Our first VR video creation experience
VR undoubtedly is really coming of age and set to be one of the most revolutionary technologies of this century. With applications, as diverse as games, medicine or education, as well as straightforward entertainment, virtual reality provides an immersive experience which can also help brands to connect with customers in a whole new way.
Express KCS is a creative production house and we work with brands and agencies to help them realize their campaigns across all media, including video. And now with 360° videos gaining momentum, many of our clients expressed their desire to try out this new platform. So we thought this is the time to jump in and get our hands dirty, and we decided to create our very first “360° video”. And of course, our video team was also very excited to try their hands on their pilot VR project and to make our own unique 360° production.
Thinking is always easier than execution…
As you know, it’s not always easy to do things in-house. But when we looked around for concepts we decided we’d create our (traditional) holiday video in 360° format. Our idea for this video was to bring the entire company into a single canvas — where our clients and stakeholders can easily identify their contacts. This would mean bringing a personal touch to our holiday wishes. With our years of experience in video post-production, we thought it wouldn’t be too problematic to shoot and create the video. However, we were wrong!
The biggest problem at that time was to get hold of the hardware. The new VR cameras that enable live stitching and monitoring hadn’t hit the rental market yet, so we decided to use a 6-GoPro rig. The next big problem was to stitch the videos together — Did we mention, all 6 cameras of the rig provided 6 different files and we need to stitch them together. To reduce our work, we planned to use third-party software to stitch videos together.
Here comes the hardest part!
We’re the video post-production guys, so managing the production work was not as difficult for us. The most difficult part was the positioning of the rig and the shooting itself. As this was our holiday video, we wanted everyone in the company to participate in the video shoot. So there would be a lot of movement within the frame and every scene had to be captured in synchronization, and this was the most challenging aspect. Here is a short clip showing how our team did pre-shoot rehearsals.
One thing we needed to make sure of before getting onto the 360° video shoot was that it needed to be done correctly in one continuous take, so we had to plan carefully upfront and rehearse! Camera placement, movement of subjects, lighting and the set-design are very crucial, and you need to test and check the right setup before starting the shoot. Obviously, we learned this from our experience — and you know it took us three to four re-takes before finalizing the shoot.
It’s in the can! How about post-production?
Using third-party software for stitching videos was not of much help. With no experience of 360° video production, we had a hard time stitching all the six files together. Matching frames from different files could be a real pain but after a lot of hard work (and off course re-work) we managed to create something that looks somewhat seamless. If you look carefully at the final result though you can see we have some lessons to be learned about this aspect of the work.
Distribution platforms play a very important role in 360° videos, and you have to be mindful of the viewing devices used, as they will influence the view in terms of camera placement and angle. Platforms of distribution will impact the ease people will view and access the result — further impacting the number of views. We wish all these questions had been considered at the outset but honestly, they didn’t!
So the challenge for us was the distribution. Not everyone has VR headsets or cardboard viewers and we also were not sure of the devices on which the videos could have been played. We did a feasibility study for different options of viewing 360° video in different devices i.e. desktop or mobile, with or without VR headset.
The best and most accessible option we could find was to upload our video to YouTube and share the link with our audience. To watch 360° videos on YouTube, you need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, or Internet Explorer on your computer. On mobile devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app. It ensures that your video opens up in 360° format even if people don’t use VR headsets, and if they’re using a VR headset, then YouTube app has a dedicated VR mode to view 360° videos. The only real downside was that if viewed on a mobile browser such as Safari on the iPhone, the film comes up as a single, wide 360º panorama, which can be baffling.
We sent out our video embedded in an email with proper instructions to view it — and yes you need to tell your audience how to view it for an immersive experience. In our email, we’ve clearly indicated different methods to view our video — use a VR headset for the best immersive experience, or you can view it on your phone using the YouTube app, or if you’re on a desktop, you can view the video on Google’s Chrome browser.
WOW! We did it. We’ve successfully created and distributed our first 360° video. You can watch our video below, but please open it in YouTube app and use a VR headset. Don’t complain about the editing and stitching — it was our first and we definitely have improved a lot since then — try us out!
1. Plan very carefully before you actually start the project — your checklist should include a camera, shooting process, software to edit, camera placement, movement of subjects/people within the scene, channels for distribution and the most important, your audience.
2. Always prefer a 360° camera as they’re available easily nowadays and comes with their own editing software.
3. For professional shoots where a number of participants are more, prefer multi-cam rigs. GoPros are too good in this case.
4. Choose software very carefully for editing just in case you use multi-cams. Kolor’s AutoPano is a good one for video stitching.
5. Plan your channel and mode of distribution well in advance
We think that there are no real hard and fast rules for 360° videos, so try it out and explore this new technology. You can always learn from your mistakes and improve your process, and that’s what we did.