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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

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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 (27)
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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 (?)

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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!

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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,

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Alicia Millane

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

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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

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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