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Virtual reality filmmaking

By Ash Ogden

It's the mid-point of the so-called 'the year of virtual reality', and 360' filmmaking looks like it's here to stay. Samsung's Gear VR has allowed people to dabble in virtual reality at the right price-point, and now the concept has pretty much been proven.

It’s the mid-point of the so-called ‘the year of virtual reality’, and 360′ filmmaking looks like it’s here to stay. Samsung’s Gear VR has allowed people to dabble in virtual reality at the right price-point, and now the concept has pretty much been proven.

Now that the first wave has hit, how will filmmakers and visual artists take the format to the next level? And how can it be used by brands to convert what they have to say into a visceral experience? In theory, so far, 360° videos fall into several conceptual formats, but the possibilities are rapidly multiplying. To make a start with 360° video, the key is to identifying exactly how virtual reality is relevant to your message and how it can bolster the experience you want to give your customers.

To start with, here are two good reasons for using 360° video:

1. Exploration – Luxurious remote islands, skydives, levitation, jet-fighter cockpits. Use number one of VR video is to take people somewhere they cannot normally go. Traditional filmmaking is an invitation to transport yourself to another place and time, but VR ups the ante by allowing you to choose where you look and explore freely. This option is particularly relevant if your business is related to any exotic and out-of-bounds locations, and is favoured by newspapers, travel and extreme sport brands.

2. Agency – VR videos give agency to the viewer, or at least, the illusion of agency. Virtual Reality places you in the action, and challenges your perception – Are you looking the right way? Did you notice that? Where did that noise come from? Since VR has a selective field of vision, there is always the promise of noticing small details, and equally, of missing them. As well as introducing a challenge, this also makes them prime for re-watching. This application has been pioneered by movie campaigns and YouTube filmmakers.

Our Experience
In a recent Omobono 360° shoot, we decided to embrace this second approach. Creating a series of three dramatic scenarios, we challenged viewers to spot financial risks in different environments. This was new territory, and was essentially filming a type of immersive theatre, with the audience in-the-round. Actors carry out a scenario around you, and you are invited to try and notice certain little details. Who is lying? What are they doing over there? Did you see that gesture?

We pulled some formal tricks out of the bag to help get the audience immersed further, with actors breaking the forth-wall to talk to the camera and looking you straight in the eye. While others distract the camera away from the action at key points. The ultimate goal is to stretch the virtual reality format to make it a game: suggesting where the viewer should look, while rewarding exploration at the same time.

There is much new ground to tread in 360° video production, with plenty of techniques and genre combinations to experiment with. In this case, we were aiming to communicate the complex nuances of financial regulation in relatable, immersive scenarios. Finding these new combinations, where the strengths of the format perfectly complement your subject-matter, is what will make 360° video an intriguing format in the year ahead.

Virtual reality filmmaking

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