For many people, producing 360° video can be a bit of a lark. Just something to stick on Facebook and have your mates gawk at. Never mind the grainy image, or the fact that everyone can see your bald spot because you’re directly underneath the camera.

…and never mind the fact that once your 360° film has been glanced at once, it won’t be given a second thought. But what if you want to do it properly, in a way that offers the viewer something they’ve never experienced? And more importantly, have them coming back, time and time? Key points if you’re using 360° video to sell or promote a product.

So where do we start? At the beginning. Like all filming projects – be that 360° or a traditional 2D film – get things right from the start and the rest is fair easier to manage.

These are our top tips for filming good 360° video:

1 – The viewer sees everything. In 2D video, the camera operator and then the editor controls what the viewer sees through the frame. A story unfolds. Not so with 360° video. The viewer is in control and can easily miss a key part of the action, perhaps because they’re looking over the camera’s shoulder. So you have to shape the narrative to fit the characteristics of an all-round viewing experience.

BT sport industry awards nominee party with Laduma
Laduma VR experience at BT Sport Industry Awards

2 – Remember that bald spot. Many people will set up the camera and leave the frame when recording begins. This is fine and means the entire 360° space is used for production. But what if the sequence requires movement, or the camera needs to be kept stable? Is it okay to have the camera operator as part of the story, to control the flow of events? Again, this highlights the difference to 2D video, where the camera operator is always behind the lens. You have to think fourth dimensionally, to quote Doc Brown. Actually, it’s third dimensionally. The key here is planning. Of course, planning is crucial to any filming project, but in terms of 360° video the fine details even more important.

3 – Time. Once again, this goes back to how 360° video differs from what we’ve seen before. You can’t control how the viewer sees your work, so you can’t control how long they take in exploring each scene. A viewer can be guided by the narrative of course, but they can’t be controlled in the same way as 2D video. This has huge implications for the editing process and sometimes requires a soft-touch approach to clipping rushes.

4 – Follow the eyes. Make sure your camera is positioned in the way a viewers would expect. Sound obvious? Probably, but in 2D video the creative process allows for a much more experimental array of angles, shots and camerawork. In 360° video, the viewer treats the frame as they would their eyes looking around a room in ‘real life’. So yes, they’ll expect to be watching from the average height of a person, as if they were really standing there. A floor-height camera angle might look good and rather creative in traditional video, but through a 3D lens it just appears odd. Naturally enough this limits the way a video can be filmed, but it remains crucial to retaining a sense of reality for the viewer.

Laduma team on location during a VR shoot

5 – Image quality. 360° rigs have different characteristics to so-called ‘flat’ cameras and as such, the quality of an image on the screen is different. Not worse, or better, just different. Here at Laduma we have invested in some incredible 360 camera technology, but the final product will always be distinctive. That’s the nature – or should I say beauty – of good 360 video.

So what do the experts believe? Key staff at Laduma have their say:

Ben Smith, CEO of Laduma, says: “Ensure you don’t just rely on the fact that it’s new and it’s Virtual Reality to hold attention. It has to be able to tell a story, just like you would with any other piece of content…. Storytelling is one thing we put at the forefront of everything we do.”

James Hay, VR Producer at Laduma, says: “One of the big things when it comes to VR production is pre-production. That’s creating the storyboard, getting everything laid out, having a clear direction on where you want to go, the message you want to convey and the execution of that message.”

Alex Kunawicz, VP of Strategy at Laduma, says: “It comes to down to why is this piece in VR? Would it work better as a traditional piece of film?… there has to be a very good reason why something is going to be in VR.”

Skyler Baird, Lead VR Producer at Laduma, says: “Whatever environment you’re looking for, you need to make sure the whole sphere is interacting in the way that you want it to… it’s harder to hide things like camera operators, it’s harder to hide producers and its harder to hide lighting equipment. So you definitely need to work with you environment as best as possible.”

A wrap-around image has the ability to take viewers far closer into a story than ever before. It’s immersive, it’s creative and overall it extends understand of a subject far beyond what 2D video can offer.

Do it properly and you might even get rid of that bald spot.