Ten tips for getting started with 360-video journalism

A list of simple tips and mistakes to avoid, to help you when shooting a video in 360 degrees for the first time.

In November 2017, the European Forest Institute (EFI) and the Global Editors Network (GEN) announced Lookout360°, a six-month climate change immersive story accelerator, as the pilot project of the Lookout Station. This new initiative by EFI offers a space to connect journalism and science communities for climate change digital storytelling. After receiving 280 applications from 88 countries, twelve journalists were selected early January 2018 to participate.

The participants of the Lookout360° first class are now deep in the production of their 360-video stories. A few weeks ago, the twelve journalists attended a two-day bootcamp in the north of Finland, as the first part of the accelerator programme, with the opportunity to produce their first immersive story there.

During this bootcamp, they gathered knowledge about the arctic forest ecosystem, and discussed with locals on the climate change impacts on the Sámi population.

They also received a training session on 360-video shooting from Jean-Yves and Carole Chainon (from the JYC production company), and had the chance to experiment right away, using cameras provided by Insta360, while visiting a reindeer herding station in Nellim, Finland.

The Lookout360° participants, learning about 360-video filming, during the 2-day bootcamp in Lapland — Learn more

From this hands-on tutorial (or rather gloves-on), this is what we got in terms of tips, tricks, and how-tos when it comes to filming in 360° for the first time.

If you too want to start shooting your first 360-degree video, here are ten simple tips for you:

1. Place the camera where you want the viewers to ‘have their heads’

For a better immersive experience, the viewers must feel like what the camera is recording could be their own sight. The camera must therefore be placed at ‘normal’ height, in an expected place (where someone could actually stand in real life), and try to keep the motion always in the same general direction.

2. Give viewers some time to look around and orient themselves

When it comes to the length of each cut keep in mind that viewers are still not perfectly ‘fluent’ in 360-video: They may need a few extra seconds on each shot to appreciate the whole view and figure out what is going on.

3. Anticipate the viewer’s gaze

For a new shot, try to place the camera where you think the viewers will look: It will make the viewing experience feel more natural and more immersive.

4. Regular video transitions don’t work

Most of the transitions we are used to on traditional video (rectangular, flat shape) do not work on the sphere that is a 360-degree video. The most comfortable transitions are fade-ins and fade-outs.

5. Motion sickness can be avoided with a simple trick

Some users may experience motion sickness when watching a 360-degree video, especially while wearing a headset. Usually, this sickness is caused by a low frame rate on the video, creating an uncomfortable delay between head movements and the expected camera movement. If possible, it is better to use the highest frame rate available on your camera.

6. Stabilise the shots

Gimbal stabiliser on a DLSR camera

If you are shooting while moving, make sure the horizon line doesn’t wobble too much, as it can create motion sickness for the viewers.

Use gimbals when filming if you can. If you don’t have access to one in your newsroom, hold the camera using your arm as a natural stabiliser.

7. Hide yourself (or not)

360-videos are very transparent and can provide, to a certain extent, a lot of context for the viewer (during a demonstration for instance, where the viewer is more certain that no tricks are played with the framing of the shot).

Sometimes it can be better to see the journalist holding the camera (more realistic), but sometimes you may prefer to let the images speak for themselves, without the distraction of the reporter on the scene. In that case, you can hold the camera and stay in the nadir (the direction toward the center of the Earth, opposite to the zenith: meaning the ‘bottom’ of the 360-degree sphere), which you can hide easily post-production without ruining the viewing experience.

In this example, the BBC kept the camera person in the shot

8. Something has to be happening

Viewers want to look around and they expect to have something to see. Let it be the actions of a protagonist, a nice view, or access to an usual scene. Even an immersive video can be boring if you are not careful.

360° Baby Pandas | Nat Geo WILD

9. Use smart subtitles

If you have subtitles in your video, use sticky ones. Don’t bake them into the video or you will make it hard for your viewers to look around and read at the same time, use classic .srt files. Words are also easier to read when they are ‘flat’ and do not follow the curve of the sphere.

10. Use smart overlays

A 360° video can be overwhelming and complex to view in its entirety. To make sure the viewers are getting most of the information you want to share, using post-production overlays could be the smart thing to do. It can be used to point at what to watch, or simply use the bigger canvas to include extra-bits of information.

Shooting is only the first part of a story, the bootcamp was only the first chapter of the Lookout360° accelerator programme. Over the coming weeks, our participants are entitled to several sessions of mentorship, hosted by experts in science, immersive journalism, 360-video, etc.

At the end of the programme, the best 360-video projects will be presented at the GEN Summit 2018 in Lisbon.

About Lookout360°

The pilot project of the European Forest Institute’s Lookout Station, Lookout360°, focuses on 360° videos and climate change. This Climate Change Immersive Story Accelerator organised by the Global Editors Network (GEN) and the European Forest Institute (EFI), is being built for journalists who are eager to get started with immersive stories on climate change.

Read more about the Lookout360° programme:

Participants are

Olga Dobrovidova, TASS (Russia), Pablo Leòn Sanchez, El País (Spain), Lucy Sherriff, freelancer (Colombia), Rizky Gerilya, de Volkskrant (Netherlands), Ugochi Oluigbo, TVC News (Nigeria), Paavan Mathema, AFP (Nepal), Virve Rissanen, Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), Borut Tavčar, Delo (Slovenia), Qing Wang, Jiemian News (China), Flavia Martins y Miguel, Portal R7 Minas (Brazil), Sonia Narang, Public Radio International (USA), Claudio Accheri, Thompson Reuters (UK).

More about Nicolas Magand.



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