Today I’ll be talking about the various settings when shooting Virtual Reality video and explaining why you’d choose some over others as well as showing examples to let you judge for yourself. Please keep in mind that all examples were auto-stitched to give you an idea of what your edits will start with. I’ll be going more in-depth with stitching and editing in a later post.
When working with a multi-cam GoPro rig, remember your ultimate goal is to create a single image. GoPros are set to auto-everything by default and are all looking different directions. This will cause each camera to interpret your scene very differently, making post production that much more difficult or, in some cases, impossible.
You must choose a resolution with a 4:3 ratio to ensure you have enough overlap for a proper stitch.
On the Hero4 Black that gives you three options: 2.7K (4:3), 1440, and 960.
All other modes, including 4K, have a restricted field of view and you’ll end up with a stitch that looks like this:
1440 is your best bet for the most part, as the cameras will overheat fairly quickly at 2.7K - sometimes as short as 15-20 minutes of recording. The GoPros that have been modified to take the 220 and 280 fisheye lenses are less prone to overheating. Good thing, because you’ll want that extra resolution to make up for having less cameras.
The maximum frame rate of the Hero4 Black is 30fps at 2.7K 4:3, 80fps at 1440, and 120fps at 960.
Ensure all cameras are set to the same frame rate or you will not be able to import the footage into your editor.
Above image is a screenshot is from the stitching software Autopano, available at the Kolor Store.
A higher frame rate will allow for smoother transitions as your viewer looks around which makes for a more enjoyable VR experience.
Remember that 60fps is only slow motion if your project frame rate is set to something lower.
Field of View - W
When set to a 4:3 Resolution, “Wide” is your only option – you cannot change it.
Auto Low Light - Off
When auto low light is enabled, the camera will automatically adjust its frame rate in order to achieve proper exposure. At the same time, the camera will compensate for the change (i.e. repeating frames) so that the clip’s final frame rate is unchanged. However, this can lead to improper exposure on an area that’s supposed to be dark and will cause a noticeable change in motion when a subject crosses from one camera to another.
Spot Meter - Off
Spot meter is used when there is a high luminance difference in your scene and you want to give exposure priority to whatever’s in the middle of your frame (for example, shooting an exterior scene from indoors).
Because we want our cameras to blend together as much as possible, we need the camera to consider the edges while choosing exposure; therefore, spot meter should be off.
Pro Tune - On
ProTuning allows for more control of the cameras’ parameters, helping them act as a single unit.
White Balance can be set to 3000K, 5500K, 6500K, AUTO, and NATIVE.
Native is unprocessed color data straight from the sensor and will allow for the greatest control in post.
If you’re not going to be doing any color correction in post, it’s best to set the white balance to whichever numeric value is closest to your scene.
AUTO is one you want to avoid, as every camera will come up with its own color setting based on what it can see. This will also allow the white balance to change throughout recording.
There are two color profiles to choose from that control image color, contrast and saturation: GOPRO and FLAT.
Flat will give you a gray, unsaturated image that allows greater user manipulation in post.
GoPro color is a perfectly acceptable setting if you’re not going to color correct.
In either case, ensure all cameras have the same color profile.
This setting controls how much each camera can boost its ISO to achieve proper exposure.
The values are 400, 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400.
In general it’s best to set the same limit on each camera and to keep that at 1600 or less.
Like all cameras set to evaluative metering, “Proper Exposure” means an image whose luminance values average out to middle gray. If you have one camera that’s aimed at a shadow or any large dark area, the camera will boost the ISO until that large dark area becomes gray and noisy.
Sharpness can be set to LOW, MED, or HIGH.
This setting is one of personal preference so long as it is identical across all cameras.
Because GoPros have such a high depth of focus, High Sharpness is usually overkill.
Exposure Value Compensation
Exposure compensation lets you offset the camera’s evaluation of the scene.
In theory, this setting should only be adjusted if your rig will be stationary, your lighting will remain consistent throughout the take, and you have a chance to preview footage to ensure proper exposure.
Because each camera is always trying to achieve middle gray, cameras that are aimed at a light source or at a dark shadow will be underexposed and overexposed, respectively, with regards to the rest of the image.
In this scene, camera 2 is looking directly at the sun and is doing its best to balance its scene by making everything darker. This has caused the buildings (and yours truly) to be underexposed compared to the rest of the image. Because the sun is the sun, it will always be blown out. Therefore, nothing of value is lost by telling camera 2 to overexpose. The scale is from -2 stops to +2 stops in half-stop increments.
As you can see, +.5 EV gives me an even exposure on the right building, brings up the detail in the subject, and brightens the sky around the sun for a more believable image.
Unfortunately, those benefits were cancelled out when I spun the rig to help sync the GoPros. Camera 6 ended up having the sun in frame too, causing an exposure mismatch in the sky. This is why it’s best to leave EV compensation at zero. Guessing, or careless mistakes like mine, will mean more work for your editor and more money from you. Local exposure corrections can be made in post if needed.
Connecting the Camera to the GoPro Smart Remote
All of Flüg's multi-cam GoPro VR 360 rental kits include a GoPro wireless smart remote. Up to 40 GoPros can be paired with a single smart remote, which will allow you to start/stop recording on all units simultaneously (Though not frame accurate), as well as power cycle all cameras between takes to save battery life and delay overheating.
To pair the cameras to the remote:
Use the Mode button to access the Set-Up menu.
The first option in the setup menu is the camera’s Wi-Fi setting.
Press the record button twice to turn the Wi-Fi on.
A blue LED on the front of the camera will start blinking.
All this means is that the Wi-Fi is active – it does not mean the camera is connected to anything.
The Wi-Fi remains active when the camera is powered down and the LED will continue to blink. This allows the cameras to be powered on by the remote. When the battery is replaced, however, the Wi-Fi turns off and will need to be re-enabled (though not re-paired) in the set-up menu.
Once the Wi-Fi has been enabled, select “Pair”, and choose “Wi-Fi RC” mode.
The camera will begin a 3-minute countdown where it will continuously attempt to connect with any available remote.
Repeat this process with the other cameras in the rig so that all of them are attempting to pair simultaneously.
When all cameras are in pairing mode, turn on the Smart Remote.
Hold the wrench button on the smart remote for 4 seconds to begin its pairing process.
When the remote successfully connects to a GoPro, a camera icon will appear on its screen and the word “Success” will appear on the GoPro’s screen.
A prompt may appear on the Smart Remote’s screen asking if you want to connect another camera. Select “Yes” to let the remote continue to pair.
As more cameras successfully connect to the remote, a number will appear next to the camera icon on the remote’s screen.
When all cameras have successfully connected you can select “No” if prompted to connect to another camera, or press any button on the Smart remote to end the pairing process.
A new screen will appear on the smart remote, telling you how many cameras are connected and what their status is: BUSY, READY, or REC.
“Busy” can mean a camera is finishing a recording or is initializing
“Ready” means all cameras are on standby and are ready to record.
“Rec” means the cameras are currently recording.
While you are not yet able to monitor the full 360 video in real-time virtual space, there are a couple ways to at least see what each of your cameras see before and during recording.
Using the GoPro App on an iOS or Android device, you can wirelessly connect to and view any paired camera.
Please refer to GoPro’s website on the pairing procedure for your specific device.
Before and during recording, you are able to switch between cameras to view a live preview and check battery levels.
Doing so will not affect the cameras’ connection to the smart remote; however, you will be able to start/stop recording and power cycle the camera from your phone, so be careful not to do so.
When the cameras are not recording, you are able to adjust the settings from your device.
Alternatively, the GoPros have a micro HDMI out port next to the USB port that can be connected to a battery powered field monitor in order to quickly check exposure or positioning before a take.
Every Flüg GoPro VR Rental Kit comes with 2 standard batteries per camera.
In most cases that is all you will need since it is the most compact solution and will allow you to charge one set while using the other. Of course, more batteries can always be ordered.
Easy Acc External 4-Port USB power supply
This 20,000 mAh battery can be directly connected to the GoPros themselves or used as a free standing charging station, providing an approximate 9 hours of additional recording time for up to 3 cameras.
If you remove the battery packs and power the cameras directly from the Easy Acc, you can film longer and at higher resolutions with less overheating. Though there are 4 ports on the battery, it can only power three cameras simultaneously
“The Kraken” - An Anton Bauer Ptap to 10-port USB hub
Can also be used as a free standing charging station or connected directly to the cameras.
GoPros draw different amounts of power depending on resolution, framerate, and Wi-Fi usage. When they are idle, the Kraken will power up to 10 cameras. However, as you record, the first camera will drop about 5-15 seconds in, the second a minute or two later, and the third about 30 minutes into recording.
Each Flüg GoPro VR Rental Kit includes two 32GB Micro SD cards per camera.
32GB is enough for an hour at 1440p / 60fps or 2.7K 4:3 / 30fps.
Media Management Tips
If you get the message “SD ERR”, simply format the card in-camera.
Because the user cannot define the individual file naming convention, care must be taken when transferring files to keep all your data straight. To further complicate the matter, GoPros have a maximum file size of 4GB and will split up longer takes into multiple videos. Fortunately split files will not affect recording or synchronization, as no frames are lost.
Filenames begin with “GOPR” followed by a 4-digit sequence number.
If a clip gets split, only the first file will follow that convention. Every subsequent file will begin with “GP” followed by a chapter number (beginning with 01) and then the same 4-digit sequence number as the first file.
For example, if clip 2786 were split into 3 files:
The first file would be named: GOPR2786.mp4
The second would be named: GP012786.mp4
The third would be: GP022786.mp4
Slating for Synchronization
Because the GoPros are all independent from one another, they will need to be frame-accurately synchronized in your editing program. There are two ways to do this.
Audio: Like with sound syncing, a loud clap can be used. This can be with a slate or with your hands, so long as it’s clear. Some people recommend several loud claps in succession; however, in personal experience I’ve had more success with a single loud clap. You can slate more than once in a take to find out what works best for you.
Motion: This can be used in lieu of, or in addition to, the audio syncing method. The best way to use motion for synchronization is to physically spin the rig. Motion is a more reliable way to sync if there’s a lot of noise or strong wind during your take.
Still have questions or notice something I missed? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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