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As a virtual reality videographer, I’m always looking for the best way to create memorable VR video experiences. Experiences that will make someone say, “wow,” watch again, and then share with their friends. I’ve learned a few important lessons while shooting and editing 360-degree virtual reality videos. Here are six aspects of filming a good VR experience.  

Movement – Less is More

With traditional video and filmmaking, camera movement is an essential part of storytelling and visuals. But with virtual reality, camera movement can actually ruin the story or cause physical illness. Why’s that? In VR, it’s better to let the viewer control the scene rather than the videographer initiating movement. It can be jarring or even sickening to have someone else control the action. To avoid motion sickness, camera movement should be slow and steady. For example, we attached our 360º camera to a custom drone mount to capture a slow rising, crane-style shot of Regis University. We started low on the campus and as the camera rises through the trees and buildings, you’re able to see both the city of Denver and the Rocky Mountains in the distance.On the contrary, we attached a camera to a mountain biker as he rode through the foothills of Golden, Colorado. It’s easy to see that this was neither smooth nor slow, but because we intended to use it inside our Regis Oculus experience, we had to select the smoothest and steadiest portion of the ride. 

Consider Point of View

Planning, choreography, and placement of your camera are key. While at the University of Hartford, we filmed their campus a capella group, the Hawkapellas. We had them surround the camera so their music would surround you. In traditional film, you don’t want to break the fourth wall and have the actor look directly at the camera. In this case, you become a part of the music by standing in the middle of the singers as they serenade you in a private performance. 

Where's the Action?

Sporting events are a great place to put your viewer in the middle of the action or into the best seat in the house. But, they can be difficult to film. The camera needs to be placed near the action and there’s always a chance for the camera to be struck by a stray ball or athlete. We filmed a Regis dodgeball game with the camera smack in the center of the action. The results are fun to watch, but as the videographer, it’s high stress praying the camera isn’t tagged out. 

Set the Scene

VR is a great way to introduce your audience to a location for the first time. But it’s best to give them ample time to get familiarized with their new surroundings. We captured the Cath Lab at Tufts Medical Center to help patients get acquainted with the room, procedure, and process. You see the room and machine, and watch and listen to the doctor prepare a patient for surgery. Future patients watch the video to become familiar with the process to alleviate their apprehensions. 

Explore, Don’t Direct

With 360º video, your viewer may not always be looking in the direction you’d like them to. So try letting your audience explore on their own rather than directing them. While I was on vacation last summer, I shot a 360º video directly under an arch at Arches National Park in Utah. When the video is experienced in virtual reality, the viewer discovers they are standing underneath an enormous stone archway and they can experience the grandeur and scale of the natural wonder in their own way. 

Establish the Scene with Perspective

Wherever you place the camera – on the ground, high above a location, or eye-level – your audience will need to orient themselves to their new location. For instance, we placed the camera on the floor of the gym at the University of Hartford and filmed the Hawks basketball team leaping over it and dunking the basketball. This angle places the viewer right under the action. They can look up and see the players surrounding them as another player jumps right over top.  Filming 360-degree videos for virtual reality has its benefits and its challenges. But taking time to determine what will work best and why will pay off for your audience. Are there any locations or events you think would be better captured in 360 degrees than traditional flat 2D video? Let me know in the comments. Interested in how Primacy can help with your VR project? Contact joan.wilson [at] theprimacy.com (Joan Wilson).Placing 360 camera in stream