Editing VR/360 video is a fairly complex exercise but I’ve now mastered the fundamentals and learned how to avoid some of the pitfalls. So it’s a good time to share my passion and pass some useful tips with this step-by-step guide that will save you time and some headaches.
Upfront I’ll say the trickiest part of editing VR/360 is stitching all the camera images together especially when you have objects in both the foreground and background. You do this using stitch lines, a stitch line being the point where the video from one lense meets another to create the full 360 sphere.
The main difficulty stems from the 360 camera rig’s construction. It means you can never shoot with an absolutely perfect nodal point so you can’t stitch both foreground and background perfectly together at the same time.
You have to prioritise between foreground OR background objects and in I’ll get into the detail of this Step 2 and 3. Also there are issues uploading VR to YouTube and Facebook – I’ve spent ages trying to figure the best solutions as outlined in Step 5 and 6 but really the answer is time. The world is still catching up with the potential of VR/360 and to see the best of it on your Facebook page we’ll all have to wait for an improvement in upload rates.
Step-by-step guide for editing VR/360 video:
Step 1: Ensure you name all camera images correctly.
This is obvious and straightforward but also absolutely crucial. Make sure you name all the video files correctly, using the camera numbers matched to their position on your 360 rig: ie Position 1 is CAM 1 and all the video from that camera is named CAM 1.
Check your camera rig you’ll see all the positions have numbers, use them and double check – anything incorrectly named will create an editing nightmare!
Step 2. Stitching with Auto Pano Video Pro .
Here comes the complicated part – Stitching – I do it using Auto Pano Video Pro. The basic operation is you click: ‘Sync’, then choose ‘Frames per second ’, and then click ‘Stitch’. However, you have to think where your starting and as I said in the intro if you have objects in both foreground and background decide which to start with. Auto Pano Video Pro syncs through audio – so hopefully you remembered to clap at the start of each scene.
Step 3: Fine tune your stitching: Auto Pano Giga.
I used Auto Pano Gigo to do fine-tuning of the stitching but you also use it to select where you want the starting position of the camera to be – where the audience should look. Choosing the starting view point carefully is crucial to a good 360 result. That’s why I found this tool really effective in getting the overall positioning right.
Step 4: Stitched and ready to edit in Premiere Pro CC.
Once the images are stitched together you are ready to edit in Premiere Pro. You’ll find the latest version ‘Premiere Pro CC’ has the VR plugin installed already. So from this point it’s like “classical” editing. Note you should export the video as 3840×1920 (4K) and the recommended bitrate: 35-45 Mbps (25 fps). Also use maximum render quality.
Step 5 : Masking tripod and adding text with Skybox.
I used Skybox in VR mode to mask out the tripod and add text. I find it’s the easiest program for this but it is also possible to do it in After Effects.
Step 5 : Masking tripod and adding text with Skybox.
I Used Skybox in VR mode to mask out the tripod and add text. I find it’s the easiest program for this but it is also possible to do it in After Effects.
Step 6: Uploading to YouTube.
You will need to add metadata to your movie for YouTube to recognise the film as a VR fi lm. To do this Download the App ‘ Spatial Media Metadata Injector’. To add the metadata open the App and tick the box “ My video is spherical (360)”.
Your film will now be YouTube ready. Note, you can only watch VR mode in Chrome or Firefox. Safari does not have the VR option yet.
Step 7: Uploading to Facebook. The least worst solution.
Unfortunately at the moment most 360 players like YouTube and Facebook compress the video file when you upload. For me it felt horrible having created this beautiful film to now see it compressed into a blurry low res film!
I spent hours working out the best way to solve this problem and really you can only minimise the problem you can’t avoid it completely. Neither YouTube nor Facebook have optimal VR upload capabilities yet.
They only allow a certain bitrate, so no matter what you will suffer a drop in quality and they automatically re-encode your film.
The best or should I say the least bad, solution is to follow these instructions when uploading to Facebook.
The higher the starting resolution, the better it will look on each site, but it might still look significantly worse than your exported version.
The post production pathway is still evolving and still being developed. On the artist’s side VR is still a complex and costly project. Though VR is getting more and more accessible it requires money and advanced technology. Getting hold of camera rigs that can capture perfect spherical video is an expensive task.
Luckily there are billions invested in VR. By 2020 VR and AR together is projected to reach $120 billion. Facebook, Microsoft and Google are leading the pack investing tons in VR and it’s a big thing for brands too. Yay!