The Role of the VR video ‘Stitchmaster’

The role of Stitchmaster is vital to any project involving 360 degree video. For clarification, we are referring to “live action” or traditional footage, as opposed to computer generated 3D graphics in which a computer program is used to render cut scenes. You might think of the Stitchmaster as analogous to the member of your team concerned with practical special effects, as opposed to the member of your team concerned with CGI. This is not to say there is no overlap between the two roles, as the footage the Stitchmaster works with can and most likely will be modified in any number of ways both before and after his stitching is complete.

The Stitchmaster generally has a number of responsibilities. The complexities of shooting 360 degree video are numerous, and are only multiplied by the number of cameras mounted in the rig used for shooting. Traditional video shoots can, and in fact many do, use multiple cameras; however, they are still shot and presented in 2D. A helpful analogy would be to think of the Stitchmaster as a stage manager who has to worry not only about the stage viewed by the audience, but also about everything happening in the wings, on the ceiling, and on the floor, as well as the audience themselves.

As such, many methods traditionally used in video shoots need to be either rethought or thrown out entirely. Everyone and everything to the “side” or “behind” the camera is completely visible. Lighting and sound systems are equally visible. The director is visible. And this is only taking into account the factors controlled (so much as they can be) by the production team. For example, in an outdoor scene a stray bird, random passerby, or any other unforeseen factor can break immersion. Indoor considerations are equally as important; for instance, the traditional sitcom three wall shot creates obvious complications, overhead lighting will tend to overexpose certain cameras and not others, etc.

This is not to say these problems are insurmountable. The Stitchmaster is the individual who has been selected to overcome the practical concerns described above, and so from the very beginning must carefully plan any shoot well in advance of receiving and processing footage for the stitching process itself.

Once the footage is in hand, the Stitchmaster must create the directory structure for the files: a challenge in and of itself. Typical shoots can easily have several hundred files of raw footage before any post production even comes into play. The stitching process itself will produce even more files, spanning multiple programs all of which by default want to place their working files in different places.

Due to these complexities, strong organizational skills and best practices are indispensable for any Stitchmaster. Patience is another key attribute. Adjusting the stitch lines, waiting sometimes hours for renders to finish, or even trying to explain the practical implications of the process to those who are unfamiliar with it takes time and endurance. A Stitchmaster who possesses these qualities will be a crucial part of any production.