Moving the VR camera

Moving the VR camera

Moving an immersive camera requires complicated hardware and adds significant expense during both production and post production. Additionally, camera movement can be uncomfortable for the audience to experience in VR. The immersive story must have a clear creative reason for camera movement, otherwise it should be avoided.

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Using a Rig Rover setup with an Insta360 Pro 2 Image: Hugh Hou of CreatorUp

Categories:Skills & Principles
Tags:180 Video360 VideoCameraOn SetProduction
Skill Level:

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Updated 12/14/2022


Filmmakers coming from a traditional film workflow will often want to keep the camera moving as they shoot, since that is a common storytelling technique in video storytelling. However, in immersive media the audience will be adding a lot of their own movement through the natural panning and tilting of their head, which means static shots can feel more active when viewed in a headset. Too much camera movement in VR can cause motion sickness, but there are certainly times where creative reasons dictate the need to move the camera.

Post-production stabilization

If a sequence turns out to be too unstable it doesn’t necessarily have to be reshot; it can be possible to rescue it using software stabilizing solutions during the stitching or post-production editing process. For details on a number of different software stabilization solutions see Post production stabilization.

For the comfort of the viewing audience, camera movement in immersive media should have some kind of stabilization. This could be the built in gyro found in consumer cameras such as the Insta360 One X2 or GoPro Max, or specialist 360 hardware stabilizing solutions such as the Moza Guru 360Air. Professional cameras such as the Insta360 Pro2 have usable stabilization built into the camera. The key requirement with external stabilizers is that they must not obstruct the fisheye lens' wide field of view and access to ports on the camera body.

Sometimes the most economical way to move the camera is to simply attach it to a moving object that fits the story. This could be a wheelchair, inside a moving car, on the deck of a boat; these are all examples where the motion is caused by or related to the object moving the person (in other words the camera) in the scene. As well as delivering dynamic moving shots, these also provide a point of visual stability which can help prevent motion sickness. This is known as the ‘cockpit’ effect, and it can be surprisingly effective. Not only does finding story-driven ways to move the camera help the audience become more immersed in the narrative, it's often a lot less expensive.

Handheld stabilization for 180 3D video

Anyone producing 180 3D content should use an external stabilizer any time they move the camera during shooting. Post-production stabilization on 180 3D footage will always sacrifice some part of the image either by moving the motion to the edges or cropping in and thus losing the field of view. In some situations it can also lead to stereo misalignment issues.

Confirm that the external stabilizer you intend to use is fully compatible with your camera. For example the ZCAM K1 Pro has its ports on the bottom of the camera body, which restricts the range of possible solutions. Two handheld stabilizers that are known to work well with this camera are the PFY H2 and PFY Maverick.

When operating a handheld stabilizer the operator should try and limit the up and down (z-axis) movement that comes naturally when walking. This vertical bounce can be quite disconcerting in immersive video, and it is not something that can be removed effectively in post production. Some operators use a fourth axis stabilizer to combat this.

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Camera movement solutions for 180 3D and 360 production

For 360 cameras, handheld stabilizers are often not practical as the operator would be in the shot. For this reason, a variety of motorized solutions are available. Rental rates vary and a specialized technician is recommended as these systems can be complex to learn and challenging to get the best results. 180 3D production can be done with handheld stabilizers, but motorized systems can be helpful for this kind of work as well. Two motorized rigs designed for these challenges are the Mantis 360 from Motion Impossible, and the Rig Rover from Prosper XR.

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Motion control systems that use tracks or wires such as a camBLOCK or a cable cam are other ways to move the camera. These systems are often best when a precise and repeatable move is needed or if the movement is too slow for rover systems, such as when filming timelapse motion shots. It can be more difficult to paint out tracks or wire rigging in post production, but the stability should be excellent.

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Céline Tricart with a Google Yi HALO camera rig on a wire line Image: Céline Tricart

For a discussion of the pros and cons of moving the camera when capturing media for immersive VR viewing see To move or not to move, is that your question?