 footage with drones can be gorgeous. Be sure to keep the horizon line stable and be high enough in the sky that the movement of the camera is gentle and not racing. When you get too close to the subject or the ground it can be induce motion sickness.
Graphics and Text
Adding graphics and text can be helpful and add stabilizing orientation points. Remember to add the text in the 4 quadrants of the sphere since you can’t be sure where the viewer is looking. Also, if they are too low or too high in the frame they may go unnoticed by a viewer who does not tilt up or down often.
Since cutting can be jarring, you can use distance to your advantage, the way a cast on the stage does. When particular action needs attention, coming closer to the camera can get the attention of a viewer.
Don't Forget the Ground
Often times the video starts when the phone is looking at the ground. Be sure to think about what is at the feet of the viewer in the screen and use it to communicate that there is a world of action happening above, in 360.
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Also published on Medium.