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Idiot’s Guide to Making 360º Content

Making your own VR is not too difficult, but don’t be over zealous, it is easy to mess up. This technology of immersive media will change the world, and those pioneering the art will set the standards and expectations for viewers in the future. Anyone with basic production knowledge can learn to create 360/VR content. Keep it simple. And remember, the the camera should be treated as a person in the scene, NOT a 3rd party onlooker of the scene (which is the traditional use of a camera).

Choosing Camera

First things first, abandon any camera that does not film in 4k. Some protest, factually stating phones do not display 4k, humans cannot see 4k and HMDs don’t even have 4k resolution. Though all three statements are true, you should still film in 4k, unless you want your content to look like VHS in a Blu-ray’s world. The simplicity explanation is that the hardware will quickly advance, Math and geometry further explain why.

Shooting in 4k relatively means capturing 4,096 pixels in width and 2,160 in height. However, the HMD is only seeing a fraction of the image/video you recorded (You filmed in 360º, human’s can see nearly 180º and your display unit shows 80º-120º, which means you’re reducing to a third of the original content. Mathematically, they are viewing ~1.3k. If you want to know more about human eyesight in regards to viewing pixels, link here.

Now, we will walk you through the workflow of 360 film making. This is a step by step of the basics. The good news is that you can pick this up fairly quickly and the work flow is relatively straight forward.

First you need is a camera. You can start with a single camera, such as the Ricoh Theta, Google VR Jump, Kodak SP360, Giroptic 360cam, Nikon Key Mission 360 and otheres, ranging $300 — $600. All have a slightly smaller image than a multi-camera rig, which is what we will discuss below, as we believe this approach balances expense and quality best for entry-level film making. Because we already have several GoPro cameras, we’re opting or a GoPro rig that holds 6x cameras.

Shooting

Each of your GoPros on the rig are numbered. Turn them on in order and make sure they all have the same settings set. We recommend:

Size: 1440

60 FPS

Prtone On

Auto Low Light: OFF

Sharpness: LOW

Color: Flat

You can save yourself stress during the editing if you are aware during the shooting, especially synchronizing the content. 60 frames per second helps in the synchronizing process later (60fps is also near what the human eye perceives). Once the cameras are all on, CLAP! This will audio mark the footage to easily synchronize Or, you can visually mark the content with a motion synch by giving the camera rig a quick spin.

While filming, we advise you do NOT move the camera. Camera movement, unless done with exceptional expertise, will often induce “sim sickness”. There are mounds of information you can read on the reduction of sim sickness, but for beginners, the answer is do NOT move the camera.

All objects should be at least three feet away from the camera, otherwise stiching will come out looking like garbage.

Edit

Once you have your content, it is important to keep track of which camera had which SD card. I name mine after historic figures, like “Skenderbeg” and “Napoleon”, but you can simply use numbers. Now, take your SD cards and import the content into your computer, filing and labeling the raw footage according to the camera it came from. Now make a copy and bring the copy to the drive you will work with.

There are many editing options out there. Kolor Autopano video, now owned by GoPro, ingests and stiches GoPro footage well. Keep in mind it is $750 software.

To import it is an easy drag-and-drop, and copy them into a test folder. Keep your raw originally separate and never edit it. If imported properly, you’ll see your videos across the top. Go to the Synchro-tab and look for the audio clap to synchronize. If there is not an accurate synch, you might have to adjust the range. Or try the visual synch.

Now you need to stich them all together. In this scenario you used GoPro, so select GoPro on the left side, and you are using the “current selection” because the current content we just imported is what we want to stich.

If you did the above as instructed, you should have a flat image, which is a bit distorted in much the same way a map is a distorted flat depiction of a globe. To better understand the nature of flattening round objects, see Vox video here.

We want to move the images to make the horizon line straight. Additionally, center the view you want at the “front”, as in place the most important object in the frame’s center. The object(s) on the far left and the far right of the frame are “behind” the viewer.

See Bundeena pier in New South Wales, Australia.

BEHIND  > LEFT  > FRONT  > RIGHT  > BEHIND

The sun, as you can see in this image, is coming from the back right. Light affects color the objects for a more harmonieuse light exposure levelsMore or less, the auto-correct option can take care of this for you.

By clicking the “edit” button uoi can see all the different cameras, and this will help you identify stiching lines. The key is to make sure the lines between the cameras is well stiched in order to avoid parallax.

Export

Now we will save and render. The maximum size allowed by this GoPro rig is ENORNOUS, so be concious of HD space. Export as an MPEG-4 file. Auto should export it as a 4k image, 25 frames per second. At 60 frames per second it will play better on high fidelity rigs. Then, select the source of audio you’d like as in which of the cameras captured the best audio. Now, render!

Now that you have this file, you can put it in your editoing program and edit it the way you would traditional footage. You File > Share > Master File, export as a H264 file, and simply change the ending to .mp4

This file no longer has metadata attached to it. If you want to export this file back to YouTube, you will have to add metadata again. YouTube instructions for uploading 360º content here.

Conclusion

360 video creation should not be daunting. It is completely managable if you have patience and a basic understanding of video production. Every camera and editing software will be different but the well reputed ones on the market tend to be intuitive, so stay determined and you will be making 360 films within the week!

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