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#1 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 03:55 PM

I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts on 360 camera technology, or more specifically how it'll effect future media in presenting content.  Most of you were trained as DPs or camera operators with one view in mind to show an audience.

 

360 tech seems to offer a real dynamic viewing option for an audience member, and seems to give them the option of where and what to look at.  Do you think your skills will be enhanced or tweaked by this?

 

I'm genuinely curious here.


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#2 Phil Connolly

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 06:54 PM

As interesting as 360 content is, its very difficult to apply the skills of narrative cinematography onto the process.

 

Primarily everything is in shot - lighting, crew, boom poles, camera support etc...

 

So the challenge of creating dramatic lighting is difficult - since light fixtures are visible. How do you do smooth camera movement when dollys etc risk being in shot. You can't vary the shot size and its difficult to control where the viewer looks using the usual tools of framing, aspect ratio and depth of field. 

 

I think 360 works well for actuality footage and making the viewer feel present, but it robs cinematographers of their basic toolset. So its very challenging to work with.  I've seen some cool stuff on 360 video but its more about the spectacle of the place or the subject matter - photography and lighting tends to be less impressive.

 

Personally I'm someone interested in traditional storytelling. I like the way in cinema we can control what the audience see and hear and 360 moves away from that. I want the composition to matter and the camera to be part of the storytelling. Making that work in 360 is going to be much more challenging. The narrative stuff I've seen in 360 tends to use CGI more since it affords more control. I'm sure creative people might be able to make it work and develop a new grammar for 360 film making. Its exciting in the sense, that right now we don't have established rules. Personal taste also comes into it

 

Personally I some times find it frustrating when I don't know where to look. I worry I'm missing something by looking in the 'wrong' direction. Do I want the audience to be able to look at anything or do I want them to look at the important thing in the scene at any point?  I'm sure there are ways to resolve this and it will be interesting to see if 360 becomes a bigger thing. Right the 360 videos I've seen that that work, remind me of traditional IMAX documentaries - in the sense you have wide vistas filling your vision and slow edits work better. So more appropriate for documentary then narrative. Fast cutting narrative type films are still problematic on classic IMAX screens - so maybe those kind of films work as a template 


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#3 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 08:07 PM

Thanks Phil.  It did strike me that as I sit here with my mouse that it becomes a chore to look at stuff.  You don't know where to look, and it becomes incumbent on the viewer to know where to look rather than the DP and director helping to guide our attention to things that are pertinent for the story.

 

All the stuff I've seen seems really fascinating, but I think it probably puts too much of the labor on story telling onto the audience.  I don't know if that's really true, but like you say we have tools to tell stories.  As a teenager and in my 20s I was really into good dramatic shots.  I think the 360 camera doesn't really lend itself to a lot of artistry as we know it.

 

Thanks.


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#4 Phil Connolly

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 05:50 AM

I've seen 360 work for performance type stuff. A 360 degree concert video tends to work, although you have a shot that may include both the performer and the audience - your naturally going to focus on the performer. It has an in built focus - the audience know where to look. 360 gets annoying when there's too much head turning involved. I saw some cirque do soleil videos that had that problem - yes it was immersive and you feel like your surrounded by the performers... but the downside is you end up with clowns behind you and the last thing I want is to be surrounded by clowns.

 

I think in some ways its a bit like the difference between "theatre in the round" and "proscenium arch". In the former most of the audience get a similar experience but is less immersive and in the latter the audience tend to get very different experiences. 

 

I got a Gear VR headset free with my last phone and I used  it a lot for the first week, watched loads of 360 videos and now it tends to sit on the shelf. I guess I'm a proscenium arch kind of person


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#5 George Ebersole

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 10:32 AM

Growing up my biological mother ordered my guardian to take me to a lot of plays and symphonies to get an education in the arts. So I hear ya on that. And within the span of 48 hours I've already lost some interest in them (360 VR footage, that is, not the arts :) ).

Back in the 80's there was a play called "Tony and Tina's Wedding" where you were actually part of the wedding guests as the actors interacted with you putting on a show of a comedic family. I can see something like that taking off, but it almost strikes me as being the difference between reading a good novel and maybe playing a Role Playing Game with your friends. You get a story out of both, but the novel guides your experience like a film, and you get all the highs and lows you're supposed to. That verse an RPG where you and your friends are creating the narrative. I think 360 cameras fall into that vibe somewhere.

Oh well. I guess it's just one of those things.​
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#6 George Ebersole

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:17 AM

No one else I guess. 360 is interesting, but unless some new rules can define a narrative, I see it being like 3D, unique, trendy, but otherwise a fad.
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#7 Curt Massof

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:25 AM

360 feels gimmicky to me. It can be cool for concerts, theater in the round, haunted house and museum type experiences but the tech still feels too young.

Most of the stuff I've seen is so muddy and low res feeling that it takes away from the experience. Not sure if it's because I've only seen streaming content that has to pack so much data into a smaller footprint or the cameras just aren't there yet.

Lensing is also a problem. Most of what I've seen is all super wide angle which feels wrong and sometimes makes you feel as if you are a fly on the wall looking at giants around you, not part of the scene.

This part is personal but the lack of the other sensory input is frustrating. Nothing like walking through an environment and not being able touch or smell your surroundings.


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#8 George Ebersole

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 06:56 PM

Yeah, it seems "shot specific" or otherwise a special case for a different style of presentation. And the resolution is pretty low ... I'm not sure why that is, but I'm guessing it's more to do with data processing capability of the cameras.

Still, it's interesting, but I think the limits of focal lengths, like you say, limit it's potential ... if any at all.
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#9 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 11:19 PM

I'm sure you could make something very creative and artistic with 360 degree camera work, but I think it wouldn't really be cinema any more. At least, not to me. I like the rectangular frame of the cinematic presentation - it's like a frame around a painting, and how things are arranged with that frame interest me. 360/globe sort of photography is sort of unlimited. Most art when you think of it is highly limited in some way, and that's a good thing because it makes it easier to enjoy and appreciate. It also creates a "4th wall" which is a tradition of theater. Okay, so it doesn't have to be art, it can just be sheer entertainment, but you know what I mean.

 

At a recent 'State Fair' here (called "the Ekka" here) I was walking past a stall, and a young lady called out to me, "Hey you, sir, come over here and put these on". I walked over and put some big, black goggles on (I think i've told this story before, but oh well). I found myself instantly immersed in a 3D, 360 world of mice sailors all sweeping the deck of a wooden ship. I was standing on the deck, with them. But really, I quickly found it all very tiresome. I looked up, I looked down, I looked all around. Finally, I spun around 180 degrees and faced the other way, and found myself looking out at a vast, and rather entrancingly peaceful expanse. I gazed at it for some time, and finally the young saleswoman asked me what I was looking at. "The sea," I replied. "It looks so peaceful and inviting". That, for me, was the best bit. Not the dancing 3D mice sailors, which didn't interest me in the least.


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#10 Phil Connolly

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 07:18 AM

I like 360 video that uses CGI video - since its easier to include interesting lighting and camera moves.

 

The big problem with 360 live action is a locked off camera seems the norm.  I guess moving the camera is difficult if your trying to hide the rig.

 

There are some pretty good 180 degree videos that can be viewed with a VR headset, it gives you some look around and the VR experience - but the crew can be hidden behind the camera and thus do camera moves. 

 

I agree with Curt about the quality - so many of these videos are super compressed  and low res enough to be pointless. I guess you need a lot of pixels to properly map to a 360 view. Maybe an 8K source file to do it properly - thats going to melt your typical phone based VR headset. For instance I've yet to see a 360 video on youtube that doesn't look horrible on a headset - the bandwidth isn't there. 


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#11 Curt Massof

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 09:51 AM

I like 360 video that uses CGI video - since its easier to include interesting lighting and camera moves.

 

The big problem with 360 live action is a locked off camera seems the norm.  I guess moving the camera is difficult if your trying to hide the rig.

 

There are some pretty good 180 degree videos that can be viewed with a VR headset, it gives you some look around and the VR experience - but the crew can be hidden behind the camera and thus do camera moves. 

 

I agree with Curt about the quality - so many of these videos are super compressed  and low res enough to be pointless. I guess you need a lot of pixels to properly map to a 360 view. Maybe an 8K source file to do it properly - thats going to melt your typical phone based VR headset. For instance I've yet to see a 360 video on youtube that doesn't look horrible on a headset - the bandwidth isn't there. 

I think your point of hiding the rig is key and why the CGI stuff is better, there is no rig to hide, no views to stitch together and you can lens however you want. I think when we see drones using higher res 360 cameras we will see better live action videos. Then it's just dealing with the bandwidth so it's not overly compressed. There is decent some content but I think it will remain a gimmick if it doesn't evolve past a fly on the wall experience. As an overall experience it just feels flat now.

 

I can definitely see applications where 360 could really take off if they could make it more interactive yet guided in some way. The video, like in TV and cinema is only one key element to the overall experience. Treadmill walkways, surround sound, actual environmental cues like smell and touch would really enhance the experience, much like some of the exhibits at Disney or Universal Studio theme parks. George mentioned traditional cinematography and how a DP uses shots to guide the viewer to where their interest should be. If there were more cues to follow, 360 could be used the same way but instead of the DP guiding you it would be the viewers curiosity based on other senses.

Of course those are closed environment type experiences and not the streaming content we currently have through VR headsets.


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#12 George Ebersole

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 01:41 PM

I saw a vid on restoring the Parthenon with CGI. Visitors these days are given (or allowed to rent) a Pad that they can hold up to the building, and see what the Parthenon looked like in its glory. A drone with such a camera flying through the thing would probably help add to the experience.


I saw another 360 VR vid that was supposed of a police stop or call somewhere in Alaska. It was a dramatization, only there was a small crane shot that sort of blew the experience. It sold the viewer on being a "real" experience, but, well, it wasn't.


For me, watching these things is a chore. I think they're interesting, but for dramatic content I really want the creative team to guide me. I don't want to have to physically work to find out what the author's message is.
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