360 Video

360 Video is taking the world by storm, and I’ve just completed my 1st project using this new technology.  360 video, although giving you never before seen latitude in capturing video, also has some quirks that make actually producing something in this matter quite difficult.  We are going to kick off this series with a piece about the technology and more specifically using GoPros to capture your video.

The Technology

I’m sure that at this point most everyone reading this has been introduced to 360 video AKA “VR” video.  It’s an immersive experience capturing the entire environment around you.  When we captured our 360 video we were using 6 GoPro Hero Blacks attached to a printed rig we got off of thingiverse.  You can also get rigs from Freedom 360, and GoPro also is releasing their own mount too called GoPro Omni.  There are a lot of other options out there, but as far as pro level work this seems to be the most inexpensive option out there.  (I will say that for a consumer lever of control, I have been told that the Ricoh Theta S is an awesome solution for 1/10 of the price).

What you will need

For the setup we have you’ll need a few things to make your first 360 video.

The expensive part – You’ll need 6 GoPro Hero’s.  In our examples we are using 6 GoPro Hero4 Blacks, although top of the line models are not vital. There are some things to keep in mind while shooting your 360 video if you use the Silvers or even some Hero 3’s.

You’ll obviously need memory cards for each camera so FAST Micro SD cards x6.

A GoPro remote, although not 100% necessary, makes the process 100 times easier by allowing you to sync all 6 cameras to one remote to control all of them at the same time.  You will still want to clap or spin the rig to make sync’ing the videos later a bit more accurate.

A 360 rig to hold your cameras, you can find links to several options above.

And very importantly stitching software.  I will get more into this later as in the process we found what you needed and what you get to be very confusing and interesting.

Setting up your cameras

This is one category we tested a lot of different settings on and were fascinated by where we landed as far as final setup. I will put this is a format so you can apply it to all cameras, but will also give you specifics of how our GoPro’s where set if you want to recreate what we have done.

Frame Size

Frame size is very important and you’ll honestly probably end up using a frame size you didn’t even know existed.  First and foremost you need a 4:3 mode on the hero black you can use 2.7k 4:3 (Which was our first attempt but ultimately not what we used, more about that in frame rate, this is also only an option on the Hero 4 Black) 1440p and 960p, if your using smaller than that your wasting your money.

Frame Rate

This was something we found very interesting in our testing, and when you think about it makes sense.  The short of the long of this is… the higher the frame rate the better.  We ultimately landed on 1440p at 80fps, and the reason to the best of my limited knowledge is that you may start a camera between frames on another camera, making it so you may end up milliseconds off, but creating a worse stitch.  As strange as this seems I can say from experience the stitching at 80fps was much better than that at 24fps or 60fps.  I typically would only use 30, 60, 90, or 120 but 80 seemed to work for us so we went with that.  So rule of thumb here is High Quality High Frame rate is a give and take.

Shooting

Shooting 360 video is a very unique experience, even for professionals.  In our most recent venture doing this we had to find interesting ways to monitor the shooting.  Think about it, this rig sees everything! There IS no “behind the camera”.  In our next piece we will talk about the best ways to utilize this technology for your next film or job.  I’m not going to get to far into the weeds but will give you a couple of pointers on shooting 360 video.

Tip 1) Make sure you have a ‘rockstar’ camera facing the main action.  You will likely never end up with an absolutely perfect stitch, so if you have a place or three that a lot of action is happening, do your best to have one camera covering that area.

Tip 2) Try and not let anything get to close to the camera (ideally six feet away.)  You will notice less stitching errors so keeping objects several feet away from the camera is definitely advisable.

Tip 3) Height: We recommend keeping the camera about chest or head height, this is an immersive experience, so we’ve found the best way is creating that POV feel.

Well now you have everything you need to create some awesome 360 videos!  In the next couple of articles we will talk about great ways to utilize the technology artistically, and we will also get into stitching, pretty much a lynch pin of this technology.