A 360 View of a 360 Film
Apr 2, 2019 (4 min read)
Due to the expensive and overly complicated process of creating a 360 film, the genre of immersive cinema is, and always will be, a niche. I wanted to experience the process of creating a 360 film myself, so that's exactly what I did.
First Step - Pre-Production
Although I believe Documentaries to be the best genre to
make use of the 360 format, I decided to make an experiential
film instead since it would be a simpler challenge, considering
it's my first time. My goal with this film was simple. Transport
the viewers into a city at 3am. At this point I was feeling fairly
confident as the plan seemed practical enough to pull off.
Time to get started!
Second Step - Production
In traditional films it is well understood that "Story is king", but
in a 360 film, where your goal is to immerse the audience into
the film, it is just as important to have good equipment as it is
to have a good story. Although super expensive, the ideal
setup for shooting 360 films is to use a six camera setup, but
since I blew away my OSAP money within the first week of
school, I used Samsung Gear 360 for this project.
A typical 360° professional camera rig.
At a price of $320 CAD, this camera has a really good user
interface that allows for easy operation. The problem with such
commercial cameras out on the market right now is the very
limited camera settings it offers, due to which the video quality
in low light environments is of poor quality.
Another issue I faced with 360 filmmaking is that 360 cameras capture
everything, which is why it is important to naturally hide your crew
members and your film equipment within the scene. For some of the
scenes in my 360 film, you can see me trying to hide myself in with the
Samsung Gear 360 4k
You can see me trying to hide behind the traffic signal pole.
Third Step - Post-Production
At this point of my 360 filmmaking journey, all my confidence from before was dug six feet under. Even though I was warned multiple times, by multiple people, about the long process of editing a 360 film, I played myself by thinking I was better than the rest. What I had thought to only take me an hour to do, took me 4 Mother-effin days. In those 4 days, I dealt with every technical problem known to man.
The first issue I had to deal with was the tedious procedure of stitching the footage together. Granted, I was working with a commercially available 360 camera, my stitching process wasn't as bad as it would've been if I was using a six camera setup, but since it was my first time creating a 360 project, It took me some time before I got the hang of it.
The second issue with editing was importing the spatial audio into my editing software. Sound is a crucial tool to better immerse the viewer into a 360 film. I had initially planned to not include any background music, but rather use the narration along with spatial audio as an ambient track to help immerse the viewer into the film. Although the camera's built-in spatial audio recording was excellent, issue arose when I imported the clips into the editor. The spatial audio track kept converting into a stereo track as soon as I imported it in After Effects. I spent hours trying to trouble shoot the issue, but I was unable to find a way to export the final video with spatial audio. Since stereo doesn't have the same effect in 360 films as it does in traditional films, I decided to replace the ambient spatial track with background music. Having used the Sennheiser Ambeo Headset to record spatial audio before, in future, I'd use that to record the audio for my 360 films as it doesn’t give any problems during the editing stage.
Sennheiser Ambeo Headset. This headset has the capability to record spatial audio, but only works with an IPhone.
Step 4 - Showcasing my Film
The point of a 360 film is to immerse the audience into the film. With current technology, the best way to do so is with VR goggles. When you view a 360 film on a one dimensional screen, there is no sense of immersion present. Of course, you can use the cursor to look around the scene, but at that point it's more of an interactive film than an immersive film.
My Two Cents
Although it got really difficult at times, I really enjoyed making a 360 film. I acknowledge that I was working with a commercial 360 camera rather than an industry standard camera rig, but I feel that I now have a much better understanding of what one can expect creating a 360 project. In my opinion, the interest in 360 filmmaking will rise with time as more online support/ help becomes available. While I was trouble shooting my audio issues, I was unable to find any help online with solving the issue. Even though 360 technology
has been available to the public for some time now, there is
very little help available online. It wouldn’t be wrong to
classify 360 technology to be in its beta stages.
Right now, 360 technology in cameras is used mostly by
average people who simply snap and share their vacation
pictures. These people don't have to deal with issues that
filmmakers deal with because most often they are not editing
the footage, they simply share individual clips from their smart phone to the web. If used appropriately, 360 film technology has a lot of potential to be a powerful story telling tool.
VIEW MY FIRST EVER 360 FILM