360 Degree Video: Creative Potential Waiting to Explode
Tate Modern recently released the 360 degree film we created to promote their latest Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. So far, the video is their most watched piece of content ever, with over 3 million views. But it’s not all about views and return on investment, as a retoucher, the concept of working in 360 is something that really excited me when I first encountered VR several years ago. To me it had so much creative potential waiting to explode into the advertising and marketing world; I was hooked from the start.
Currently, the market for VR is mainly film focused, especially since Facebook and YouTube’s integration of 360 videos became available. A recent experiment by Google showed that 360 video marketing not only encourages viewers to watch and interact with brands online, but also dramatically increases sharing, subscribing and overall interest in the brand. You can see why VR is fast becoming a superior medium in advertising.
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The Three Pillars of Creative Retouching for 360 VR
As a stills retoucher, photographer and VR nut, my aim is to build a crossover between the world of stills and 360 media. As creative technology evolves, each discipline becomes less isolated; our recent project for Tate Modern’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition is a great example of how creative retouching and VR need to work together to deliver a truly pleasant, engaging and beautiful experience. Let me walk you through this project to show you the three pillars of the creative 360 retouching work for any project: structural retouching, workflow and grading.
When shooting 360 stills, it’s common to use 360 video cameras which are widely available on the market now. They are a quick and efficient way of capturing data all at once within the environment. While auto-stitching software has significantly improved over the last few years, perfect stitching requires a detailed, artistic review. For this, a skilled retoucher is the key to creating a seamless 360 stitch despite the software's best execution.
In this example you can see there is an error where the auto-stitching algorithms have not quite aligned correctly from the camera rig. A rebuild in retouch during the cleaning process is often more efficient and effective than going back and manually stitching the shot.
Multiple Software Workflows
When beginning to work in 360, I first decided to learn the whole process from scratch. I took my camera and bought all the mods and kit to enable me to shoot in 360. This allowed me to understand fully how the process works, from developing the raw data to stitching and mapping out the images, the entire process is a test of both technical and creative skills across multiple platforms.
Using a combination of Lightroom, Autopano, After Effects and Photoshop enabled me to create a smooth and efficient production line, allowing maximum control from start to finish over the outcome.
Mood and Grade
Grading, as it happens with still images, is also essential for any 360 video. For the Georgia O’Keeffe film, mood and grading were key in capturing the essence of O’Keeffe’s famous style. Once supplied with the raw images I drew inspiration from the landscapes in front of me: I could see how O'Keeffe had developed her powerful abstract compositions and unique colour palettes from these amazing environments. I drew references from her artwork and attempted to tie in her style with my work, from the deep rustic tones of the deserts to the soft delicacy of her flowers.
Installation shots from the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern
Georgia O’Keeffe From the Faraway, Nearby 1937 I Photograph courtesy Tate Photography
To me personally, the continuing development of VR is full of creative potential, not only for filmmakers but for the future of photography and retouch as a whole. The ability to fully immerse yourself in your artwork and allow others to enjoy it with you is a truly wonderful experience. As I continue my pursuit into the world of art and design within VR I’m constantly looking for new concepts, ideas, and collaborations, so If developing the future of image making is something that interests you, please don’t hesitate, get in touch!