Best practices for vr content creation

Creating high quality stereoscopic 360° video content requires some important considerations and changes to workflow from both a technical and artistic perspective.  Through the thousands of hours of testing and VR content creation performed by our artist community, we have accumulated a set of technical and artistic best practices to help you seamlessly transition to 360° video production:

Technical Best Practices

Choose VR-friendly rendering tools and plugins like Arnold, V-Ray, and others :  VR content can be complex or simple depending on the tools you use.  We highly recommend using a rendering tool which has native support for spherical panoramic cameras, such as Arnold, V-Ray, OctaneVR, Cycles, or using a plugin like Domemaster3D which can enable a spherical camera within Maya, 3DS Max, or other CG software that you use. Choosing tools with native support for 360° cameras will result in a much more seamless workflow compared  to setting up multiple cameras and stitching them together, as filmmakers are required to do. Please check our blog for more info on VR-friendly rendering tools.  

Use smooth and stable camera movements like dolly, truck and crane shots: The best 3 camera movement techniques for virtual reality content production are the dolly, truck and crane shots. Since the viewer is experiencing the content first person, avoid abrupt, shaky, bumpy, or disorienting movements with the virtual camera.  One common mistake is to use a bumpy camera to emulate walking -- please always avoid this and use steady movements.  Check out our blog post on VR camera movement techniques for more info. 

Avoid tilting and panning the camera:  Another common mistake is to force the user to look somewhere by tilting or panning the camera. In VR, you must coax the user to naturally look in a direction, and not abruptly change the camera direction via tilting / panning.  You can move the camera's base in any direction you want, but do not rotate the camera around it's base.

Use eye-level viewing angles: In general it’s best to position the virtual camera at the eye line of featured subjects.  Otherwise, the viewer will appear as if he is towering over the characters or looking up at them.  If that's the intended effect, no problem -- but otherwise please be very aware of eye-line placement!

Use a single camera perspective per scene within your work: In virtual reality the viewer becomes part of the scene you have created. As such, suddenly changing the camera perspective within the same scene (ie, a “camera cut”) can be disorienting and confusing to the viewer, and even nauseating.  

Fade out / in when transitioning between scenes:  In the VR context it can be disorienting to abruptly change the scene.  Always fade out to complete darkness and then fade back in to give the user a momentary break between scenes.

Test your work:  There are a number of ways to view your 360° renderings, both through your desktop and through a VR device.

  • Desktop 360 Viewers: You should use Kolor Eyes (www.kolor.com) or another desktop 360° video viewer in order to easily view your 360° spherical renderings without having to put on a VR device each time. However you’ll also definitely need a VR device as part of your design process.
  • VR Devices: You can buy cheap, cardboard-based VR devices (“Google Cardboard”) for under $10 which work with any Android phone and are good enough to test with. There are a plethora of other cheap options on the market as well for both iOS and Android. Testing your VR work is simple -- just run your 360° MPEG-4 file on your phone’s video player and then attach the Google Cardboard device (or another mobile VR headset). For a premium VR experience we recommend the Oculus DK2 or Samsung Gear VR, the latter being our top choice at this time.

 

artistic BEST PRACTICES

Include thrilling and dynamic elements:  Please check our blog post on how to make your VR content more thrilling. We have found that usually it’s not enough to simply be beautiful and realistic -- in order to create a truly memorable VR experience for the viewer, we highly recommend using some elements of surprise and thrill.  Scaring the user and making him flail his arms around while wearing the HMD (head-mounted display) is a good thing!  Some detailed techniques to achieve this are detailed on our blog, but they must not be over-used, and can be distasteful if overused or used incorrectly.

Include an intro with title sequence: Please include an intro which sets the stage for your work, which should also include a brief title sequence which displays the title of your work in a dramatic way.  One way to achieve this, which is common in theater, is to use lighting; start the camera completely dark or with minimal lighting covering only 1 character or portion of the scene, and then fade the lights in slowly and in a cinematic fashion. You can roll the title sequence during all or part of this phase.  Another way to achieve an intro is to start the camera from a bird's eye view, or some other location in the scene, and guide the camera into the scene in an engaging way as you roll the title sequence.  These are just 2 examples but we encourage you to think of other approaches for your intro and title sequence!

Use high-resolution, photo-realistic graphics: Focus on high-resolution 3D graphics which can make the user truly feel transported to another place, time, and world. We highly recommend 4K renderings. Low-poly and cartoonish styles do not translate well to VR compared to photo-realistic, high-poly styles.  HoneyVR provides Hive artists with free access to our render farm so don't worry about rendering costs!

Don’t worry about sound:  HoneyVR will produce a professional sound track for your work using the latest 3D spatial sound techniques and 6-channel 5.1 Surround Sound mixing. You can provide a rough audio track or even a high quality track for our team to incorporate into final mixing.