It's opening day and we're standing on the field at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park. The view is a rare one — open only to team officials, some media, a handful of the world's most talented athletes, and the guy singing the national anthem. The limited access makes it the perfect place to shoot a 360 video, an immersive format that puts you and your audience inside the scene you're filming. And that's exactly what we did with the Giants' home opener back in April.
Shooting 360 video isn't all that hard. You don't need to worry about things like framing, for instance. But it's definitely different than capturing standard video. And the camera equipment — often portrayed as hulking, spaceship-like devices that cost tens of thousands of dollars — can sometimes be daunting. In the director's cut video above, BuzzFeed Open Lab Fellow Ben Kreimer, BuzzFeed Jr. Staff Writer Jeff Barron, and I discuss our experiences shooting the video. Below, you can read more about the equipment we used and our approach to the shoot.
Here's our video rig. Facing us is one GoPro HERO3+ Black camera, and there's another identical camera on the opposite side. These cameras shoot wide-angle 220-degree video. Put two back-to-back and activate them at the same time and you can stitch the resulting footage into immersive 360-degree video. The red base is 3D printed, designed in-house at our BuzzFeed Open Lab. You can build one yourself; we've made the plans available (for free!) online.
Here's a screencap of the view through one of the 220-degree lenses. Our team uses a program called Kolor Autopano Video Pro to stitch the footage. We edit it in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Because our 360 rig is fairly inconspicuous, it's easily placed in the middle of the action. We captured some of our best shots this way, setting up the camera amid a pile of gloves and hoping players would stroll by to pick them up. (They did.) As you watch our video, you can move your phone to follow the players as they walk around the field, shouting words of encouragement to each other, as Giants outfielder Hunter Pence does to teammate Angel Pagan in our final video (at the end of this post).
One of the neat things we've found in our experiments with these 360 video rigs is you don't need a traditional camera operator. While we did shoot a bunch of footage ourselves, we also handed the rig off to a player and a fan to capture their view of the action. Here, Giants reliever George Kontos holds the rig as he walks out onto the field. As he enters, he looks into the camera and says: "Pretty frickin sweet." Indeed. A 360 video clip is the only way to see what the player is looking at as well as his reaction to it.
This is the dream shot. A 360 capture of what the dugout looks like mid-game. While we were in the dugout, the Giants turned in an inning-ending double play, so in the video you see the action on the field, the reaction of everyone in the dugout, and then the team running off the field, getting ready for their turn at bat.
Here's one more shot of the rig positioned in the middle of a gaggle of fans as they wait for the players to make their way to the field. We were able to capture many of these shots with the help of the Giants staff.
Finally, here are the components of our 360 video rig. If you wanted to build the whole thing from scratch, it would run you just over $1,100 — plus the cost of accessories.
The director's cut of our video is embedded above. Below you can watch the final video.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
Ben Kreimer was a 2016 fellow in BuzzFeed's Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts .
Contact Ben Kreimer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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