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Beyond the frame: tips for nailing 360 video shots

Caleb Ward
March 8, 2017 by Caleb Ward

As we venture into this new world of possibilities, one thing is clear: 360 video is an amazing way to tell stories. Let’s take a look at a few different ways you can do to make your 360 shots even better.

Exaggerate perspective

When it comes to 360 videography, perspective is incredibly important. Luckily, the 360 perspective is similar to our everyday vision, so you don’t have to be a professional cinematographer to get great shots. One of the best things you can do when looking for a potential location is look for angles that captivate audiences. Try finding a perspective that emphasizes the height and scale of your shooting location. In short, if it’s impressive from your real life perspective, it’ll likely be impressive in 360. This usually means shooting near tall buildings or in areas with clear leading lines.

Involve the audience

Involving your audience doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the fourth wall. When it comes to 360, it’s important to remember that unlike traditional film editing, your audience’s perspective can’t change to a new shot mid scene, or at least it would be jarring if it did. Treat your scene as if you’re acting on a stage. Think of the best way to involve a spectator while the scene unfolds. This can mean anything from having your actors walk around the camera as they talk to making your audience feel alone or isolated when they walk away.  

Stabilize the camera

Stabilizing standard footage isn’t all that difficult anymore. While it’s certainly ideal to shoot your footage as stable as possible on set, tools like the warp stabilizer have made it possible to get smooth, professional-quality video from even the bumpiest of footage. However, the same can’t be said about 360 video. While standard video benefits from the luxury of a frame that can be cropped, scaled or warped, 360 video is a little more tricky.

360 videographers usually opt to use a light stand to stabilize their 360 camera, in order to minimize any movements that might arise from a handheld 360 rig. Light stands are preferred over tripods because they don’t exaggerate the size of the legs. If you’re shooting a production on a hill or uneven surface, you can even buy a stand with a “Rocky Mountain Leg” that can be adjusted to accommodate the rough terrain. I mount a small bubble level on the light stand to make sure everything is level when recording the 360 video.

It should be noted that even the slightest camera movements are exponentially exaggerated on a 360 video. So if you want your audience to pay attention to your video, keep the camera rig locked down tight.

Hide the seams

At the moment, stitching is by far one of most annoying parts about shooting 360 footage. Virtually every professional 360 camera requires stitching in post. As a result there can be some issues that arise when stitching 360 video. Namely, it’s not uncommon for the audience to find the seams in a video that’s been stitched together. These seams can be distracting to the audience and take them out of the experience.

To make seams less visible, use a professional stitching software like Autopano Video, designed to seamlessly (pun intended) stitch footage together. Try out the free trial version before you commit to buying, as you can see if the software will be right for your 360 workflow.

This tutorial from Alex Enman shows us how easy it is to use Autopano Video. 

Live-monitor your footage

If you’re working on a standard film, you’ll obviously monitor your footage every step of the way. But for some reason when it comes to shooting 360 video, many videographers choose to simply trust in their camera’s ability to shoot in auto. This inevitably leads to problems with the video, as features like white balancing, exposure, and composition can’t be verified.

I recommend looking into purchasing a 360 rig that allows you to live-monitor your footage. From the Theta S to the Nokia OZO, there are dozens of options for every budget. Most of these cameras come with iOS and Android apps that can be used to live-monitor the footage and some even allow the director to monitor the production with a headset.

I hope this list has been helpful. As you begin your journey into the world of 360 video don’t forget to share your experience with your fellow artists and the community of Vimeo filmmakers. 


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