Since I will be focusing on motion in this post, for reference here is a video I made for One Wheel which heavily relies on motion.
Part of the reason I started this project was to really get to know the medium and to develop my skills. The exciting thing about cinematic VR / 360 video right now is that there isn’t an established language for it yet. All the rules you see in cinema / regular 2d video that have taken decades to figure out go out the window. You don’t have a lot of tools you’re used to having to tell a story. How do you direct the viewer’s attention when you can’t carefully frame what’s about to happen? Nobody has it figured out yet. And it will likely take a very long time.
What we’re seeing here is a birth of a new art form. My plan is to run around with a stick with a bunch of go pros strapped to it and slowly try to understand what works and what doesn’t. Eventually I would want to transition into storytelling, but first I need to learn a thing or two about the medium itself.
I went to a Cinematic VR conference recently and kept hearing “Motion is bad. You want to keep the camera static”. A lot of the online resources seem to be pointing to the same thing – stick the camera in a spot and do stuff around it.
I completely disagree.
So I went out and did some experimentation with motion. Here are things that I’ve learned.
- Motion creates an illusion of having more degrees of freedom, thus making the experience feel more real and immersive. In contrast, static shots make you feel trapped in place. You can’t actually move forward when watching these videos, but motion makes you FEEL like you can. We’ve seen panoramic photos around for a while now (think Google Maps), static 360 videos aren’t that different and won’t add that much more to it unless you have interesting characters doing something or some event unfolding.
- Motion needs to be along a single plane with no rotation or abrupt acceleration. If you hold the camera while riding a skateboard in a straight line, the shot will look good. But if you’re also say moving the camera up and down, or rotation it out in front of you while you do so it creates an unsettling feeling in the viewer (especially watching it in a headset).
- Camera placement needs to be parallel to the plane of motion. There exists a plane of motion in the direction of the movement, a viewer will readjust to position himself/herself in this plane of motion. Looking sideways or perpendicularly to this plane feels unnatural and weird. You will either want to look at “where you’re going” or directly behind you, at the person holding the camera for example (if they are interesting enough). I tried strapping the rig to a backpack and had a friend bring it kitesurfing. We initially wanted it to stick out at a 45% angle behind him, but had to settle with it directly above him when a part of the backpack broke. When I later stitched and looked at the footage I noticed that I felt weird looking downwards at him because I was now perpendicular with the plane of motion. I kept wanting to look up to look forwards, but there was nothing to look at. [I’ll draw some pictures and add these here soon to better explain this concept]
- Stitching becomes a mess. You can get away with a lot when shooting static shots, but motion will expose a lot of the seams and stitching inconsistencies will become more evident. Something really important to keep in mind while shooting is to always try to hold the rig so that one of the cameras is facing directly at you – that simplifies a lot of things in post processing. When the seams are diagonal (like with the conventional rigs) something it becomes impossible to fix them. One solution I’m looking into right now is trying a rig where the cameras are vertically aligned making the seams vertical and giving me more to work with in post processing. I’ll probably end up writing a separate post about that.
Why is this relevant? Movement is a tool. It can be used to direct the audience’s attention. As I’ve mentioned before, people are drawn towards the direction of the movement, looking perpendicularly to the plane of motion feels awkward and one will only do it for so long.