One of the fun, new experiences that VR equipment has brought us is immersive 360° video and images. These can be enjoyed by simply holding up and moving around your mobile device, using Google Cardboard, or even the latest and most advanced virtual reality headsets.
Creating these, like any video or photography piece, can span from exceedingly easy to complex high-quality systems. Currently there are two main types of cameras for this kind of imagery. Point-and-shoot units function like normal cameras; more complicated rigs synchronize multiple cameras for richer detail or even stereoscopic recording.
Point and click
In the point-and-shoot-style arena, you’ll find that most options cost less than $500. Most popular are the 360 Fly, Kodak SP360, and the Ricoh Theta S. These allow you to simply record and upload to the 360-capable platform of your choice. The ease of use is fantastic since you don’t need to mess with multiple pieces of hardware, multiple batteries, or complex software. Unfortunately that ease is offset by the lack of resolution.
I shot this video on a Ricoh Theta S:
Professionals tend to use rigs that include multiple cameras, commonly GoPros, facing different directions. You can buy these, or assemble your own with a 3D-printable frame found on Thingiverse or elsewhere. There is a lot of variation in the number and arrangement of cameras used, usually depending on the quality desired. Each additional camera adds to the overall resolution captured, which translates into clarity for the viewer. You can find some with as few as 6, and others with more than 16.
When recording with a multi-camera array, it is necessary to synchronize the cameras so that they all share exposure and shutter speed settings. The resultant video is then all brought into a software package and “stitched,” giving a final high-definition video of the entire scene.
An added benefit to the multi-camera setups is the ability to double your cameras up for recording stereoscopic or 3D videos.
360 Video Tips
Keep these notes in mind when filming 360 video or images.
- Get out of the way! We can see you standing there; remember that your audience can see everything.
- If you’re doing a scripted video, don’t go crazy with trying to divert people’s attention in 360°. Turning your head back and forth gets annoying very quickly. Try to keep the action in a 120° section and slowly transition from one area to the next.