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Making the Most of 360-Degree Video

360 video gives users a virtual reality experience without the need for any special equipment.

You’ve probably clicked on a video only to discover that when you move your phone, the video moves with it. That’s 360 video. The first time I stumbled on one, my first reaction was awe. Technology had managed to do something that my eyes can’t even do. But I immediately was reminded of one of my favorite sales principles.

As a fresh college graduate, I sold water treatment, which is every bit as sexy of an assignment as it sounds. When I was selling these marvels of modern technology, I learned one thing very quickly: if I could get someone picturing the water treatment equipment in their home, I had them sold. “If you bought it, where do you think we would put it?” I would ask. No matter what it was, if they answered me with a place, “I think it could go in this corner of the garage,” or, “Could we put it outside?” I knew my job was done. They were picturing it already sold. So it was.

Whatever you’re selling, if you can get your customer to imagine themselves using it—driving it, eating it, wearing it—you’ve won.

Now, take a 360-degree camera, which literally puts the viewer in the middle of your scene, and imagine the possibilities. Businesses are still figuring out how to use this to greatest effect. But, its potential is enormous.

The problem is, as great as you may be at regular video, 360-degree is a whole new ball game—you have to throw out all your old tricks. Most likely your camera setup will be stationary. Any movement or abrupt cuts will be challenging and can even cause disorientation and nausea. And there is no fourth wall in 360-degree video—where you put the camera is where you put the viewer.

Still, the challenges are worth tackling.

And, here are some of the ways to do it:

360-degree video is unique, so get creative.

Play with light, color, perspective, set arrangement, and movement within the space. Since you won’t be moving the camera, gain interest by moving subjects within the frame. Don’t be afraid to take some calculated risks and make unique choices.

Be careful with on-screen text and graphics, but don’t throw them out altogether.

There is a lot to process when viewing a 360-degree video. Give viewers a few seconds to explore the space and orient themselves, then strategically direct them to the action. Any text that is crucial to the integrity of the piece should be visible in several quadrants. Or, you could use movement and graphics to direct attention to parts of the screen where important information is being displayed. Still, don’t forget that most people are still going to be watching your video without sound.

Test out shots before the real deal.

Take the time to look at some test shots so that you aren’t staring at some alien-looking subjects in post. Most 360 cameras that aren’t extremely high-end use a technique called stitching to create the 360-degree view, combining multiple images from multiple cameras similar to how your iPhone creates a panoramic photo. Where stitching occurs, faces and bodies can get warped and distorted, so look at placement before shooting to work out any crazy kinks.

Pick your camera carefully.

360-degree cameras vary widely in price, resolution, and method of shooting. Be mindful of whether the stitching is done by the camera as you shoot or if it needs to be done in post-production. Resolution tends to go up with price, so…

Be prepared to sacrifice quality for cool factor.

If you can’t afford the fanciest of fancy cameras, plan your shoot to increase the quality of the action where great resolution is lacking. Take time to consider why 360 is the right choice for this video. If you can’t come up with reasons why this video is better in 360 than it would be normally, get more creative. Otherwise, it’s not worth the sacrifice.

Don’t be afraid to choose simple subject matter.

One of my favorite 360 videos iostudio has produced so far is one of our simplest. We installed the camera in the middle of a Blackhawk helicopter. No real “action” other than a normal helicopter flight. No dialogue. But, through the video, our viewers got a feel for what it’s really like to be riding inside this million-dollar flying machine. It’s a view that only soldiers get, which ties it directly into our client’s chief ROI (lead generation). Join the Guard, and you could have a ride like this.

This all makes choosing your 360-degree video subject pretty simple: Figure out what your customers’ lives will be like after they buy your product. Create that setting. Then, put the camera there, and let the viewer’s imagination do the rest.

It won’t be tough. But if it is, maybe you should call in some experts. We know some.

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