A still from a project I did on homeLA. http://www.vrideo.com/watch/bmwXqG2C

How to shoot, stitch and edit a 360º film

Here’s what you’ll need to know. (It’s easier than you think).

Production tools

6 GoPros (Hero 3+ preferred. We’ve found that they’re cheaper and overheat less)

6 — Camera Rig (We prefer this one over this, because there’s no screws involved)

6–64GB MicroSD Ultra Cards

Tripod (we like this one from Manfrotto) and a rig stand to raise the rig so that it can be mounted onto the tripod.

Gear total: about $2,600

Autopano Video + Autopano Giga ~$900

I also reccommend a Zoom or Marantz to record external audio since the GoPro audio is pretty much indecipherable. I use Plural Eyes to sync all the tracks together.

Production Guidelines

  1. Clap and spin your cameras at the beginning of your shot to make sure that you can motion or audio-sync your video shots in Autopano (one of the industry-standard tools for video stitching; free demos that stitch 30 seconds of video at a time are available here.)
  2. Basic guidelines for shooting with GoPros. Make sure you turn on and press record on all cameras. It’s easy to forget pressing one of the cameras and ending up with a useless shot.
  3. Avoid moving the camera (use a tripod). Shoot your subject with at least one camera pointing towards your subject if possible and keep your subject and other objects at least five feet away from the tripod to avoid ghosting.
  4. Keep shots less than 10 minutes because the camera will automatically cut the file for you and create a new file for that same shot, making file management more difficult than it already is. You’ll have two or more video files for one take. This happens because files have to be less than 4GB on FAT32 cards.
  5. Avoid shooting in low light. GoPro lenses aren’t bright enough and things tend to get grainy. Worse, Autopano will have a hard time detecting control points when the image is poor.
  6. Here are the GoPro settings we’ve found work best for us for the 10-cam rig if you use that and below for the 6-cam rig.
For a 10 -cam rig
For the 6-cam rig

Post-production

  1. Ingesting: If you’ve done things right, you should have a video file for each take on each card of your camera. Let’s say you pressed record 4 times making 4 takes across your 6 cards. Copy the files over to your computer and then manage the files. Right now the 4 takes are split up across 6 cards. They are organized by camera. We need to organize them by take so that you can grab the 6 files for each angle and drag it at once into Autopano Video.
  2. Make 4 folders for each take and move the first file on each camera into the first folder. Do the same for the second, third and fourth. Before you had 6 folders with 4 files. Now you should have 4 folders with 6 files each. If you get tired of this, 360 Cam Man is a relatively glitchy, but functional piece of software that can sort your files for you. It tends to mess up when you have a different number of takes on each camera (if you accidentally press record on one camera).
  3. Drag the 6 files into Autopano Video. Set your playhead on the timeline as close as possible to where you’ve clapped/spun the camera. Sync either by Motion or by Audio. I tend to find audio works best, but if you’re in a noisy environment (or if you forget to slate or clap), go with motion. Once you get a tables, click the ‘Stitch as GoPro’ button.
  1. To troubleshoot something that isn’t stitching correctly 1)Make sure you’re clicking Stitch with the option to “use current selection” and not “current position” 2) Make sure the time sync is as accurate as possible. Do your motion/audio sync as close as possible on the timeline to where you’ve clapped or spun the camrea. 3) Try moving the playhead to different parts of the timeline and stitching from there. Sometimes certain frames are better to stitch from than others, i.e. stable shots with no movement or no people in them.
  2. To edit the panorama preview, you can click on the timeline to find an image within your video to edit as a reference point. Clicking the edit button will take you to Autopano Giga, the panorama image editing software.
  3. For starters, use the “Move” tool to fix the horizon and straighten it out; click on the AUTO button to color correct; use the “Mask” tool to prioritize certain cameras to fix ghosting.
  1. You can also use the move tool to manually move individual video feeds in the case that Autopano’s auto-stitch could use some help.
  2. Render as 4096 by 2048, 30 FPS. Here’s a pretty good overview from Autopano that lets you see steps 3–5:
  1. Edit the exported mp4 files in Premiere or Final Cut as you would a normal video file. If you use any text, then play with the size and placement to avoid distortion. If you upload to Vrideo to share it, you can also change the orientation (where the video will be angled and centered at).
  2. Tweet short questions @kevintsukii or email me at kevin@vrideo.com if you have any questions about the process and I’ll do my best to help! Let me know if you think there’s something I missed. Thanks!

I’m a journalist and a production specialist at Vrideo, a distribution platform for immersive content. Check out some of out user generated videos here for inspiration.