VR Production Workshop for Cinematic VR & 360° Video Production

Written by: Dr. Max Schleser

VR Production Workshop: 360° & 3D Video

Swinburne University of Technology in cooperation with the Mobile Innovation Network & Association (MINA) recently hosted a workshop on accessible cinematic VR & 360˚ video production. The following are insights from that workshop.

Working with Cinematic VR & 360˚ video production means that filmmakers get to explore new filmmaking forms and production formats. In many cases the film makers are creating the workflows and techniques for the first time.

There are many tools used in filmmaking and a crucial piece is the camera. The workshop attendees work with 360˚ 3D cameras, like the HumanEyes Vuze VR camera, to test out concepts, new filmmaking techniques and new distribution environments. During the workshop several industry professionals were invited to discuss the topics and concepts around Cinematic VR & 360° video creation.

The workshop provided an overview of each of the steps in the video creation workflow: from ideation, stitching with the HumanEyes VR Studio, to uploading to YouTube and/or Vimeo. The workshop was a great opportunity to share thoughts, experiences, and best practises around pre-production, production and post-production with Adobe Premiere Pro and Real Space 360 Cinema.

What makes VR storytelling so exciting?

Once you start working with 360° video production and cinematic VR you have to re-think your entire filmmaking process. Traditional single lens camera filmmaking doesn’t apply here, nor even multiple single lens cameras at various angles. Additional planning needs to be done since the crew can’t hide behind the lens. Do you want the crew to be in the 360° frame, if not... how will you hide them? If you do not want to be visible as the filmmaker, you will have to hide somewhere close by so that you still have direction over the shot. The attendees said that they don’t usually want to be in the shot, so the remote-control option on the Vuze VR Camera is used from a convenient hiding place. The mobile app controls the camera over WiFi, giving a pretty good range to control the action. Additionally, do keep in mind that if you use lighting gear or microphones you need to think about where they will go, how viewers may see them if they look around the whole scene, up and down as well.

Sequencing, rhythm and pacing works also works differently. In VR 60-120 seconds is not really a long take. In ‘traditional’ cinema filmmakers use a different approach to engage subjects and locations which needs to be changed for VR.

Overall the VR process is very refreshing and really exciting for filmmakers. The conventions for VR are just taking shape. Innovative work can be seen at film festivals which is a great place to bring awareness to innovative filmmakers. The camera and film concept are very important, just like in traditional filmmaking. The Vuze VR camera for example makes VR film making very accessible. The price point allows for the creation of films without having massive budgets. There are also many great VR cameras available at Hollywood level budgets to purchase, and even rent.

What are the opportunities for VR in the Creative Arts?

A number of key players in the industry are strongly engaged in VR. You can see broadcasters such as ABC, ARTE or BBC amongst others and digital enterprises like Google and Facebook exploring the possibilities of VR. While major film festivals such as Cannes Marché du Film's NEXT (France), HotDocs (Canada), Toronto IFF POP programs (Canada), DOK Leipzig VR screenings (Germany), Melbourne IFF (Australia), RIDM (Canada), Festival du nouveau cinéma — FNC (Canada), Dubai IFF Different Reality (U.A.E.), SXSW (USA) amongst others exhibit and screen cinematic VR and 360° videos and there is much talk of VR as a new film form, little attention has been paid to the accessible 360° videos and the independent cinematic VR environment.

What is particularly interesting is the mapping of the independent cinematic VR producers and exploring 360° videos as a form of community engagement and creative innovation. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Google News Lab, Reuters Institute and leading research projects such as VR Documentary Encounters or Virtually There, see the potential in VR as a tool for change. While I personally agree with this, I also see it as a creative way to engage audiences.

The 360° video format allows filmmakers to capture the attention of audiences for a certain duration in a much more engaging way versus traditional video. In this respect VR is quite similar to a cinema experience where you focus on a screen and even get absorbed into the experience. The VR user is focus and absorbed in the VR environment, and the VR experience allows them to explore that environment which traditional flat video can not offer. Of course there is a bit of a difference between creating content and experiences. Creating an experience requires more planning in pre-production to make sure the concept works well with the story, subject, and shooting environment. A great starting point for new VR filmmakers, to explore VR video creation, is the first-person and documentary segment.

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How is VR taught at Swinburne University of Technology?

Dr. Max Schleser is teaching Cinematic VR and 360° video production in the Experimental Screen Production unit at Swinburne in Australia. Students produce experimental films in six weeks going from ideation, pre-production filming on location, and post production work with the HumanEyesVR studio software and then editing their production in Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe Premiere Pro has a number of special plug-ins and effects for immersive video post-production, which are included in the latest Premiere Pro version. It has a preview function to view 360° videos as well.

There are also opportunities to edit in VR environments using Oculus or Vive headsets. This way you can see your Premiere timeline in a 360 environment. Premiere exports all material ready for YouTube video platforms. With the Vuze VR camera one can also explore RealSpace360Cinema, which is a great program to keyframe spatial audio within the VR and 360° videos. The Vuze+ VR camera is capable of recording spatial audio which adds to the immersion experience and provides a way to create subtle effects in VR to draw the users gaze to the sound. Students explore editing, key framing videos, color adjustment, etc. as in any video. In a 360° and cinematic environment we are exploring various creative strategies to create immersive experiences.

Participants in the workshop had this to say:

Peter Ciszewski, Digital marketing technology expert & Senior Lecturer

“I found the workshop interesting and stimulating – my previous (limited) experience with 360-degree video involved cumbersome 6 camera rigs – I was impressed with how easy to use the Vuze technology was. I’m looking forward to having students experiment with the production of novel marketing content using Vuze cameras. I have invited Max to give a lecture to our 2nd and 3rd year students in which he will demonstrate the basic production process to our students later this semester – with a view to some of them hopefully making some cinematic 360 video content for external clients.”

Peter Ciszewski is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Digital Advertising at Swinburne University of technology. He is a coordinator of Swinburne’s Digital Advertising Technology major and Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing Technologies. These programs – unique to Swinburne – are the result of a collaboration between Swinburne and Adobe that provide students with exposure to cutting-edge enterprise level digital technologies that underpin modern marketing and communication practices. Peter has a strong interest in emerging digital marketing practices and technologies – both in the context of digital production and the targeted distribution of that content to an audience.

Harry Fulgencio, PhD researcher

“360 video and interactive cinematic VR enables our research project to create stories by participants and share their experiences in a social enterprise context.”

Harry Fulgencio studied in a Bachelors for Information Management and a Master's in ICT in Business. He is currently a PhD student of the Social Innovation Research Institute and part of an ARC Funded project that explores the well being of Social Enterprise Employees within Victoria Australia. His PhD research is to design an Everyday Life Application framework that encapsulates the stories of Social Enterprise Employees (disadvantaged people). Together with a software team they will use this framework to develop an application with the aim of allowing policy makers and social enterprise stakeholders to understand the collected stories. VR 360 degrees more than any other available technology in the market can best encapsulate this experience and present it to relevant users.

Max Gross, Digital Marketing Specialist

"I really enjoyed the 360˚video production workshop. It was great to learn about HumanEyes Vuze 3D 360˚ video camera, and how to do post-production with Adobe Premiere Pro. Can’t wait to use the techniques I learned in my next film."

Max Gross is a marketer, 360° photographer and food blogger. He is an active contributor to Google Maps, with his photos being seen over 42 million times worldwide. You can get a taste of his delicious food adventures at MaxPlusFood.com. Max also founded Melbourne LinkedIn Local, a networking group focused on embracing real connections in an increasingly digital world.

Nicholas Hansen, Filmmaker

“The seminar was a very worthwhile introduction to 360 and VR production with great examples of 360 filmmaking.”

Nicholas Hansen is an award-winning documentary director and research graduate from RMIT Melbourne in the area of interactive documentary. Previous work includes; Breaking the News (2011), One Cup (2007) and a feature documentary RASH (2005) awarded Best Documentary at the Film Critics Circle of Australia 2005. Nicholas is a co-founder of Docuverse (RMIT), and a Sessional Tutor in Film and TV at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. You can find Nicholas’s work at MutinyMedia.com

Giuseppe Pantaleo, PhD researcher

“360 video offers exciting possibilities for understanding how people are engaged in immersive constructed environments. Using the Vuze technology is straightforward and I look forward to experimenting with its application for creating interactive and personalised experiences that resonate with audiences.”

Giuseppe is currently researching the impact of customer personalisation in delivering marketing narratives via emergent digital media.

Dr Max Schleser, Filmmaker & Senior Lecturer

“We all have a keen interest in storytelling, but we approach this with our own backgrounds and could experiment with new formats to capture audiences and create engaging experiences.”

Max Schleser is a filmmaker, who explores smartphones and mobile media for creative transformation and media production. His portfolio (Schleser.nz) includes various mobile, smartphone and pocket camera films which are screened at film festivals, galleries and museums internationally. Max co-found MINA, the Mobile Innovation Network & Association (Mina.pro), and curates the annual International Mobile Innovation Screening. He is an Adobe Education Leader.

Dr. Schleser recently published the book Mobile Story Making in an Age of Smartphones, which includes a chapter on Pasifika Youth and Health Perspectives: Creative Transformation Through Smartphone Filmmaking and Digital Talanoa. Within the context of community engaged research through storytelling Max Schleser points at the capacity of Embracing 360° Video and Mobile VR. For more information visit Palgrave.com

While the idea of Virtual Reality (VR) is not new and has been around since the 1990s (for example, 1991 Sega VR, 1994 Quicktime, VR Authoring Studio, 1995 Nintendo Virtual Boy and 2010 Oculus Rift), accessible omnidirectional video cameras that integrate with standard video production workflows (i.e. Adobe Premiere Pro) were launched only in the last two years, … for example the Vuze 360 3D Camera. HumanEyes (manufacturers of the Vuze camera) believes that VR will “become a major communication platform” in a “VR echo system”. (Schleser 2018)

As a community of practice we have developed creative strategies to address new storytelling formats and forms of engagement with audiences.

About the International Mobile Innovation Screening

MINA creates interactions between communities, content and the creative industries. As part of the annual International Mobile Innovation Screening MINA introduced Mobile Cinematic VR & 360° Video Production: The Future is Now category, which is dedicated to cinematic VR and 360° Video Production.
In its 8th edition MINA will present a public screening of smartphone, mobile and pocket films in Melbourne, Australia and at Ngā Tonga Sound and Vision (New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound) in Wellington, New Zealand.

MINA is the longest running film festival dedicated to celebrating mobile and smartphone filmmaking internationally. MINA creates connections between filmmakers, communities and the creative industries.

The #MINA2018 International Mobile Innovation Screening will showcase short films (8 min maximum duration) produced on and with smartphones, mobile and pocket cameras.

In the last eight years MINA featured new developments in narrative and non-narrative explorations, in documentary, experimental and abstract filmmaking. Last year MINA successfully introduced drone and Cinematic VR productions as part of the screening program. These mobile and smartphone videos can include project showcases and documentation (maximum duration 4min).

On the 16th November the International Mobile Innovation Screening will take place at Swinburne University of Technology and feature a Cinematic VR & 360˚ video production showcase.