My experience with 360° VR film is from afar, since my main focus was casting during pre-production, and doing continuity for our secondary, standard film, and there isn’t a need for this job in the 360° format given the lack of editing multiple shots of the same scene together. What I can say about shooting in the round, is that you need actors who can be depended upon to perform for the entire time that the cameras are rolling, the crew need to be experts at hiding out of view of the lenses, and the camera dolly needs to cooperate to ensure that whole scenes aren’t unusable. Beyond that, I’m a bit clueless, so I’ll talk instead about the aspects of filming that I contributed to.
First, there was casting, which was an altogether awesome experience. We’d already filled three of the parts by actors (and one UVic professor!) who we knew would perform well, and so auditioned seven others for the remaining parts. Of these, four auditions were held for the role of Stacey, the “Wednesday Adams-esque” protagonist, and only one of the girls had experience acting in front of a camera. Each of them was talented, and more than one were so convincing we got chills. You could really feel the energy as they performed their prospective parts, and I was pleasantly surprised by this because I’m so used to performances on a screen, I hadn’t expected it to be so palpable (which it obviously would be while in the room with them, duh, Sara). When it came to deciding who to cast, we ended up having to watch the footage we’d recorded in the auditions to see how it translated on camera, because it was such a difficult call to make. Unfortunately, we could only cast one of them as Stacey, but we were so impressed with their auditions that we hired them all as secondary characters and extras! It was a really interesting process, and one that I’d absolutely do again.
And then there was continuity, which I signed up for enthusiastically because I love catching continuity errors in films and television (wow, I didn’t realize until right this moment how big of a nerd I am). So when our professor and 360° director Maureen Bradley handed me a giant continuity binder from her feature film Two 4 One that was full of codes and Aztec-looking lines, and then started talking about axis’ and other things that sounded alarmingly like math, I kind of panicked. I proceeded to go home and google “how to continuity good” to no avail, and then tried again using better grammar, but still got nowhere. Surprisingly, there isn’t much on the web about the process of continuity, but there’s a lot of YouTube videos pointing out errors in all of our favourite films, because I guess that’s a useful thing to watch? I poured over the binder Maureen had kindly lent to me, and was able to get a vague understanding based on those pages, but without some kind of key or preexisting knowledge, much of it was indecipherable. Thankfully, the UVic library had a few helpful books (one of which hadn’t been checked out in years, apparently) that explained how-to in a somewhat dated way, and then my personal hero and 360° camerawomen, Kate McCallum, gave me a quick lesson in the basics on set. Because our film is so short, and the scenes are also, then, short, I didn’t actually need more than an elementary understanding of continuity (is the actor consistently using her left hand to hold a prop?), and had absolutely no use for the elaborate symbols and such that would be required for a feature film. So basically, I was spooked for nothing, and Kate is the best. I’m fairly certain it went well and that I did my job right. At the end of the three-day shoot, I handed my notes to our second-unit director, Adrian, then wished him luck decoding my scribbles, which to him, may have resembled confusing ciphers and weird images. All in all, continuity requires organization and a careful eye, and with a little more practice I think it’s something I could get decent at.
— Sara Bayat