#VRsuchskaninchen: Down the rabbit hole!

Here it is:

My first attempt at a 360 degree video – constructed, shot and edited within a week.  But – thankfully – not without some great help.

When I started this project with VRagments last week I contacted a couple of colleagues and friends working in film and picked their brains on VR and 360 degree video production and two  of them – one filmmaker, one journalist –  decided to join my first project.

Working together on this first video helped a lot, as it didn’t leave me alone in a fairly new thought and work process. Having somebody to brainstorm, review and edit the material with helped to understand, what might work better and what doesn’t really make a difference, if you shoot in 360°.

And even though I am still at the beginning of that learning process, here are a few lessons I took away after our first VR production week.

1. VR is bigger than I thought

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Move over, Pokemon Go – here comes the real hype. Seriously – I absolutely underestimated how much interest is out there for VR and 360°. Our project name #VRsuchskaninchen (Kaninchen meaning „Rabbit“, full explanation here) became very meta within the last week, as I truly felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and into a Wonderland. I absolutely underestimated the amount of information coming at me and some people almost behaved as if I had just gotten my acceptance letter into Hogwarts, because the whole concept is still so strange to many  – and even though I already learned a lot, I would not exclude myself completely from that group.

2. ..but it is also not that scary to work with!

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Learning about VR and 360 production does not only mean, knowing what „stitching“ means and how to edit with AutoPano. After last week I do know in theory the answer to the first, but I have and probably will not master the latter within the next weeks. Yet, getting down that VRabbithole (Sorry, I had to..) getting a general idea of what makes VR and 360° so different and intriguing to us, really helped me to come up with ideas of how I could tell stories from that new and unique perspective.

Thanks to Linda’s and Stephan’s guidance and advice, the idea I came up with could be done without any difficult new software – all it needed was a story and that new, 360° perspective to it.

3. Filming is easy

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Basically it is just pushing a button – well, basically, but that’s sadly still not it. What made my first  360° shooting truly less difficult is that  I did not really have to think about sequences, because each shot was one scene for itself. Still these scenes needed to be in relation to each other and built up to the story I wanted to tell. On my first day at VRagments, Linda sent me this video of Google’s principle filmmaker Jessica Brillhart.

It is roughly 30 minutes long, but I highly recommend you to watch it. I couldn’t even try to explain as well as she does, what it means to shoot and think in 360°. So just go with it, watch it and let’s talk about those friggin awesome circles next time!

4. Everything around the filming isn’t 

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And that includes myself and my physical appearance in the 360° photos, which had to vanish through my poorly executed Photoshop skills or trying to upload the video above for the umpteenth time. At least now I know why Youtube-Tutorials are such a hit – and I got an idea for another video. But seriously, shooting in 360° needs at least as much and even more preparating and foresight than regular video production. Make sure you take that time to think about your images and check out the location before filming. That way you won’t end up like me standing next to a construction sight you did not anticipate for your filming, blocking your view and leaving you with a 180°plus-some-site-fence-perspective.

5. Your product is only as good as you are

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…which is where you, the viewers and readers come in. Even though I am quite happy, I managed to fullfil my first assignment within a week, this isn’t really a master piece, it is far from it. But just as I wasn’t as experienced as a film maker as Jessica Brillhart, when she got into VR, my stories aren’t as great as hers… yet? The idea of this project is not only for me to test out formats, so that VRagments and you can learn from my experience, but obviously I want to learn myself and not make the same dumb mistakes (see 4) over and over again. Maybe I did not see some mistakes I made, but you did.

Take a survey

I won’t tell you everything that I think went wrong with this first project – yet. First I want to hear what you thought about my work – what you liked, what you didn’t. But please be gentle, this has been my first VR production after all and I would like to continue trying.

Max Koschyk is a multimedia journalist, currently holding a Deutsche Welle editorial fellowship. For the next four weeks, she will be our #VRsuchskaninchen, produce journalistic VR formats and test the VRagments tool Fader. 

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