The idea factory: “We tested a 360° camera shooting”

9 November 2018. Published by Benoît Labourdette.

Article on thethe blog of the Canope Media Library about a virtual reality filmmaking workshop led by Benoît Labourdette.

We tested a 360° camera shooting - The idea factory

We tested a 360-degree camera shooting

NUMOK, the digital festival of Parisian libraries, it’s a good opportunity to see what’s happening in our neighbors, to discover new tools and meet great people.

So we went to participate in the creation of a film in Virtual Reality, with a 360° camera. The workshop took place at the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris (Bhvp) and was moderated by Benoît Labourdette, filmmaker and new media expert.

The context

The images were taken in the evening (i.e. at night for the outdoors) at the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris (Bhvp). We had the library just for us, because we filmed after closing time to the public.

The technique

How did we do it (this is the technical part of the article)?

We used a 360° camera: it has two “fish eye” lenses, each filming at 180°. The camera therefore simultaneously films what is in front of it and what is behind it. After processing the images in an editing software, it is possible to “merge” the film of each lens to obtain a 360° video.

After this quick technical training on the simple operation of the 360° camera, we immediately moved on to the first shooting tests. Each of the 8 participants filmed a sequence of their choice, giving free rein to their creativity: shooting by climbing the stairs, rotating around the fixed camera, carrying the camera on their head, passing through doors, moving but only filming the beams of the library ceiling, running (without saving themselves) camera by hand....

If these shots did not have a defined framework or objectives, the discovery and the playful aspect of filming “differently” helped us to quickly realize what was possible to do, and especially what was possible AND pleasant to watch. Because the best way to enjoy a virtual reality video is to watch it with a suitable headset - but you must not lose sight of the fact that wearing a virtual reality headset to dive into 360° action can be a very positive experience, but that the inner ear has a limited tolerance for certain things; hence, sometimes, some vertigo. This explains why the sequence filmed while running was not retained in the final version of the film....

Based on the viewing of the test sequences, we decided what we wanted to see in the final film. We then established a scenario and distributed the roles of each one at each moment. Each idea added to the script had to be reflected in the distribution and logistics during the shooting (who does what, when, on the screen and behind the scenes, so that everything was in the right place) and vice versa.

From the beginning we had chosen to shoot a film in a sequence shot - that is, shot at once, without interruption - which has the advantage of not requiring editing in post-production, but which requires more rigour in organization, each of the actors and elements of the film having to be in place at the right time, which transforms the image taking into a real choreography, in space and in time.

After two unsatisfactory shots - the camera was accidentally turned off during the second shot (perhaps during a handover, or during a manipulation), the third was the right one. We had our first 360° film.

Curious to discover the result? This video can then be viewed in a Virtual Reality headset, but not only:

Binocular 360 camera : 2 discs each corresponding to one of the 2 camera lenses ; left the camera lens ; right, the front camera lens). The camera is held in front of the person appearing on the screen. What is in front of the 360 camera is in the right disc; what is behind the camera is in the left disc.

360 planisphere camera : after processing in a software program, the 2 180° videos (each corresponding to one of the 2 camera lenses: front and rear) are combined into a single 360° video. In the screenshot, the front lens of the camera is in the center; the rear lens is on the side edges of the image. The principle is the same as that used to represent the globe as a planisphere: 2 images (in the form of 2 discs) are combined into a single image that will be “projected” onto a flat surface (hence its name: planisphere).

This 360° video can be viewed in Youtube without a virtual reality headset. To move your mink field in the environment 360°, click (with the mouse). The video continues to unfold, while we watch all around. Don’t worry, it’s intuitive and you get used to it very quickly.

All presumption kept, we are still very proud of the result. But more than the fact of having participated in the creation of our first film in Virtual Reality, we left enchanted by the group experience and the very free creative dimension that a 360° camera allows. And if when we return home in the night, our eyes were filled with stars (we hardly exaggerate), it was also thinking about the future workshops that we will organize at the Canopy Media Library in the coming months. The camera is ordered (we are waiting for it to arrive soon) and the ideas are already flowing.

Anyway, we’re really looking forward to it. And you?

PS : Huge thanks to Benoît Labourdette for guiding us on the path of discovery and fun. Many thanks to all the participants of this workshop, fellow travellers and creators on this path. Good to see you.

Practical details

  • Number of participants: 8
  • Duration of the session: 3 hours
  • Equipment: a 360° camera; a VR helmet; a laptop computer with good software (it may depend on the model of 360° camera), papers and markers for opening and closing credits, snacks and drinks to maintain creativity.
  • You know what you have to do!