How to shoot 360° video so the viewer gets the full experience

360° video has the unique capacity to drop the spectator right into a scene and virtually surround him or her with the action. But so far, the technology has been quite disappointing when it comes to storytelling. So unless we manage to play to its strength, 360° video falls flat and fails greatly.
I recently shot some 360° video scenes for our project on phosphorus, The ‘miracle mineral’ the world needs, with BBC Future and want to share some take-aways from that work.
In a 360° video the viewers will be standing in the middle of your virtual (video) sphere, so we should make sure that there are things happening all around them in order to encourage them to turn and engage in the action. To achieve this I find it helpful to think of shooting 360° video as of shooting a photo with a very wide angled lens rather than a film. When I make a normal video I can look at a scene from many angles and cut it together in the editing room. When I shoot 360° video, however, I’m in search of that one single place right in the action that captures it all, which is much more like taking one photo rather than shooting video.
Also when shooting normal video the camera will often be placed at eye level. But in order to have more movement in the upper half of the sphere in 360° video, we often have to place the camera lower so that for instance people are reaching over the camera and thus give the viewer an arm to follow. And last but not least: due to the extremely wide angled lenses anything that happens further away than a good arm’s length will no longer be perceived by the viewer as being »in the action«. So for the viewer to be able to fully engage, you have to crawl right into the scene and basically place the camera in everyone’s line of action.
When you are in everybody’s way you are in the right place.

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