Lessons From a VR Shoot: Part 1 The Practical

Recently we had the opportunity to shoot an MLS game between the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy. We brought two VR rigs with us, the Freedom 360 and the Izugar 3d360. We shot some drone footage of the empty stadium, the players warming up and then a good portion of the game.

Let’s break the experience into three different posts. The first will deal with the practicalities of doing an intense, doc-style VR shoot. The second will deal with the shots we did and how the VR cameras performed. The third and final will deal with Post Production work flow.

Part 1: The Practical.

To be honest we felt like rookies straight out of film school on this shoot. Part of it was the excitement of shooting new stuff and a lot was the fear that you were going to screw it all up. At the end of the day the most stressful part was not composing shots but just dealing with all the Assistant Camera and Assistant Editing work that went into the shoot. Here are our takeaways …

1. Get an AC on the set. At the very least to double check that all the cameras are rolling. We eventually established a routine with my AC in which we would call out which cameras were rolling and the AC would double check and respond “rolling.” Go-Pros often seem to have a mind of their own, rolling with the slightest tough or shutting down with the slightest touch. You must be diligent! And yes, cutting them all is equally important. We forgot to cut one camera and it ate into our cards and batts. Remember if one go-pro goes, they all go.

2. Charging the Freedom 360 is a nightmare. As all the Go-Pro’s on the Freedom 360 are screwed snugly into the mount the easiest way to charge it is with the USB cables. But, as we realized an hour into the shoot, if you have to charge the batteries this means the camera is out of commission since it’s plugged into the wall. Big problem! Luckily we had the Izugar standing by so we were still able to roll. Next time we are going to bring 2 Freedom 360’s so one can always be charging.

3. Don’t hand hold the camera unless you have a stabilizer attached to it.

4. We found ourselves shooting unusually long takes as we would wait for people to clear the stitch lines. We would also move the camera and set up a new shot without cutting. (It’s a pain to shut and then start 6 cameras) adding to the length of shots. It would have been great if we had kept an old fashioned AC log that recorded the time (Go-Pro’s have not TC so the time stamp is the best you’ll get) and the various shots within each take. More on this in the post-production log.

5. Make sure each of your cameras is labeled exactly the same as the card inside of it.

6. It changed from day to night when we shot and we had to switch color temps and ISO on all of the cameras. This was a long task as we not only had to do it on 12 cameras but had to double check them all. (Repeat after me “if one go pro is useless then they’re all useless”). Remember to allocate enough time for any setting changes.

These elements may seem trivial in comparison to some of the larger VR questions, but anyone who’s been on a set knows that a clean, thought out production, with no hiccups is the backbone of any creative environment. There’s no point in discussing the stitch lines of the Freedom 360 at five feet if the camera was out of commission due to dead batteries.

Stay tuned for Part 2 as we are heading to Siberia for a shoot!