Are you thinking of starting a VR project? We have created a handy guide for you on what you should consider in order to create professional and viable immersive content.

What types of VR are there available?

In Virtual Reality the viewer can freely walk around and interact within a real-time environment with the help from motion controllers, headsets and tracking. Environments are typically built using CGI but there have also been recent advances in Photogrammetric VR environments as well.

360° imagery and video content is preordained and can be CGI, live action or a mix of both. Content is wrapped in a spherical panorama and movement is limited to the filmmaker. 360° content can be viewed using a headset, mobile or desktop. Since the same headset that enables VR also facilitates the immersive viewing of 360° content. It can be forgiven that 360° content is considered VR when viewed using a headset.

Why use VR in photography and film?

VR is not just for games, it is also a powerful storytelling tool. Research suggests that the viewer pays more attention to the story when fully immersed within a VR environment compared to just viewing it on a regular 2D screen. It has become known as the “ultimate empathy machine”.

Is VR storytelling the right tool for the job?

Use VR wisely. Although it is an exciting new medium, will it help the viewer understand the story better or just confuse them?

Who will lead the narrative?

Having a physical presence will help guide the viewer through the story, however this may also be distracting and restrict the viewer’s ability to look around freely. Therefore a voice over may work better in some projects.

Will the content be in 2D or 3D?

2D VR is suitable for many projects and will certainly deliver an immersive experience. There is also 3D VR to consider which gives you a sense of depth to add further realism. However due to there being no parallax effect present within preordained content, the viewer may find it difficult to focus on some areas. In 2D VR this is less noticeable therefore consider blending both 3D and 2D content, keeping the stereoscopic effect to only be in front of the viewer and not to the sides.

Is the viewer sitting or standing?

Place the camera at a height relevant the viewer’s position. Placing the camera low to the ground will make them feel like a mouse when experiencing VR. Up high and they will become giants.

Where will the viewer be positioned?

Give the viewer their own personal space. Content should be 1 metre away to avoid camera stitching issues but don’t travel to far from the camera. Wide lenses typically used in 360° cameras can make objects appear very small and as a result the viewer will feel as if they are too far away from any content.

Is the area clear?

With 360° content everything is in view, which means everyone and everything not planned to be part of the experience must hide. However some experiences may benefit from a raw approach.

Where will the viewer be looking?

Naturally the viewer will want look forward therefore avoid having too much action going on behind. It is unnatural for the viewer to keep turning their head to try and keep up. Panning, zooming and tilting actions are not good for the VR experience. Keep the camera still and influence the viewer’s decision on where to look rather than directing them.

Will the viewer know where they are?

Cutting a scene from a subject that is centre frame to a subject that is off centre will disorientate the viewer. Always cut to the next scene with the subject centre frame. Also don’t leave the viewer behind, follow the action with the camera and make them feel as if they are part of the story.

Will the viewer experience FOMO?

In 360° VR with multiple subjects can make the viewer fear that they are missing out on something really important. Therefore provide audio and visual cues to help guide them.

Is the content played at a steady pace?

Long experiences in VR don’t mix well with the viewer so make sure the film length is 3 to 4 minutes maximum. Keep the story simple by avoiding multiple distractions and give the viewer extra time to settle by allowing more time between cuts.

Will the audio be clear?

Use a combination of a lavalier mic on characters present and a stereo microphone or ambisonics for 3D audio near the camera for realistic, natural sound.