Shooting with the camera at the right height is important for creating believable immersion. But how high is this really?
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Anyone who has dealt with regular video production will know there are many rules, traditions and norms to do with how shots are made. But those are for traditional video; capturing immersive video or photography for use in Quest headsets requires thinking about some things in a different way. One of these things is moving the camera during shooting, something we talk about in To Move or Not To Move. Another important factor to consider is the height of the camera.
Shooting height is a relatively straightforward thing to grasp. It is not unimportant in regular video work too, but it is a fundamental consideration in immersive video production. Because the end result will, in effect, immerse the viewer right into the scene at the point in space where the camera is placed, if the camera is positioned unusually high or low, the result is likely to feel a little ‘off’ and somewhat distracting. So far, so simple… although the ideal shooting height for normal projects may not be what most people expect.
In general, placing the camera at the eye level of a typical adult male is likely to feel a little high in VR. This is in large part because the majority of the visual interest, including other people’s faces, will most likely be at or below the horizon level. Curiously, even when the person viewing the content is relatively tall, something shot at their eye height can still feel a bit too high even to them. For people of average or shorter height the feeling of being a little too high will be stronger.
One interesting twist is that, unless taken to extremes, this feeling of being at the ‘wrong’ height doesn’t seem to apply when content is shot a little lower than the typical viewer’s natural eye height. We don’t have scientific studies to back this up, but practical experience tells us that a camera lens height of around 5ft 4in (1.64m) to 5ft 9in (1.75m), or simply around the chin height of the main character, is a good starting point. This is of course a guide rather than an absolute rule; it is important to test how this feels in a headset wherever possible, and specific scenes may work better at points above or below this height range.
“A camera height of around 5ft 4in (1.64m) to 5ft 9in (1.75m), or simply around the chin height of the main character, is a good starting point”
Whatever camera height is chosen, keeping this consistent throughout a production is usually important. It can be very strange, especially if in the same location, to be at slightly different ‘standing’ heights throughout the video. This may not apply if you are intentionally moving from standing to seated, or if the production involves placing cameras in unique locations where there would be no expectation of normal or consistent human perspective. By all means be creative and push boundaries – but this should still be regarded as a firm starting point guide even if it's not quite a hard-and-fast rule.