Video / Tips and Solutions

How to Find Clients and Shoot 360° Videos

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Immersive content is the next wave in visual storytelling. Interest in 360° Video has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, particularly given technological advances that have made the process more available to consumers than ever. Yet, this rapid growth and the proliferation of new tools can make it difficult to keep up with the best approach to creating quality content, especially for those lacking a media background. Therefore, we were eager to attend the inaugural NY VR Expo 2017, held at New York’s Jacob Javits Center from October 26 – 28, 2017, for professional insights and practical tips, such as our engaging Q&A with 360° Video practitioner Suzanne Lagerweij, featured below.

Jill Waterman: Did you already have a background in video, photography, or gaming technologies when you started working with VR and 360° Video?

Suzanne Lagerweij: No, in fact, I switched from a completely different field, as the author of a book on the development of twins and a leader in a Dutch community based on that subject. I decided to start my 360° Video production company Field of Views in 2015. Not one to keep to theory, I went out and bought my first 360° camera and simply got to work. I gathered clients and gained much experience filming in 360 degrees within the first few months—from walking into hotels with a VR headset and putting it on the head of the first manager I could find, to roaming travel shows in Berlin and Amsterdam to show my work.

JW: What was your initial interest in exploring the field of VR and 360° Video?

SL: My initial idea was to create 360° Videos for the travel industry. That’s why I started by visiting hotels in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, and New York. This way, I could combine my interest in this new technology with my passion for traveling.

JW: There is a distinction to be made between 360° Video and VR Video. How do you describe these differences?

SL: There is confusion about what 360° Video really is. The great thing about 360° Video is that the viewer can control the direction of his or her view. But that’s not the same as Virtual Reality (VR), which is more interactive, allowing you to decide where to go or what to do. I think the distinction between 360° Video and VR is similar to the difference between watching a movie and playing a computer game. 360° Video is more about a location that you can explore by looking all around you. Of course, you could take your 360° Video and add objects and links, so it becomes more interactive—that’s when it becomes a VR Video. And there are stereoscopic cameras that you could use to create 3D 360° Videos. That could also be termed VR Video, I suppose.

JW: What were the biggest hurdles you faced initially in learning how to capture and process 360° Video imagery?

SL: It takes a lot of practice to figure out how to capture the best 360° footage. You need to determine where to put your camera, where to hide yourself, and how to instruct the people who will be in your video. You need to deal with light and sound, and you need to shoot a lot of footage to make sure there will be enough volume and variety to choose from for your project.

After you’ve captured the footage, you need to have a powerful computer that can handle all those huge files. And you need to determine the best software to use for editing your videos. You need to anticipate that editing your videos will take a lot of time. If you work with a multi-camera rig, you’ll have to deal with synchronizing and stitching issues, which can be hard to fix. Then you need to learn how to remove your camera rig from the video, as well as how to add text and logos. When I started, there was hardly any information about editing 360° Videos available online. But thanks to the experience of 360° Video and VR enthusiasts, it is now much easier to find quite a few online tutorials that explain most of this process.

JW: Were partnerships with others to provide specific skills a factor in your learning process and/or building your business?

SL: I regularly go to meetups and conferences to connect with people in the field. The Blend Media team has been very active in organizing such events to bring people together and offer inspiration to the community. During the 2017 New York VR Expo, I worked with the Vuze camera team to create a fun New York City video, and Vuze general manager Jim Malcolm invited me to do a presentation about Field of Views during his session VR Video: It’s Not as Hard as You Think.

JW: What are your recommendations for best practices in terms of tools (computer, camera, software, audio, etc.) to produce the best possible product?

SL: That’s a good question. Before you consider starting with 360° Videos, there are a couple of things you need to consider. Beyond the camera, itself, there is other essential equipment and software you need to invest in. Also, you need to consider what you’d like to produce, since the best camera for your needs really depends on how you’d like to use the camera. Is it just for fun, for professional shoots, or somewhere in-between?

We started with a consumer level Ricoh Theta camera and switched to a pro-level GoPro Explorer camera for our first professional shoot. We also now work with a prosumer-level Vuze camera. Each camera has its benefits, it just depends on what you’d like to capture and how much time you have to get your videos ready to upload: a pro-level multicamera rig can give great, high-resolution results, but requires many extra hours of post-processing to complete. It can be beneficial to pay attention to reviews, since there are currently so many cameras available. I produced a camera review for the Vuze Camera that shows footage from this 3D 360° camera.

A PC computer with a fast GPU is essential in order not to waste too much time waiting for your files to be rendered. To keep the stitching processing time within limits, we purchased the fastest NVidia GPU available at the time, and we’re now looking to upgrade just one year later. For high-resolution material, “real-time” (same time to stich as the length of the video) production is still good performance. We use a Windows 10 PC, as there’s no officially available Macintosh with a sufficient GPU. Apple has recognized this, and now has an external GPU available for VR professionals, but we haven’t tried that yet.

You also need a lot of disc space to store your files, as well as the right software to edit your videos. For editing our 360° Videos, we work with Adobe CC (mostly Premiere and After Effects) and use the Mettle Skybox plug-in for 360°-specific effects. Adobe now owns Mettle, and is integrating their functionality into the main products step by step, but in the meantime the plug-in can be downloaded for free. The Mettle website offers many very useful tutorials to explain the editing process.

Last, but not least, you need to have a VR headset to be able to experience your videos in their full form. For use on the desktop, we have an HTC Vive. For most of our production, we publish to social media channels and YouTube, and it’s vital to check the end result in the target channel. For that, you can use any headset, like the Google Daydream, Gear VR, or even a simple Google cardboard headset that easily accepts a mobile device, so you can watch 360° Videos on YouTube.

JW: How long did it take to begin rolling out a service to clients, and what types of clients or markets were/are most receptive to these projects?

SL: We found our first client within three months, during the International Travel Show in Berlin. I simply showed my 360° Videos shot with the Ricoh Theta, using a VR headset and was able to convince two travel companies to hire me to make 360° Videos for them. Currently, our business is primarily focused on the Tourism and Event industries, since these types of vendors seem to be most interested in showing off their locations using 360° Videos.

JW: Does creating 360° Video content require a different approach to storytelling than shooting traditional video or stills? If so, how would you describe the differences?

SL: Storytelling in a 360° environment is very challenging, since you can’t control which way the viewer will be looking. But you can try to grab the viewer’s attention to direct his or her view and make sure not to miss the most important parts of your story. You can do this by adding visual and sound effects, like I did in this video of the Gouda cheese market in the Netherlands.

JW: Does creating 360° Video content require a different approach to dealing with time and space than shooting traditional video or stills? If so, how would you describe the differences?

SL: You do need to be more aware of your complete surroundings. In a 360° Video you do not control the frame of the shot, and must accept a different aesthetic for composition. The dynamics of the shot, including the parts of the environment that are not central to what you want to show, have to be kept in mind: they can’t be too distracting. You also need to carefully instruct the people appearing in your videos, as in this test video I made. The best place to put your camera is usually somewhere in the middle of the location, with the lenses positioned at eye level. This is a common rule that people use for a 360° camera, but we have tried many different things to see what will offer viewers the best experience. We have had the camera sticking out of a Ferris Wheel, we put it on a helmet to film walking around, we put our GoPro camera on top of a car on the highway to Vegas, and had it accidentally bounce off—this last experience is not something I would recommend.

It is very important that you shoot enough footage and that the length of your shots is long enough. You need to make sure that you have enough material to choose from. Even a tiny detail, like a plane flying over or an extraneous person who keeps staring at your camera, can easily ruin your shot. Your clips need to be much longer than what is common for a normal video, to allow the viewer to look all around.

JW: Are there different or additional concerns you need to address in preproduction for shooting 360° Video content?

SL: For a professional shoot, it’s very important to set the right expectations for your client. Send them some examples of what your 360° Videos look like, so they know what to expect. Also, ask as many questions as you can think of, starting with things like:

What is the purpose of this video?

Do you want to see people interact in the video?

Is there anything specific that we need to highlight?

Are there things you don’t want to see in the video?

Your client needs to realize that EVERYTHING will be visible. If possible, try to have your client at the location while you are filming, so you can discuss things during your shoot if needed.

JW: Are there different or additional concerns you need to address in post-production for shooting 360° Video content?

SL: Most important for post-production is that you have the right equipment (a fast GPU and enough disc space). Also, if you’re involved in a professional shoot, make sure to give yourself enough time. It can take a huge amount of time to import, sync, stitch, and render your files, before you can even start to select and edit the right clips for your project. The amount of time you need depends on the camera you use (and your computer). If we work with the Vuze Camera, we can record and edit a 360° Video within a day, but if we work with the GoPro Explorer, it’s more like two or three days.

Of course, you also need to remove the camera rig and stand from the videos, but that is fairly straightforward. Many productions even skip making masks and just put a small logo over the camera, since hardly anyone looks straight down. Evening colors and lighting can also be an issue that requires specific attention, since you don’t control lighting while shooting, and there can be large differences of lighting and contrast within one shot.

JW: What, if any, steps do you take to avoid VR motion sickness in the content you produce?

SL: VR motion sickness can occur in a 360° Video if you move the camera too fast or when the camera is a little shaky. The best way to prevent this is by keeping your camera as still as possible when shooting, or by moving it very gently. The software company Mettle offers a couple of editing options to stabilize your footage, which can also be helpful to learn.

JW: Do you submit your final projects for outside quality control testing? Do you feel that this is an important step in the process?

SL: We test our videos in the studio, and share them with the team to see if there are any improvements to be made. The next step is to share the project with our clients, so they can provide feedback before we finish the project.

JW: Do you have any tips for effective ways for clients to use 360° Videos?

SL: There are a couple of ways for clients to show off their 360° content. They can upload their 360° Video to their YouTube channel and embed this video on their website. But it’s even better if they can also post their 360°s on their social media channels. Facebook has made it possible to upload 360° Videos directly, but for Instagram and Twitter it is a different story, since they don’t support 360° formats yet. We started creating “flattened” 360° videos, so our clients can show off their 360° Videos on those channels, as well. A flattened 360° Video is actually meant to grab attention, and can be used to direct people to the full 360° Video. Research has shown that people don’t click/play 360° Video more often than a normal video; some studies suggest even less. But once people are viewing the video, they are much more likely to stay until the end, and more likely to share it afterwards.

Another great way to show off 360° content is by creating a branded 360° app. This way you don’t need to worry too much about the size of the files, and you can use many different 360° videos and photos in a Panotour, where you can show off different locations.

JW: Are there other elements that you feel are important to establishing best practices for working with 360° Video and/or VR that are not covered in the questions above?

SL: You don’t need to be an experienced videographer to get into this business, so I recommend that anyone who is interested in creating 360° Videos just make a start. What you do need is a lot of enthusiasm, time, and the right equipment to begin with. I like to say: Just do it! You really need to get out and practice; shoot a lot of footage, talk to people in the business, go to meetups, connect with people online, join Facebook groups and pioneer your way to being good at it. It is truly inspiring to be working with all this new technology and to meet fellow VR/360° video enthusiasts!

Do you have any tips—or thoughts—about shooting 360° Video? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

6 Comments

Hi Jill and Suzanne, Great article!  You guys should consider doing an Event Space class on this. Both live and on the internet. Maybe morning and afternoon. First part theory. Second part simple shoot. Third part editing. Thanks, Mark

Hi Mark, thanks for your compliment on the article, as well as the suggestion of making this into an Event Space class. While that may take a bit of time to organize, we recently did a Podcast about 3D 360 Video with Jim Malcolm of Vuze. Check it out here, and let us know what you think! Thanks for reading, and listening to, the Explora blog.

If you buy an Allie camera (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/video/news/allie-home-360-degree-du...) with their AlleGo base for portable 360x300 videos on the go, there's no need to have a PC to do editing.  Allie is the ONLY 360x360 camera that, for lack of a better term, stitches in real time -- you shoot and see in 360x360m and can even livestream in 360x360!  They've patented the process, and only Samsung have even gotten close to it (, BUT NOT)!  Works at 30 FPS and has 4K resolution, along with built in speakers and microphones.  Works extremely well in very low light (like your own vision).

For Allie, all I do is shoot, download to the Allie app, and convert files from Allie's format to mp.4s (included in their app), and then publish to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+.  It's that simple!  While I've only done a few videos due to being disabled, you can still see some of my videos on my Youtube channel at:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqBaTRVFWsXJwz7ko-orseg , under the 360x360 playlist.  Any lack of resolution is due to entirely to Youtube imposing it, degrading my video(s) (, in fact, checking the web address, it seems Youtube has lowered/limited their resolutions even more).

With the Allie and AllieGo apps, the camera is controlled thru your smartphone, but more importantly, per the Formula E remark below, you (in effect have a view finder) by which you can view your video in real time (a video of my wife and I in the car shows me using my smartphone on my thigh, where I'm checking how the video "looks").  Even with the apps, you can use the Allie/AllieGo base independent of the smartphone or app;  just turn it on, press some buttons, and it's "filming" on it default settings, no app or phone required!

Biggest thing about 360 video is to immerse your camera into the action and (attempt to) keep yourself out of the action as much as possible.

Allie was first to the market, first and only (patented) to do "stitching" in real time, was chosen by the FIA's Formula E championship to provide fans with their own smartphone controlled 360x360 views from cameras located around tracks, and pioneered 360 on the go with the AllieGo base;  literally everyone else must stitch together their video in post PC/smartphone production.  You can either have a 1stop solution with an Allie, or spending $$$thousands on going the GoPro route of using 4 to 6 cameras in a 360 frame and then using your PC supercomputer to stitch/synch it all together.  By the time these files are starting to be downloaded in stitching/editing software, I'm already publishing my finalized Allie videos on Youtube!

The other things a 360x360 videographer must worry about (other than how much they themselves may be in the way) is to:  1) remember there is NO longer a focal point of your video (you're shooting a sphere vice a subject, although your 360x360 camera may be pointed at a particular object), and 2) depending on your camera and/or software you may have to take into account your stitching lines (where your cameras intersect), as sometimes there are lines or inconsistencies of the final product due to "stitching" (the camera views together);  in other words, you don't want to have important, attention-getting "subjects" along these intesections, which can easily be remedied by pivoting your 360x360 setup/camera(s) just a few degrees.  Likewise, you can do the same with your 360x360 cameras focal point;  if a viewer is focused on another area of your "video sphere", their "view" will pivot by a likewise amount of degrees.  Accordingly, your handgrip or tripod will be a dead zone, with a wierd half hand or base/tripod being a part of your 360x360 video.  The biggest difference between conventional video and 360x360 video is that with 360x360 you now hold/use a base, monopod, or tripod that shoots a 360x360 sphere;  YOU NO LONGER HAVE TO POINT TOWARDS YOUR SUBJECT -- EVERYTHING , INCLUDING YOURSELF (AND YOUR PHYSIQUE, UNLESS YOUR CAMERA IS LEFT ALONE AND VIDEO OF YOU RUNNING AWAY TRIMMED OUT IN POST-PRODUCTION) WILL BE CAPTURED! (Likewise, work blocked subjects accordingly by moving your base/camera/sphere [to "see" around the block].)

Another also, despite being able to shoot in 4K, publishing your videos on social platforms such as Youtube et. al. will lead to lower resolution video due to THEIR limitations.  I can see all my Allie 360x360 videos in their original definitions on my laptops with no limitations or waiting, but Youtube and other social media may/will limit their viewing users' resolution of your videos regardless of what you produced them in.

Thanks for your comment about the Allie 360 camera, James. Unfortunately B&H no longer offers this particular product, however here's a link to a wide range of WiFi and wireless cameras that are currently available: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/wi-fi-cameras/ci/24056/N/3880127372. Best of luck with your future explorations into 360 video, and thanks for reading the Explora blog!

This is useful and timely information. While the VR 360 method of a video is becoming practical, articles such as this allow me to stay tuned.

Hi Ranaldo, thanks for writing in. Glad to hear that you find this article timely and useful. There's a lot more informative content where this came from, so please keep reading the Explora blog!

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