Before shooting with a 360-degree camera, I really had no clue what to expect. I didn’t know what the camera was going to look like, how it was going to work, or even how I was going to hold it. I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert on cameras. Am I even going to be able to use this thing?” My first experience with a 360-degree camera was nearly a year and a half ago. I was privileged to be tasked with shooting footage of the Brodhead Center and thus, learning how to use a 360-degree camera. The problem is, as I said, that was over a year and a half ago and I haven’t touched the camera since. After my first shoot, I could successfully answer those questions that I previously had to ask myself. Now, I can barely even remember what the camera looks like, let alone how to use it. And so, with the new duty of filming the extravagant Trinity House, I was once again tasked with learning the ins and the outs of the 360-degree camera. Lucky for me, one thing that I do remember is that the camera itself was not that difficult to use. The application, on the other hand, is quite the burden.
The main problem wasn’t the camera itself. The camera that I was using was the Nikon KeyMission 360. It looks like a fist-sized cube and has two curved lenses and image sensors to capture footage from the front and from the back. If I’m being honest, I couldn’t even tell you which side of the camera is the front and which was the back. It has almost perfect symmetry. The directions appeared fairly simple. While the camera was off, it said to hold down the button on the top until the lights were flashing (to send it into pairing mode) and then connect the camera to your phone via Bluetooth. After pairing, connect to the camera’s wifi network and you should be all set up. Finally, you can use the app to remotely start and stop filming as well as view an in-app gallery of footage taken so far.
Now, let me recall for you my experiences with the camera’s pairing capabilities and use of the application. The day of shooting, one of the other interns (Katie) and I spent nearly 30 minutes just trying to get the camera to pair with our phones so that we could use the application. When we picked up the camera from the Office of News and Communications nearly a week before, we practiced pairing it with our phones to make sure that we knew what we were doing. After following the steps over and over again, for close to 20 minutes, the camera finally paired and we were on our way. We knew that there was a chance of these complications happening again but were just hoping that they wouldn’t arise when it came time to shoot. When we tried this in Trinity, it didn’t pair. We tried for a half hour with no luck. We didn’t think it ever would pair. So, we needed to come up with a workaround.
We hadn’t practice filming manually because we knew that if we did it this way, we would not be able to view our footage in real time. The camera doesn’t have a digital screen, thus, the only way to view the footage that you have taken is through the application. But, since the application wasn’t working, we had to just go for it. We started filming. We weren’t sure if we were actually capturing any footage because neither of us had tried manually shooting footage with this type of camera before, but had to go for it anyway because it was our only option. Then we realized, “the camera must have an SD card!” For those of you who don’t know what an SD card is, its basically a memory card used in portable devices such as cameras. So, we plugged it into a computer and viewed the gallery of footage. It was working! We were actually capturing footage. Now that we could finally see what we were recording, we wanted to make sure that the footage was visually pleasing. I’ll get into how we shot in a bit, but (through examining the footage) we basically realized that the tripod that the camera was on was sitting too low and needed to be raised.
Without the convenience of the app, we didn’t know whether or not we were getting footage. Even if we were, we didn’t know what it looked like. Eventually coming to the conclusion that the tripod needed to be raised became much more difficult and time-consuming than it needed to be. Although the camera’s specs and shooting capabilities are great (it shoots 360-degree 4K Ultra HD video), due to the inconsistencies and problematic nature of its ability to pair to your phone, I would not recommend it as the top choice for 360-degree video.
How we shot.
There were a few approaches to filming that Katie and I could have taken. The first was that we could walk around Trinity with the camera on an attachment and film the dorm as one continuous shot. There were a few problems with this option. The first is there would be a person, relatively close to the camera, in the frame at all times. This would take up a lot of space in the film. Also, if we were walking, there would be a lot of twists and turns trying to navigate around the dorm. If the camera is twisting, that defeats the purpose of the 360-degree video because viewers are supposed to have the freedom of doing this on their own. Lastly, although the dorm is glamorous, not all of it needs to be seen. There are some highlights such as the game room, common rooms, and movie theater, but we really didn’t think that people would care about the hallways and stairwells. To get from one noteworthy place to the next, we would need to pass through these boring places that would make the video long and drawn-out.
The second option was to set the camera down on a tripod, start filming, step out of the frame, leave the camera there for 10-20, and then come back in and stop filming. For the final video, we would then edit the parts with us in them out and stitch together this footage. This is the choice that we decided to go with. It would allow us to present the glorified parts of Trinity House and give the viewer enough time to pan around each room, all while leaving out the uninteresting aspects of the dorm.