What kind of camera is best for shooting 360-degree video?
The number of cameras that can shoot in 360 degrees increases all the time, but most professional 360-degree cameras fall into two distinct categories :
Category 1 : Multi-camera solutions for shooting 360 video
These rigs consist of multiple video cameras, housed in a mount that positions their lenses to cover 360-degrees.
The very first 360 videos were captured using (home-made) rigs like this, where anywhere from 5 to 42 cameras are mounted at different angles around a central base to capture footage in 360-degrees. The mounts are customised for specific cameras, including everything from entry level DSLR to RED 6K cameras, and prices range accordingly. Generally, each camera records onto individual storage and the footage is ingested separately and then stitched together in post-production to create a 360-degree view.
The specialised 360-degree camera
Very few of these cameras exist and, of those that do, most are still in development. These are being designed and built specifically for immersive video capture, and normally consist of one body with multiple lenses positioned to capture the full 360-degree spectrum.
Because they consist of a single unit capturing multiple viewpoints, the full 360-degree view is recorded as one file. Most of these cameras are capable of broadcasting live 360 video to platforms like Facebook and YouTube and some – like the Nokia OZO – record stereoscopic video and can capture 360 spatial sound as well.
Do I need specialised crew for my 360-degree shoot?
It’s always a good idea to hire crew that have experience with the camera kit you’re planning to use -regardless of whether you’ve chosen a multicamera or specialised 360-degree camera setup. Having said that, a cameraperson with no VR shooting experience will probably have an easier time figuring out how to rig cameras they’ve used before into a multicamera mount than familiarising themselves with an entirely new camera – which is why VR camera hire companies often provide a technician to set up and operate the 360-degree camera and associated equipment.
Data wrangling is a critical role on professional 360-degree video shoots due to the sheer volume of media that is generated. If you’re using a multicamera setup, chances are that each camera’s media will need to be backed up and managed individually. Well-defined naming conventions and folder structures are essential to ensure that each camera’s footage is identifiable and the different perspectives for each clip are kept in order. This process is a little simpler when using a specialised 360-degree camera that outputs a single file for each clip.
Keep in mind that filming in 360-degrees means that your crew will be in the shot if they’re not completely off set – a smaller crew is often easier to manage.
How do I light a scene when I’m filming in 360-degrees?
In the same way that any crew on set will be included in your 360-degree footage, so too will your lighting or grip equipment. You can mask some equipment out when you stitch your camera views together or rotoscope them out in post, but in an ideal situation, you’ll avoid having to do this by relying on natural and existing light sources. If you need to add light, try using fluorescent tubes and lamps which blend into the environment and look more like décor than video equipment.
Keeping your lighting flat and even makes it easier to blend the different perspectives together to create your 360-degree view – particularly if you’re using a specialised 360-degree camera with one exposure setting for all the lenses. Using a multicamera rig provides the option of adjusting each camera’s exposure for its viewpoint, but this can make it more difficult to mask stitch points.
How should I record audio for my 360 degree video?
Audio is as important as video in creating immersive experiences and can also be used to direct the viewers’ attention to a particular area or to cue action.
Keep the viewers’ perspective in mind when recording and post-producing audio. As they’re viewing everything through your 360-degree camera lens, it makes sense to capture the audio from the camera’s position – it would be disorientating if the audio was recorded on the other side of the room. Alternatively, you can use multiple personal and room microphones to produce a stereo audio image for a responsive audio environment.
How can I see what I’m shooting in 360-degrees?
Because multicamera rigs record each camera’s output onto separate storage, you can’t monitor or review your 360-degree video until you stitch the different viewpoints together in post-production. You can review footage shot on individual cameras, but there’s still a feeling of shooting “blind” –especially because the crew are often off-set during recording to avoid being in shot.
The Nokia OZO provides the option of previewing the output from the OZO camera in real time with an Oculus DK2 Head Mounted Display – this means that you can monitor a low resolution 360-degree version of the recording as it happens. However, reviewing footage
immediately after it’s been shot is prohibitively time-consuming as it would require a full render of the 360-degree video.
VR and professional 360 video technology is changing every day – it’s always a good idea to get advice from your video equipment rental company and experienced crew before embarking on a new project. Let us know if you have any other questions about shooting professional 360 video.