Three things to know before you pick up a 360-degree camera: 1) Know how to hide… very well. 2) Don’t push the wrong buttons on the camera. 3) Learn to get tricky with your set, not your frame.
Well, obviously there is a lot more to know when it comes to the emerging field of 360-degree media. However this should give you an extremely basic start. Overall I don’t think I’ve learned as much on a film set as I did on Knot For Sale. This film pushed us all to think outside of the box when telling a story.
Working as a Camera Assistant on set was abnormal and uncomfortable at first. One a normal set your thinking about angles, lighting, lenses, frames, but on a 360 set your job is condensed into thinking about the set, stiches, and the movement of the physical camera. Anyone working near the camera needs to have a clear understanding of how the footage is going to emerge. Whether that is through stiches and trying to avoid your protagonist’s head from being cut off, or from quality when it comes to more accessible and affordable cameras that only shoot at 1080p. You’ve got to be aware of how distorted footage is going to become once stitched together and stretched, as well as what it’s going to look like behind a VR headset. You’ve just got to do your research, and unfortunately there isn’t much out there to lay a general home base for new filmmakers to start at.
Along with filming Knot For Sale, two other filmmakers and myself became interested in exploring 360-degree filmmaking further and decided to do a companion documentary on narrative filmmaking in 360. Through this we had the privilege of interviewing the CEO of Cloudhead Games, a VR gaming company in Qualicum Beach. As we explored their humble office set up in an old firehouse, it became clear that the 19 individuals that work at this company are the real deal. They are pioneering the VR field both in technological advances and narrative gaming, which has one Cloudhead multiple awards. During the interview we did with Denny Unger, he stated that 360 VR is an entirely new genre, and it stands apart not just from narrative filmmaking but also from narrative video games. He describes that an ideal 360 film would be where his son could pick up a bow and arrow and fight along side an invading army without it having consequence on the narrative. They key here is immersion. Previously the most immersion humans have been able to experience with technology is on a screen where we must move buttons to control a character. Now we are within the world, we are the protagonists that can pick up props and hold them to our face. We are the viewer that can both observe the story and experience the set within a narrative film. My view of 360 narrative films has been completely rewritten. It’s time for us to stop asking how we merge narrative filmmaking with 360, and instead start asking ourselves if the films we watched had no limits, what would we create instead?
— Kate McCallum