Practical Tips for Producing Livestreamed VR and 360 Content

In this section, you'll learn best practices for how to approach production for VR from our guest writer, Executive Producer, Lucas Wilson from Supersphere.

Written by Lucas Wilson, Founder and Executive Producer, Supersphere

Crews have been livestreaming concerts, sports matches, and other events for years with the goal of putting viewers as close to the action as possible, and letting them feel the excitement and energy as though there were there. Now, VR technology can elevate the livestream experience, making it more immersive and effective than ever before. A VR, 360, or 180 livestream pulls you into an event in a visceral way that a typical HD stream just never quite achieves. We’ve dedicated a significant part of our resources at Supersphere to producing VR/360/180 livestreamed content, and through our work with brands like Disney and Goldenvoice, we’ve garnered lots of on-the-ground experience to determine best practices. Here are a few things that we’ve learned along the way.

Believe the hype. While the VR industry is still seeing a lot of experimentation with content delivery and monetization, all the metrics suggest that VR/360/180 livestreamed content is a huge hit. The key metrics for video – such as viewer retention and click throughs – are on average higher than anything I’ve seen with traditional video. The greater immersion hooks viewers and can lead to higher fan engagement for talent and brands alike.

Let the creative guide your technology – not the other way around. The first thing any crew should look at in pre-production is the creative. Choosing the right camera for the job, as opposed to using the one camera you own or are most comfortable with, is critical. Consider what type of camera will best suit how you want to capture the piece, and what your deliverables will be. Are you working with stereo or mono? Is it all live action or will you be adding digital assets? Would 180 be a better fit than a full 360 environment? Let your deliverables drive the camera selection – and keep in mind, you can mix and match multiple cameras for a live production. For livestreaming, we really like the Z CAM 360 and 180 cameras – they do a nice job integrating into a live set up, allowing for remote camera control, remote power, and other things that are helpful for a live setting. Assimilate Scratch VR is also an essential part of our workflow, since it enables us to do real time geometry correction, real time color grading, real time LUTs, and more on our live projects.

The 360 space is a suggestion, not a mandate. When working in this medium, it can be easy to get locked into a mindset that everything needs to be VR or 360. But it’s a mistake to think narrowly. Incorporating traditional 2D elements at the right moment can augment the experience; for instance, during a slow song you could switch to an intimate 4K stream with a nice border. Also, 2D cameras allow you to capture close ups and other elements without as much physical intrusion on-set. Your 360 space does not always need to be filled with 360 content to be effective.

Test, test, and test again. There’s no going back on a livestream – and immersive livestreams have different considerations than traditional ones. The goal is to let viewers feel as though they are part of the action, but with VR/360/180 you have to rely on physical camera placement rather than lensing to get different shots. Get different types of cameras and test them out, and then test them again and again in different environments. Get a sense of what a particular camera and approach can do, and how it might benefit your creative goals. You might end up needing more cameras than you think to compensate for the lensing restrictions. Establish your entire production and post pipeline from start to finish ahead of time, set up storyboards and shot lists, and maintain clear communication with the entire team throughout the planning stages. Run through the entire show ahead of time if you can, be ready to troubleshoot on the fly, and have redundancies factored in. Production and post workflows for VR/360/180 content change with every job, so it’s important to be well-versed in many different cameras and tools.

Hit the right channels. Immersive livestreaming is still in its infancy, and while you can stream 360 and 180 feeds to Facebook or a custom playback channel, most VR headsets don’t support livestreams – yet. The new Oculus Go is the first standalone headset to enable VR livestreaming, which is exciting. Think about where your audience is and what type of deliverables you’ll need to best reach them.

At Supersphere, we love working in this pioneering space and are happy to see immersive livestreaming succeed with viewers. More so than with some other types of immersive content, we see live event streaming as a huge area for potential growth in the VR industry. VR/360/180 can seem daunting, but the same goes for any major technology shift – black and white to color, film to digital, desktop to cloud, and so on. Experienced producers in the traditional live event space will be able to easily transition to immersive content as long as they are willing to test out a variety of available technology to determine the right approach for the job.

Supersphere’s Lucas Wilson on set with a custom VR camera rig.

Supersphere’s multi-geometry flypacks optimized for immersive livestreaming projects.