This semester at VR at Berkeley, the Immersive Cinema Team has been producing fun, immersive 360 video content. While we would not call ourselves 360 film experts yet, we have discovered a lot of production tactics for this medium.
When considering framing, we have found it helpful to place the camera close to the action, but at the same time out of the way as to not interfere with props and actors. Typically, we have found that the best camera placement will achieve a specific perspective as the viewer. Also, it is important to be located closer to the action for maximum resolution since 360 cameras only shoot wide angles.
For example, when filming Looking into the Mirror written and directed by Meghedi Gharzarian, camera placement played a key role in directing the action of the scene. The setting for Gharzarian’s film was a black room with one main actor and a few props. The main actor performed in four different positions surrounding the camera, in each position the actor performed different acts that would later be stitched together in post-production to seem as if the actions are happening simultaneously. To take away from this production experience, camera placement is very important because as the viewer of this scene, it is crucial to be able to see all four actions that the actor is performing in order to gain insight into the narrative.
Furthermore, blocking played an essential role in Gharzarian’s film. In production we have found that actors and props should be placed in order of importance; further props and actors are less important to the scene than closer objects. This method of blocking is seen in Gharzarian’s film in two instances, when the actor is pulling the rope to reach his shoe, and when the actor is searching through old letters in the trash can. In both of these cases, the important objects are placed closest to the camera, so the viewer can see up close the objects that hold value to in enhancing the storyline, the shoe at the end of the rope and the burned papers found in the trash can.
During the production process of Gharzarian’s film, we found it important to re-watch the footage as we were done with each take. It is important for the director to watch the take and make sure everything has been captured. Since the shot has a 360 degree view there most likely are gimmicks and other details that might have been missed and could potentially ruin the current narrative. Also, the available commercial 360 cameras out there have their own set of problems such as shutting off from overheating or focusing on the wrong subject in the middle of a take.
To conclude, this semester we have learned a lot regarding the production aspects of 360 film. We cannot wait to keep experimenting with 360 video in upcoming semesters. We are hoping to learn more production tactics and how to overcome production obstacles in upcoming projects.
by Maggie Salerno