4 Reflections on 360 Filmmaking

Raw shots from the Ricoh Theta S. Left-Right (Me, friend Heather).

1. The Art of the Accident

We’re used to composing shots: aligning objects and subjects just so. But with 360 video, everything is in the frame — which means there’s nearly always something you’ve missed and that will surprise you when you replay your footage. I think that some of the most intriguing work that will emerge during the next few months will explore what it means to lose control of the frame.

Compared with the rigorously composed, filtered, and unedited shots that make up most peoples’ Instagram feeds, 360 video will be a delightful departure that makes room for the unexpected and the accidental. No doubt we’ll see a fair amount of clickbait (‘You won’t believe what happens when you turn around ….’), but I think we’ll be in for a treat once 360 video makers begin capturing moments that take even them by surprise.

2. Group Interactions were made for 360

If the selfie represented the triumph of the front-facing mobile phone camera, 360 videography privileges the group interaction. Before experimenting with 360 video filmmaking, I don’t think I realized how many social occasions involve groups of people sitting in a circle around some central activity — drinks, boardgames, good food.

Having brought my Ricoh Theta S everywhere with me over the holiday season I was delighted to watch back footage of happy drunk people gorging turkey (& tofurkey) in 360 degrees. Whilst the occasion of a Christmas dinner is not the type of experience most people associate with 360 video, group dynamics make for wonderful viewing when you have the opportunity to see everybody’s responses to the same event. I’m predicting that a lot of UGC will experiment and explore with groups, and that we’ll see some early professional filmmakers use 360 to chronicle complex family and group situations where the onus is on the viewer to decipher what’s going on under the surface … Think “Festen” in 360.

3. Don’t hide

Some of the earliest writing on 360 filmmaking contained advice on how to ensure that the director and production crew was ‘out of the frame’ — since 360 cameras don’t leave anywhere to hide.

And yet, I personally believe that 360 filmmaking can be at its most compelling when the person calling the shots is in the frame, holding the camera.

With handheld devices like the Ricoh Theta S and Giroptic looking set to lead the market over the next few months, I think that we’ll see that the first popular Pie vloggers are those who learn to embrace the fact that they are always in the shot. I think we’re still waiting for the first 360 stars to emerge, but when they do they’ll almost certainly be charismatic people who can think of clever ways of interacting with their audience whilst holding a camera.

4. Experiment, experiment, experiment

While mobile photography democratized the kind of HD photography already available to professionals with SLRs and Photoshop, 360 video is something new for everyone. For the first time in a while, professional filmmakers and enthusiasts will be on a level playing field and everything will be up for grabs. I’m hoping to see a couple of new directors emerge out of obscurity, and for experimentation to be the name of the game as creators attempt to develop a new visual language for a medium without conventions.

While professional 360 rigs that involve gazillions of GoPros strapped together are clunky and hard to experiment with, the handheld Ricoh Theta S was designed for filmmakers who want to play. Sure, the quality of handheld cameras is not as good, but their tiny size makes them perfect for experimentation. I’ve seen filmmakers put their Ricohs in fridges, handbags, washing machines, on their plates, in their mouths, strapped to helmets, skis, airplanes, dogs, under tables, in manholes, pipes. Who knows what kind of 360 video content will prove most popular, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see filmmakers having more fun and taking more risks than we’ve seen in a while. Here’s hoping.

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