How your brand can get started with Virtual Reality and 360º Content
Firstly, what is 360º Content?
360º content can come in the form of videos or stills. These 2 forms are shot using an omnidirectional camera (360º camera) and produces an experience which allows the viewer to be immersed in any real environment. They can look around their device screen in a 360 degrees direction or they can view it in a VR headset and be transported into that world.
Whether you’re trying to promote your brand, your company or just want to tell a story through virtual reality (VR), it’s easier than you think. Using this format is now more accessible, scalable, affordable and useable.
Here’s some quick tips to get you started.
1. What is your purpose? Think about
- What story do you want to tell and will it be better viewed in VR or 360?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will you build this experience?
- What interactions will you include?
- How will your audience view this experience?
- How will you distribute and promote it?
2. Plan your experience:
- Work out how many scenes will be in your experience, the shoot location and duration per scene.
- Research the right platform to build and publish your experience. I recommend VRTY (vrty.io) for an easy to use VR platform which can create an immersive VR 360º interactive experience.
- How will your audience view your experience? There are many affordable options like Google Cardboards which can do a lot but only cost a little. More expensive options include Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream and offer a higher quality experience. Alternatively, audiences can view VR on any device (mobile, tablet and desktop).
- Create your storyboard. Break out each scene. This immersive format means that you can break from the traditions on a linear story narrative with close-ups and cutaways and bring in a choose-your-own-adventure branch narrative approach.
- Consider what interactions will be in each scene and add them to your storyboard. Interactions, triggered by markers, can be educational popups which help create a more informative experience. This shifts the experience from being passive viewing to active viewing. Content can be more discoverable, gamified, exploratory, engaging and relevant to the viewer.
- Will there be dialogue, a voice over or background music for a more comprehensive experience.
- Pro tip: Always consider the duration and movement of the scene may cause motion sickness in some audiences. I find shooting a 360º video from a centre point of your environment with no camera movement minimises motion sickness. It also helps for the duration of each scene to be no longer than 2 minutes. It’s also important to not complicate the experience. Too many interactions and scenes can confuse or frustrate the viewer and make the viewer feel like it’s too hard to continue.
3. Filming and audio recording:
- Based on your budget and resources you can shoot your own footage or use a VR production company/resource.
- To ensure the right point-of-view and field-of-view is produced for the experience take at least 2-3 shots of each scene from different perspectives.
- When filming in 360º there is no behind the camera. If you don’t want to be in the shot, then you’ll need to go and hide from view.
- Record your dialogue or voice over if required. Select background audio if required.
- Pro tip: Try to imagine that the 360º camera is a person’s head. The position of the camera is what your viewer will see when they jump into your experience. Think about where the tripod is located, is that where your viewer wants to stand? Is it the right height?
- Select your final shots from the filming session. If you are doing this yourself ensure you use your cameras viewing software that should come standard with all cameras.
- Stitch your selected footage. This is a slow process so you need to first consider how it will be viewed to determine the resolution. The resolution will be determined by the platform or device it will be viewed on. I suggest 4k or 8k. Obviously the higher the resolution the better the quality but some platforms and devices can’t view high resolution footage. You can also consider stitching at the highest resolution and then downscale based on viewing requirements. I recommend you use your cameras stitching software for stitching and resolution.
- Design and create your interaction assets and gaze markers. This is where you can have fun, be as creative as you want and add the interactive elements to your experience. Your interactive assets and markers can be animated gifs, jpegs, static icons or video and much more. The more creative you are the better the interactive experience is for the viewer. Your interactions will also add the informative elements you require to promote your brand or company within your experience. The VRTY platform has an easy to use intuitive interface that allows you to add all these elements with ease.
- Footage post-production. There are many variables that will determine the level of post-production, these include flat colours, poor lighting and poor sound quality.
Software I use:
– Video editing: Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro.
– Still shots/photography: Photoshop.
– Audio: Adobe Audition and Logic Pro
If you are doing the post-production yourself and don’t have any of the above there are many free online options you can use but the level of post-production capabilities may not be as high level.
- Pro tip: There are many ways to streamline your post-production process as it can be time consuming.
- Use the 360º cameras pre-shoot adjustable settings found either on the camera or the cameras software installed on your portable camera viewer or computer. This is where you can adjust curves, brightness, contrast, white balance, colour settings etc. all prior to shooting dependant on the camera and software capabilities. You may still need to make some post production adjustments but this should be minimal. The 5 minutes you spend adjusting settings prior to shooting could save you hours in post production.
- The 360º camera will also have stitching software for your computer. Dependant on the camera this software should have pre-stitch adjustable settings that also include the above-mentioned settings.
- If you’re editing on your own make sure you have the right PC. Your PC’s hardware specs will play a big part on editing time and speed. If your PC’s hardware isn’t VR capable then it will be extremely slow in editing VR footage as the file sizes are quite large. Research the capabilities of your current PC prior to deciding to take on the task on your own or reach out to a VR production company to do all the post for you. It will save you a lot of frustration in the long run.
- Now that you have all the content, you are ready to build your experience.
- If you want to build a linear storyline, similar to a traditional video but with the added ability for the viewer to look around, then you can build using video editing software like Adobe Premier Pro or Final Cut Pro with simple transitions between scenes. Many of the popular software programs are adding in more and more 360 functionality and features. This format also works best in most social media platforms.
- To build a non-linear choose-your-own-adventure experience, then you’ll need to look at a more sophisticated software platform (like vrty.io). This platform will make it extremely easy to build your project with all the interactions your experience needs including the portal capabilities to take the viewer from one scene to the next.
- Add your interactions and audio. You want your audience to be immersed within this experience. Trigger their senses by spreading out the interactions throughout the whole environment. For a more realistic experience use the VRTY platform to enhance the audio to 360º spatial audio. This will make the viewer feel like they are transported into that world by seeing and hearing everything around them.
- Pro tip: Follow the K.I.S.S. principles (Keep It Simple Stupid). Don’t complicate your interactions or journey. Be smart about interaction placement and the detail of your content. Your viewer doesn’t want to work hard during their experience, they want to enjoy it and feel excited.
6. Viewer experience and publishing:
- Now you are ready to publish your VR/360º experience for all to see. You’ll need to think about how your viewing audience can see your project.
- The most popular 360º viewing platform is YouTube. By uploading your content to the platform, viewers can view it in 360º or in VR via their mobile app. The experience will be passive; however, you have the searchability and ease of a popular content sharing platform.
- For a more customised or tailored viewing experience, using a VR content hosting platform (like vrty.io) you can publish your interactive VR/360º experience via a weblink, streamer box or app which can be viewed on any device (mobile, tablet and desktop) for your audience. The experience will be interactive and can also be integrated with other platforms like CRMs, LMS, email, SMS, embedded in websites and shared through social media channels.
There are so many ways to tell a story or promote a brand and product through VR. It is different from traditional media and sometimes can be hard to know where to start, but with the right advice and guidance you can create an amazing VR 360º experience. Talk to us at Now Comms Group. We have end-to-end consulting, creative, production and technical capabilities and can help you create a truly amazing VR 360º experience.