360 video offers filmmakers and video editors a new way to tell their stories. But if you’ve ever had the chance to work with 360 video, you know that there’s a big difference between editing standard video and 360 video. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to edit a 360 video. It’s surprisingly simple once you know where to start.
(For this example, we’ll be using footage shot on a Theta S, which comes with its own proprietary software that stitches its video clips together.)
If you shot your video with a 360 video array, you’ll need to stitch all that video together before you can edit it. Currently, the best option for stitching video is Autopano Video from Kolor, a company that’s part of GoPro family. It lets you quickly stitch footage shot on multiple cameras. If you think you’ll be stitching or editing a lot of 360 video in the future, I definitely recommend checking out Autopano Pro, especially since it gives users the ability to stabilize their 360 video and correct the rotation of the video inside Premiere Pro (via an Autopano Pro extension).
The equirectangular 360 video format
Equirectangular video is the most popular 360 video format. It essentially manipulates an entire 360 video into a rectangular format that is very reminiscent of HD or 4K footage. In fact, the exact aspect ratio can vary based on your specific project. Unrendered equirectangular footage can technically be watched on a normal video player, but if you want to view the video in 360 or experience it on a headset, you need to watch in a player or app that supports 360 video, like Vimeo.
There are also a few other types of 360 video formats, like circular and bicubic, but none of these formats are particularly user-friendly or practical compared to equirectangular video.
Premiere Pro is not only the most popular professional video editing software in the world, but it’s also one of the only professional video editing software that allows 360 previewing. (Sorry, Final Cut Pro users.) Premiere Pro’s integration with Vimeo, After Effects, and the rest of the Creative Cloud also makes it a fantastic tool for video editors and 360 filmmakers alike.
Editing 360 video is actually very similar to editing standard video. All of the same concepts like syncing, cutting, dissolves, and levels still apply to 360 video. It’s just important to know that if you want to add in special objects (like graphics) you’ll probably want to use a third-party app like After Effects paired with Skybox Studio to make sure your graphics aren’t distorted in playback.
Previewing 360 video is incredibly easy from Premiere Pro. Simply drop your equirectangular video into your timeline, and select the “Toggle VR Video Display” button found in the menu in both the Preview and Program monitors. Once you select this button, you’ll be able to pan and tilt the camera around in 360 either with either your mouse or the dials on the side of your preview or program monitor.
Our example is using a monoscopic 360 video format, but Vimeo supports stereoscopic 360 video formats. To use a stereoscopic source format, you can stack your video files with the left eye footage on top of the right.
Exporting 360 video is a little different than exporting standard video. Namely, you need to add the appropriate metadata to your video. To do this, simply go to File>Export>Media or hit command+M on your keyboard. This will pull up an export panel.
Adjust your video settings as you see fit. I recommend using a less compressed format like ProRes, since 360 video can accentuate compression artifacts, and of course use 4K if possible (the higher the better, since Vimeo supports uploads in up to 12K). With 360, you can only see a portion of the raw video at once. So even if the raw file is 4K, the portion within your viewing angle will be closer to 1080. Think of the raw file as a map, while the 360 player shows one angle of a globe. Once you’re ready, it’s time to upload.