It’s fair to say, 360° content is everywhere and it’s arguably becoming its own medium away from being associated with VR. Creatives in film, TV and advertising are all jumping on the bandwagon and a quick search on Youtube brings up 588k videos available to view in this new and undiscovered format.
But with so much content out there how can you set your 360° video apart from all the others? So, what prevents your content getting lost in the hundreds of thousands of other videos out there?
We’ve been working with many different styles of 360° content over the last few years and we thought we would share our learning and some of the tools out there with you lovely people!
Informative UI & graphics
Animated UI is becoming increasingly popular within 360° content. It helps to guide the user's attention and provide additional information about subjects in the video. Its particularly well placed within documentary style videos, in which the user is watching to learn more about a subject from info-graphics and stats alongside the main narrative, or to introduce new characters or scenarios to a scene.
One of the best and well known examples of this in use is the Michelle Obama 360 interview by the Verge who kindly put together a detailed behind the scenes of how they used After effects and Mettle to create their info-graph masterpiece.
Adding UI comes at the post production stage, and will requires software that can handle 360° editing, our personal favourite is Mettles Skybox Studio, who have been recently acquired by Adobe. Mettles Skybox is a full 360° cinematic tools package offering everything from VFX to projection conversion and most importantly addition of 2D assets to 360 3D space. And best of all it will soon be part of Adobe's Creative Cloud licence for After Effects and Premiere Pro!
When making 360° content exclusively for use on Youtube and social media, a linear narrative combined with immersive Spatial audio and UI graphics are about the limit of how far you can take the user through an experience. However, if you break out of social media and aim to create content for other platforms it opens a whole new way of allowing a use to interact with your story.
The platforms in question, VR headsets, mobile applications and web browser VR. These are obviously not as simple to create as grabbing your camera and uploading straight to Facebook or Youtube, but with a developer on your side, adding interactivity into to you 360° videos and photos will create an exciting immersive and memorable experience for your user.
One of the most popular and well used form of interactivity is gaze (or controller) based selections. Using UI or ‘hot spots’ in a scene and allowing the user to make a decision where they go next gives the sense of freedom, impacting of the presence and immersion the user feels in your experience.
Our sister company Discover Spaces is a big advocate for this technique, and by using several 360° stills or video to capture an interior and adding in interactive hotspots throughout a map of a property lets the user freely explore their environment in a fully immersive way.
"By combining this simple interactivity across a range of platforms from mobile and VR applications to WebVR plugins, Our customers are able to showcase a fully interactive experience on every device to reach much wider audiences world wide."
You’ve got your film and it's exactly what you wanted. Done, ship it! Hang on though, what about audio? Believe it or not audio in 360 content can actually be way more powerful than the visuals itself. High quality audio is the key to any successful video, but with 360° it becomes a vital tool for leading the narrative of the content.
A great example I always recommend to the people I meet is Notes on Blindness which is now over a year old but is still an extremely powerful mix of audio and visuals. Since then we’ve seen audio evolve alongside VR tech which has given us some really great tools to help creatives paint the picture they want.
Facebook’s Spatial audio is a really great tool for getting spacial audio into your content, it's super simple to use and best of all its also free! They also offer a lot of free support, advice and tutorials on their Facebook page. You can download and learn more about it here if you.
Up the resolution!
As always, new technology has its limitations at first. Most 360° cameras have only been around a few years. Since the likes of GoPro, Ricoh and Nokia jumped on the original 360° bandwagon several years ago, their original 360° cameras have already become redundant due to the ever evolving competition seeking higher and higher resolution along with features such as built in audio, Stereo 3D and self stitching capabilities.
If your building content for VR, nothing is more distracting that seeing pixels, low image quality breaks the illusion of presence within an experience, and it’s this problem with the technology that seems to be holding VR back creatively for the time being.
So, what can you do about this dilemma? Dependant on what your shooting there are a few effective solutions for creatives wanting to up the quality of their videos. A lot of companies are resorting to using illustration or CG animation to produce their content, this will produce the best quality video but does come with very high price tag. Another great option however and a favourite of ours is to use 360° cinemagraphs.
Cinemagraphs are technique that’s been around in photography for a long time, it’s a combination of stills photography with small aspects of video masked in. Adapting this technique for 360° means that using a high end Digital SLR camera, you can capture and image with a resolution of 16k+. Using this ultra high resolution image as a base you can then mask in sections of video where needed.
One of the best examples of this in use at the moment is Ted Baker’s “Keeping up with the Bakers” experience. This was created using a combination of onset 360° photography and looped videos all combined in Photoshop of all things! Although the process seems complex, it’s actually easily achievable with the basic know how of 360° stitching and masking.
Again, this is totally dependant on your subject matter, it certainly will not work if you have a lot of action going on with actors moving around a scene, but for a simple still scene with one or 2 points of focus it can be a really effective way to up the resolution of your video, making it friendly for all VR platforms!
If you’re interested in learning more about cinemagraphs, 360° stitching, spatial audio and other post production techniques you can register your interest in one of our VR content creation workshops.