Why create VR?

Before we get into the technical aspects of 360 video,  I want to contemplate for a minute- why create in this medium?

Before going into any big project or endeavor, it’s worth thinking about why you’re doing it. And for me, personally, I’m interested in VR because it’s a frontier. It’s a relatively new medium- piece of VR have been around for some decades, but nothing has ever come close to the amount of VR that’s accessible to people around the world, and will continue to expand rapidly. It’s very interesting because it’s this frontier of media. Film has been around for 100 years. Photos have been around for 200 or whatever. Printing press has been around for 500 years. VR is really new, so people haven’t figured it out yet- to me, that’s what’s really interesting. 

That also goes hand in hand with the other really really powerful thing about VR, is that it is one of- if not the- most immersive medium that humanity has ever created. Now, I would caution against correlating “immersive’ with “impactful” or “evocative” or “thought provoking’ or “powerful” as other media, like great literature or great movies, or an impassioned speech. 

But we don’t know that VR can’t have the same impact as those other types of media. And in fact, I think it has the potential to be viewed on the same level as those other media, as a legitimate outlet for human communication. But this is all new, nobody’s figured it out yet, it’s a work in progress.

One other thing I want to talk about it- that’s our big picture backdrop, but another thing to contemplate is, as with any new technology, we have to figure out how to incorporate it into our society. And how is it a technology that’s net positive, that promotes the values we want to promote as a society? So using this new technology appropriately. And humans have obviously had a very mixed back with technology, and there’s no reason to think VR will be any different. There’s gonna be some great things about it, there’s gonna be some terrible things about it, and our goal, our job, as VR content creators and proselytizers of the medium potentially, is to make sure as much good comes out of this powerful technology as possible, and we don’t end up in a world of troll hounded, VR porn viewing addicts, that the couch potato that’s watching TV doesn’t become a VR potato, but in reality no one knows how all this is going to play out. So the best thing we can do in my opinion is to try and facilitate the most compelling uses of VR for human benefit. And it’s up to you what you view as that benefit- it’s just another communication medium- but I would hope that you think about this as you go to create your first VR project- is this going to help make the world a better place?  Or are you just going to create VR porn? Which is fine, but do something else too- something meaningful.

And I would love feedback on how, together, we can make these virtual worlds that we’re guiding people through, worlds that broaden people’s perspectives. I think that’s one of the great amazing things about media is that you get a new perspective on life. VR enables you to experience someone else’s perspective almost as if it was your own. It lets you recall past experiences you had in the most realistic way that humans have ever devised, which is a pretty powerful thing. 

But it also has the potential to harm. So do good instead. 

Every single person who sits down to watch 30 seconds or 2 minutes or 5 minutes or even your 30 minute long opus, your virtual reality opus, they’re giving one of the most valuable gifts that anyone can part with in 2017, your attention. So be courteous, be cognizant of the fact that they’re giving their attention to you for that short amount of time. And in return, you’re giving them an experience. Hopefully a well thought out, beautiful, horrifying, magical, moving experience. So you’re being given a gift, and that gift is an opportunity for you to broaden someone’s perspective on this planet. Maybe by the time you’re reading this, a different planet. So be grateful for that opportunity, and be mindful of the fact that if you produce even a very short but well thought out piece, that is going to be a better thing for the planet, for humanity, than a bunch of garbage that you put out because it’s 360 and it looks cool.

So something to consider. I’m still working on this all the time, no one ever has it figured out, and I’m looking forward to seeing the good work!

Resolution in 360 and VR

Resolution in VR is different than for standard video.


Footage from 4k cameras looks stunning but when people see 4k 360 footage they are often confused about why it doesn’t look as sharp or as clear as they were expecting. The answer is simple when viewing a 360 photo of video you are seeing a limited piece of the image. Your field of view is in effect cropping in making the effective resolution much lower. To get the same quality of video as 2d 4k you would need 4k for EACH field of view possible. With an optimal field of view that would come out to needing a 12k video to achieve a similar quality to 2d 4k.  With an Occulus Rift’s fielded of view 4k video comes out to about 910x510 definitely not as high quality as 4k! To even achieve just standard 1080 quality we would need to be shooting at somewhere around 8600x4536 well over 8k.



Here are a few tips that will help with making your video or photo still look great:


1.    Make sure to color correct your video. Many 360 videos these days are not being color corrected. This step is essential to any high quality media and is especially important to make current 360 videos immersive.


2.    Choose subjects that the details aren’t essential. Large landscapes where a viewer can see the scale and the awe are powerful whereas trying to have someone read lots of text would be challenging.



3.    Try taking photos many 360 cameras are capable of taking much higher resolution photos. It is also possible to stich photos from your phone or dslr and achieve great results  


4.    Make sure to shoot the highest resolution you can! Even though that will most likely be between 4-5k right now it will still be far superior to shooting in hd or 2K !


Resolution isn’t everything and the added sense of immersion and presence that 360 can create is still a valuable tool for any creator especially if it is used for the right types of subjects. Creating content that allows viewers to experience a new place or event is an exciting possibility, and while the hardware and software is still in its infancy we can all be expecting to see more 360 media in the near future.  

360 Photos

360 video is awesome, but some of the limitations make the end result lower quality than some people want. Without breaking the bank, 360 photos are a great way to still create content that transports people to a place.

One of the main advantages of 360 photos is that you can achieve much higher resolution than is currently possible with video. Another advantage to 360 photos is you can do them with any camera you have. There are awesome apps and built in options to take 360 photos from your phone or you can even take photos in every direction with your DSLR or other camera and stich them into a 360 image.

Make sure that you don’t have anything too close to the camera.
If there are objects to close to the camera the different perspective from one photo to the next will make for blurry parts of your photo or even places that can’t stich at all. These are known as parallax issues. I like to try and keep thing at least threeish feet away from the camera which makes for a more comfortable viewing experience as well. 

Keep your settings the same.
Normally you want to try and take an ideal exposure for each photo but for 360 photos if you aren’t using a purpose built camera or an app make sure to set everything manually and don’t change it between frames. Any changes will make stitching more challenging and make and stich lines much worse.

Avoid having too many moving elements.
When taking 360 every direction will end up in your final photo, this can be awesome if you have purpose build 360 camera like the gear 360, but can cause major issues to the end result if you are taking a bunch of separate photos and stitching them together.

360 photos are a really exciting new way to share places and events that fully immerse your viewer in a place. As a photographer it has been really exciting exploring 360 photos and challenging myself to capture ideal spots.  

Check out our video about 360 videos as well!