Behind the scenes of virtual reality: how to create 360-degree video - Primacy | Blog Primacy | Blog Skip Navigation Back

Behind the scenes of virtual reality: how to create 360-degree video

Image promoting Primacy's webinar on emerging tech in higher education.The latest buzzword in the tech world is virtual reality (VR). If you haven’t experienced VR, you’re probably wondering how it works. The short answer is, using Oculus technology and wearing a VR headset, you’re thrust into another environment with little more than tapping a button.

One of Primacy’s technology developers, Justin Lutz, wrote a post that introduces the different VR headsets and technology. Give that a read if you’re interested in learning more about the technology side.

In this post, I’m going to cover how to plan for and film the immersive video that’s fed into the VR experience. Realistic 3D computer-generated worlds are nothing new, video games have been doing it for years. But capturing 360° video of real life locations is a whole new ball-game—with new rules and equipment.

The Equipment

360heroAt Primacy, we have a couple of specially 3D-printed camera rigs that hold 6 or 10 GoPro Hero4 cameras in a spherical shape. Each camera is mounted at a specific angle so the camera’s field of view will overlap portions of the surrounding cameras’ field of view. That overlap will eliminate any gaps in the footage and allow for flexibility at the seams. When all the GoPros are recording, they capture video at the same time, and it covers the entire 360° by 180° area.

There are various ways to hold the camera rig. It all depends on the needs of the shot. A tripod or monopod are the most common, but you can hang it, hold it, drone it, and more.

Field of Vision

Shooting video in 360° is not like shooting regular video. It has its own set of rules and considerations.

To keep things simple I’m going to use the term “camera” to describe the rig of GoPro cameras pictured above. Now, the first thing to remember is that 360° means EVERY THING is in the view of the camera and will be in the shot. This includes you, your crew, any lights, microphones, equipment, every crack on the ceiling, and dirty footprints on the floor. This type of shot limits and gives freedom to the director at the same time. You may have to be in the shot, so be creative, don’t make it obvious—blend into the scene—or hide behind/under/in objects on location. When scouting locations, take the entire space into consideration. Envision the action that will take place, how should that action interact with the camera? And make sure the available lighting is suitable or get creative with camera placement.

Camera Location

Placement of the camera in the scene is key and important to storytelling. To capture the action of the scene, you need to consider what role the person wearing the VR headset will take. Are they participants or observers? Meaning, should the camera be placed at an odd position, like hung from the ceiling or low to the ground? Or mounted six feet from the floor to equal to an average person’s height? In either case, the camera should be placed in or around the center of the activity. That way the viewer can explore the scene as they wish, and will have something of interest in all directions.

Camera Movement

The last item to consider is camera movement. In order to achieve action, there needs to be an impetus of movement, like a drone, a car, a track, or a person. Bear in mind, whatever is controlling the motion will be in the video. For example, if you hang the camera from a drone or helicopter those vehicles will be visible in the final result. There are ways to remove or hide smaller objects in post-production, but that is a lengthy process. Because the video will become an immersive experience, motion of any kind needs to be calculated and intentional, otherwise it can cause nausea or it can disconnect the viewer from the experience.

Samsung Gear Cinemagraph

Capturing video is only half the 360° battle. All that footage (per camera, per location) will have to be downloaded, synchronized, stitched together, and processed before it gets put into a VR headset. And that’s an entirely separate blog post!

360° video has endless possibilities. Just imagine the places and experiences you can go and have without leaving your desk chair!

Interested in how Primacy can help with your VR project?  Check out more of our work on on our Virtual Reality page and contact us.


View in Google Chrome for 360° experience and controls

avatar
Author: Alicia Millane

Alicia is a photographer and lead videographer at Primacy. She has over 10 years of experience in multimedia production. Alicia is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology where she studied media, technology, and publishing.


Published March 2015

Category Video

Comments (52)
avatar
Aaron

Hi Alicia – great article! I did want to ask – how would you go about making the “ceiling” and “floor” of a 360 degree video that had a computer generated environment? Say I wanted the ceiling to be a grid pattern – I have the grid as a 2D flat texture in Photoshop, but I need to convert it somehow to be equirectangular (?)

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hey Aaron,

For my 360 videos, I have collected video in every direction so I don’t have a need to add in a ceiling and floor. But how I would go about adding that in, is to use the 360 video stitching software and add in those patterns as an additional image and manually place it where I want it to go, similar to adding a nadir (a patch). That way the software can deal with making it equirectangular, but you still have control over where you’d like it to go.

Good Luck!

avatar
Kael

Hi Alicia

Are you in Los Angeles, CA? I may have a client that would like to use these 360 video services. Pretty cool stuff.

Thanks,

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hey Kael,

We’re on the east coast, but willing and able to travel! Can you please send a note to our business development team to discuss?
http://www.theprimacy.com/contact

thanks!

avatar
Ganesh

Hello,
Really nice article for beginners in VR like me. Thank you so much. Is there any way I can shoot four footages around me with a single camera and stitch it in a post-production softwares and process it make viewable with VR headsets. And also I would like to know more about video processing after the shoot.

Thanks…

avatar
Alicia Millane

Ganesh-

If you are shooting a photo that will be used in a VR headset, then yes you can use a single camera and stitch together the images (there are many apps that will also help you do this on iOS and android) But if you want to shoot video you’re going to need to shoot it all at the same time. This is because if you don’t, the seams won’t match up on the edges of the individual shots and the motion/action won’t be synchronized.

For video processing there are 2 programs I’ve looked into – VideoStitch and Kolor. I found the GUI of Kolor to be easier to work with so I use that software. Both of those software options will work for video and photo stitching for VR.

avatar
Bryony

Hi Alicia

This article is fantastic, thank you and the comments answered my first question. I’m a teacher at a secondary school in Spain and I have a student who really wants to try this technology out – using the google cardboard headset & mobile as the VR headset. We’re going to try stitching photos together as we only have one camera.

We have an app that will stitch together the photos…but then we’re not sure how to ‘process’ this to the headset – you said this was a whole new article…do you have a link to that article…or perhaps if its not written – a link to another article that would help us get from our stitched photo to the VR experience.

Thank you in advance for you help – it would be much appreciated!

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hey Bryony,

Surprisingly photos are more difficult to get onto phones than video—unless you actually use one of the phone apps to shoot the 360. If you use one of the apps to shoot the 360 panorama, you should be able to view the image on the phone by rotating and moving the phone around, but I’ve not found one of those apps that will split the image into stereoscopic view for use in Google Cardboard. If you are using an android device the Google Cardboard app may work for you, they have updated their Street View App to view panoramas uploaded via that app.

But if you are are looking for stereoscopic 360 pictures, I only know how to load them directly onto the Samsung GearVR phones that have a 360º pictures folder to drop them into and then will be viewable with the GearVR headset.

There are a bunch of apps out there that I haven’t tried, maybe one of them will work for you for photo viewing, but check out their descriptions to see if they will work for 360º photos and if they do stereoscopic (if that’s what you are looking for).

Hope that helps, and let me know what route you end up taking! I’d love to hear.

avatar
Gary Watkins

I wish to convert fictional text into a virtual reality experience that could be experienced through a google headset? Would it be possible to convert the “text” into graphic material, then film the graphic material, then create an app so that the “story” could be experienced individually by a group? “To keep things simple”, what would be the most cost effective way to accomplish this?

Thank You

avatar
Tex

Howdy Alicia,
I’ve seen some great 360 content recently and it’s quite intriguing on how they get full 360 – so removal of the tripod/monopods/drones. So my question is how, I imagine it’s quite a complex and time consuming process done manually.
cheers tex

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hey Tex,

It can be difficult. But really it depends on the scene. Sometimes it’s a simple photoshop job, othertimes I try to plan ahead and photograph before I put the stand in. But I also use an After Effects plug-in for videos where I can replace with video (for times where the scene is moving, i.e. water, drone flights, etc)

avatar
Tim

Hi Alicia,

Great article! It would be nice if you could also join our Linkedin group “360 degree and VR Video Production”: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8416633

avatar
Alicia Millane

Already did, Tim! I found your group just last week. Glad you found my post interesting, I’m writing a follow up which should be posted soon.

avatar
Zichao

Hi Alicia,

Thank you for the article, it’s very informative. One thing I would like to ask is that, if I wanna create a virtual experience for a real place, and in which the user will be able to move around, how should I do it? It will look like a 3D game with all the real scenes in it, but the problem I’m facing now is that I’m not sure how to turn the footage into game assets. The game frames are traditionally generated real-time after all. Wish you could help :) Thank you!

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Zichao,

You’re correct in that to be able to move around a scene it will need to be 3D rather than live action. I haven’t done this, but I would imagine it would require 3D modeling (Maya or Cinema 4D) as well as creating the space in Unity (or some other game engine).

There is another way that I’ve read about, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out. There is a company called Matterport, that has a special camera to collect and create 3D tours and models of houses. I’d love to try it out one day.

Hope that helps!

avatar
JJ

Hi Alicia,

I am shooting a 360 video and I need to get it in stereoscopic view(Side by Side) so that i can use it with Google Cardboard. Do you know if Kolor Autopano Video software can do this split and upload to Youtube?
However, I am not using Youtube app to view. I know youtube app on android auto splits in into stereoscopic. Therefore I need to create a video that is already split.

avatar
Alicia Millane

JJ – Sounds like you are trying to get a 360º video to work in cardboard on iOS. Like you said, YouTube app works with cardboard on Android, but they’ve been avoiding iPhone support for almost a year now. I understand that frustration all too well. I’ve never split a video then uploaded to YouTube, I don’t think it would work (but I could be wrong). What I do to get a 360º video to play in Cardboard on iPhones is I use Littlstar. I upload the video there and have people use the Littlstar app on iPhone and Android.

avatar
Alicia Millane

UPDATE!
YouTube app now splits 360 degree videos for Google Cardboard use in iOS on iPhones! Update or download the YouTube app!

avatar
Betsy Rulon

Hello, I hope this finds you well. I am just an end user. My daughter showed me VR on her cardboard camera and I fell in love with it. I do not have an iPhone nor a smart phone. I do have an Android tablet… Can I buy an android phone or an unlocked iPhone (to use without SIM) to use for VR with the cardboard camera or another VR viewing device? Thank you for your assistance. /b.

avatar
Alicia Millane

Sorry for the late reply, spam folder issues. You can definitely use any android or iphone with cardboard viewers. Just download an app like YouTube or Littlstar or another 360 video player/vr app. You’ll just need to be on wifi if you have a phone without a SIM card or network

avatar
Chuck

I found your website very helpful. Recently I received a cardboard stereo viewer from New York Times (I’m subscriber but this was unexpected. They have a site with about 5 or 6 virtual reality short videos.

After watching these I wondered how these 360 stereo videos are made and what kind of camera is used. So I googled and found your amazing site.

Thank you for a great explanation/website.

avatar
Alicia Millane

Thank you, Chuck!

avatar
Mark

Hi Alicia,
I really enjoyed you’re article. I understand how to make the vr video that you can put into google cardboard etc. My question is how do I get it so that somebody can move in the VR video, via a remote control or arrow, etc. Kind of like walking through a museum while looking around. I saw a similar question, and was just wondering if you could please point me in the right direction?
Thank You

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Mark,

Not sure I totally understand the question, but do you mean a guided tour? Where the 360 video moves in certain directions while you are in it to show certain highlights?

That would work for YouTube and Facebook, for 360 video desktop viewing, but if you want to view in cardboard or gearVR, it might be jarring to shift the POV during the video… as that would take the control of the scene away from the user and confuse or sicken them.

Does that answer your question, Mark?

avatar
Lawrence

I have a few questions about VR versus 360. Are they the same or is VR is more like a video game constructed via digital images allowing the viewer to move independently within the filmed area, where as 360 is more like sharing someone else’s point of view like watching a 1st person movie scene watched with 3D glasses at the cinema?

Next do you have an opinion on the best cameras for capturing live action like walking down Bourbon street during Marci Gras? I recently ordered a 4K GoPro camera as well as a 4K 360 Wifi Panoramic (Pano View) sport video camera and
I have the cameras on my iPhone 6s+ & iPad mini.

Finally what is your recommendation on the best programs to create post recording 3D 360 degree film? With so much VR smart phone products recently flooding the market I would love to get in before the market saturation happens.

The final question is for your recommendation on an affordable machine. I have a 2012 MAC mini. IPad Mini and looking at the iPad Pro but I have also been considering to switch to an Android or Windows tablet or laptop. I can get a dest top but want be able to work on the go.

Thank you for your previous info and any. Questions you can help me with.

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Lawrence,

So sorry for the late response, the spam filter nabbed your comment. My co-worker wrote a great article about the difference between 360 video and virtual reality: https://www.theprimacy.com/blog/360-degree-video-is-not-virtual-reality/. For me 360 video is a photographic/real scene that can’t be altered when viewed. VR has more levels of interactivity, an is a more immersive experience — it can react to your physical movement with changes in what is seen or has clickable or interactive objects. There’s much more, see that previous article.

The GoPro rig would probably be your best best, it’ll have the best resolution but will require more work in post. You’ll need to stitch the footage, and then I’d recommend you stabilize the footage in post. And be cautious with how close people/objects are to the camera when capturing (as the closer the objects/people the messier the seams can be and they’ll be more noticeable).

I’m not sure I understand your question about post recording 3d 360. Are you trying to create stereoscopic from mono 360 footage? I’m not sure on that one.

Let me know if you have any other questions,

avatar
Haley Anderson

Hello!
I was wondering if you had the plans for the 3D printed case available for download?

avatar
Alicia Millane

We don’t print the rigs we use, they are purchased from https://www.360rize.com/

avatar
Marsha

Hi Alicia, this is a great article. I was wondering, do you know if it’s possible to convert 360-degree videos to 180-degree videos or normal videos? I want to make a 360-degree video with Samsung Gear 360 video camera, and I want to view it with in both 360-degree or 180-degree or standard video. Thank you.

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Marsha,

Sorry for the very late response, your message was in the spam folder that I never checked. Using tools such as After Effects with Mettle Skybox plugin, you can easily convert a 360 video to 180º video or standard. You can make a composition in different sizes and project the 360 video in them how you’d like. It’ll take a little time to learn/understand the plugin, but once you start exploring it, you’ll see how versatile it can be!

avatar
sarmad

hi alicia
What is the difference between the rich Sony 3d camera
And the camera 360 degrees
Is the film of the first camera also VR VIDEO

avatar
Alicia Millane

3d and 360 are different. 3d refers to stereoscopic (definition: relating to or denoting a process by which two photographs of the same object taken at slightly different angles are viewed together, creating an impression of depth and solidity.) where as 360 video refers to capturing the entire scene around you.
To make things a little more confusing, there is such a thing as 3D-360 video, where video is captured of a scene in every direction with 2 cameras to have the slightly different angle for each eye. There are some great examples if you have a GearVR/Oculus/Vive headset to check out.

avatar
Ram

Hi Alicia,

Nice article, i was trying to view Computer Generated cube6 image in lenovo ANTVR equipment .
Though i am in cube mode my images are jumbled ,can you please suggest.

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hey!

So my desktop VR viewers dont support cubemaps, they only like equirectangular files. So I would have to use After Effects to convert cubemap to equirectangular using Mettle Skybox converter.

Or you could use KRpano:
https://labs.chaosgroup.com/index.php/digital-design-league/viewing-vr-stereo-cubemaps-in-a-browser-and-google-cardboard/

Or find an app viewer specifically for cubemaps

Or load it into GearVR, which has cubemap as a viewing/display option

hope that helps! let me know if it works!

avatar
Farhad

Very useful video, thanks!
I am new to this VR thing but please ive me tips on:
-What camera is best for a good kick-off (around 300Dollars)
-Is there any way that I can put some text on my vides? How about drawings?
THANKS A LOT FROM SWEDEN or TACK!

avatar
Alicia Millane

As for cameras in that price range, there’s a couple. And it will somewhat depend on what you are planning on filming. I’ll break down the latest consumer 360 cameras, but I haven’t used ALL of them, so bare that in mind.

  • Ricoh Theta S: $350 US dollars | max video resolution: 1920×1080 / 30fps
  • Samsung Gear 360: $260 US dollars | max video resolution: 3840×1920 / 30fps
  • Insta360: $550 US dollars | max video resolution: 4096×2048 / 25fps
  • Nikon Keymission: $500 US dollars | max video resolution: 2160 / 24fps
  • 360Fly: $500 US dollars | max video resolution: 2880×2880 / 30fps – NOTE: this camera is not full 360*

There are others, but these are some of the better ones I’ve seen/used/read about.

You can definitely add text and drawings to your videos. I use After Effects with a plug-in called SkyBox from Mettle. It requires more work and understanding the program and plugin a little, but there are great tutorials out there.

You could also look into using a platform like InstaVR which helps you created a virtual reality app for use on multiple platforms. And It has buttons that add text or graphics/videos to your video. But this isn’t directly to the video, its final result is an app.

I hope that helps, let me know if you have any further questions

avatar
Nishika

Hi!
I am working on a project and I am trying to make a 360 degree video/simulation. Can you make a 360 video from online with a simulation that you have, or does it have to be used with a camera. I have a VR set and I think that if I use it, that will be a great visual for my presentation.
Thank you!

avatar
Alicia Millane

360 video would need to be filmed with a 360-degree capturing device. But if you want to combine existing regular video with a 360 computer generated scene that is doable too. But keep in mind the scene needs to be a 360-degree scene, created with software that produces/stretches the scene right. So I’d recommend using Unity or After Effects with plug-ins to create the scene. You could also try and use an online creator, but I don’t know what’s out there for that type of creation. You could also purchase and try stock 360-degree photo or video and use a program or online app to add a regular video on top of it.

I hope that helps, good luck!

avatar
SpeedVR

Very informative article for a student who are beginner in this field and want to learn virtual reality video making process, it is very easy to do with your steps.. https://goo.gl/vyNxSe

avatar
Eva Mira

360 degree video it’s really immersive experience. I found a good article how to create vr content. You can read it here
https://thinkmobiles.com/blog/how-to-create-content-vr-apps/

avatar
Nic

Hi!
I would ask you for an advice.
If I need to shoot a 360° video of an open space (for example a museum), in a way that who will “live” the scene with his VR headset can enjoy it in first person, which equipment I can use, which is the best one?
A RC Car or it is too fast and can cause nausea during the reproduction of the video and at the same time can give less realism, because I want to simulate a walking person. A slow robot, even if it may be not so stable and may have some vibrations.
So can you give me an advice, suggesting me what causes more nausea, if vibrations or high speed and telling me if you have an idea of the best way to shot this kind of video.

Thank you!

avatar
Alicia Millane

I think an RC car might do the job, you will need to keep the camera high (at average height level) so it captures the right angle of the scene. Especially if you will be viewing the footage in a VR headset, you’ll need that height to help the viewer adjust to the atmosphere. Also, in post, I’d recommend you replace the RC car and nadir with a “body” if you really want someone to feel like first-person.

You are correct about vibrations, depends on the flooring and smoothness of the robotic device. Some of that can be corrected in post with color autopano video or after effects skybox mettle plugins. Just be sure that the RC car moves slowly so its smoother and less jarring for the viewer. Nausea varies by person, some people are more sensitive than others. But I like to cater to as many people as possible by having a little amount of movement, by simply having smooth slow movement, or having a steady point in the shot for someone to ground themselves. We had a mountain biker riding down rough mountain trails, so the footage was quite nauseating, but once stabilized and the center point fixed, the shot is usable and watchable. Because the camera was attached to the biker, they were always in a fixed position, much like capturing video inside a moving car, the interior of the car stays fixed, while the exterior whizzes by and this will cause little to no nausea when watched in VR headsets. We also did 360 degree video from a drone, and did multiple passes with variable speeds so we could choose later on the best pass and speed.

To add realism, you could also add footstep sounds in the experience. Hope that helps!

avatar
Francis

Hi,
Can you point me in the right direction for creating 3D models in VR?
I’d like to make 3D models of antique vehicles that users can interact with by rotating them 360 degrees.

Thanks!

avatar
Alicia Millane

Thats a different kind of 360-degree capturing. If you are using 3D files, you’ll want to use a 3d CAD program or Unity. If you have the physical vehicles there are applications/devices that can capture an object in 360 by spinning and taking pictures as it rotates–that then is turned into a 3d model.

avatar
Michael

Great article. Was recently introduced to a VR system and view the rover on Mars. Understand the concept of viewing 360 degrees x 180 but have a question. Is it possible to view the rover from more than one side of it or does that technology not exist? Another example: would like to view and object setting in the middle of a room and be able to walk around that object looking at it from all sides. Is this possible in a VR environment? I think this is what Mark was referring to in his prior question.

avatar
Stan

Our organization has been working to find an audience alternative to killer whales and dolphins held in captivity. Virtual reality seems like it has promise, and we are convinced that although it might take some time, audiences would warm up to the alternative of experiencing these animals in the wild (through VR) as opposed to captivity. What are your thoughts as to the possibilities of this technology (filming above- and underwater) replacing live animal shows?

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Stan,

I like the idea of being able to experience animals in their natural habitat. That’s a truer experience for the audience and likely better for the animals. There are technical considerations for capturing the animals, but it just takes time, planning, and a little bit of luck. There already are some people capturing whales and dolphins in 360 degrees currently, though, I don’t think for the purposes you are talking about.

It would be a wonderful addition to aquariums and zoos to have a VR experience, but I’m not sure if they’d completely replace the animal exhibits. I’ve visited the local aquarium and they have 4D experiences available currently, but they also have huge tanks outside with a couple whales.

There’s a difference between actually experiencing something and experiencing it inside virtual reality. Where VR is great at transporting you instantly to all kinds of locations, it’s not the same as being there and utilizing all your senses.

avatar
Callum Palmer

I always think it is so cool to read about this kind of virtual reality technology and see how it is being incorporated into different medias. One of the ones I really like is the Occulus Rift for gaming, but making movies and TV with it is cool too. However, I do like that you cover properly filming with the right field of vision because messing that up can really ruin the experience for some people. http://www.gatereality.com/

avatar
Maria

Is shooting at 360 degrees the only option to shoot a VR video? For example, let’s say I shoot in a green room and the background etc is all computer generated, can I not just follow the subject around with a normal camera and then use chroma key to just replace what is around them? Or are these two actually different?

avatar
Alicia Millane

Hi Maria,

You can use green screen with 360. But it is slightly different than regular video. First off I wouldn’t recommend moving the camera around – you’ll have to match that movement in the 360 CG background and it might make the VR viewer individual nauseous. Also there will be added steps to getting the green screen subject into a 360 environment. They need to be distorted to account for the spherical nature of a 360 video. You’ll need 360 plugins to achieve this. And the workflow will be different depending on what what kind of things you are shooting and green screening into the 360 environment.