When filming in 360°, you can throw traditional storytelling techniques out the window. Shooting in 360° forces you to approach filmmaking in a new way, to ask yourself what a story is at its core, and to question how and why a story needs to be told in this new medium.
Here are five ways shooting in 360° challenges you to tap into its potential and rethink video storytelling:
1. You can’t control the viewer’s gaze.
Since a 360° camera films every angle of a scene, you can’t direct the camera at one main action, making it difficult to control where the viewer looks. And there’s no constructing a scene with wide-shots and close-ups. Because of the limitations placed on directing, it’s easy for the viewer to miss the action, especially if the action is only happening in one angle of the video. However, as 360° audio gets better, it will be easier to give audio clues for where you want the viewer to look. In the meantime, video creators face the challenge of keeping the viewer’s focus on the story. In this video by Red Bull TV for example, the filmmaker’s solution is to provide viewing instructions in the form of graffiti on the walls of a building.
2. 360° video prevents filmmaker bias.
There’s been a lot of interest in 360° video in journalism because it presumably removes bias and helps maintain objectivity. Journalism, by definition, is meant to be objective and tell the facts, which is exactly what 360° videos do. When telling a story with 360° video, you can’t cut between scenes too fast, you can’t move the camera around too much, and it’s hard to edit within a scene without disorienting the viewer. Most creators place their camera on a tripod in the middle of the action. This lack of movement and editing between scenes makes it harder to inject bias into the story.
3. 360° videos can be more engaging and memorable than regular video.
There is some evidence that 360° video is a more powerful medium for inspiring empathy in viewers. They allow viewers to experience a moment vicariously through the eyes of a story’s protagonist. This allows creators to truly affect their audience – the stronger the connection a viewer has to a story, the more memorable it becomes. One of the first 360° videos to demonstrate this is The Displaced, a New York Times’ documentary that follows three child refugees fleeing their homes. Viewers report feeling more empathy for the children because the story feels raw and real, as if they were there struggling along with them.
4. Your audience isn’t just viewing – they’re experiencing.
Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, each viewer experiences the story somewhat differently as if it were first-hand. Your vision for the story may not align with your viewers’ subjective experiences while seeing the video.
5. Linear plotlines don’t always work in 360°.
Video creators often rely on linear plotlines to advance a story and direct the viewer’s gaze. However, since 360° videos are difficult to direct and the viewer can look wherever they want, you have to find new ways to move your story forward. It is that lack of direction, though, that makes 360° so much more immersive. In The Displaced, telling the story in 360° helps the viewer identify with the children’s plight, creating a more palpable sense of empathy than had the story been told linearly in regular video.