InstaVR Interviews: Meet the VR Practitioners
InstaVR Interviews is a blog series where we turn the spotlight on our customers. We find out why they create VR, how they use InstaVR, and what the future of VR will look like. To read more interviews, visit the InstaVR Interviews homepage.
David Betteridge, Video Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Creative Director at Immersive Content Studio Citizen 360
David Betteridge is an award-winning London-based video Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Creative Director specialising in 360 video, branded content, advertising, and documentaries.
As resident filmmaker and Creative Director at immersive content studio Citizen 360, he specialises in 360 narrative videos for brands, NGOs and corporates creating immersive experiences and VR documentaries for viewing on Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, Gear VR and other VR headsets.
He has created 360 video content for brands such as Google, HP, DHL, Samsung, Tui and Discovery to bring their immersive brand stories to life.
Betteridge spends most of career in documentaries and brand content, starts utilizing 360 after positive Google Cardboard experience
Question: How did you first get interested in directing 360-degree videos?
Answer: I’ve been a live action director, working in everything from music videos to commercials, short films, some tv, documentaries, etc. Now I work in that space between documentaries and advertising and now 360 video.
I got into 360 video about three years ago, from doing some work with Google. I’d sort of known of 360-video for a while, but I never really got it. It wasn’t really until someone put a Cardboard headset on my face that I understood how powerful 360 video ws as a storytelling medium. Then I realized it was something that I had to learn how to do. Then I realized it was something that I had to do.
I got a hold of the GoPros and software, and put myself through it, learning how these things work. Once I got through the technical aspect, it was a matter of figuring out how to use this to tell stories. Which is what I did — I started with documentaries.
Then 360 started showing up on the radar of some of my brand clients. Mainly what they were asking for was immersive experiences like riding on a racing yacht, or wind surfing. It was mainly immersive experiences or virtual tours, it was early days.
The first narrative 360 documentary project I shot, Misfits, has been touring the global festival circuit and went a long way to persuading clients that 360 narrative was a great way of telling stories.
Then slowly it moved into brands wanting to tell proper stories, narrative 360 storytelling, which is what I specialize in. Then recently, we’ve begun to create a series of films for brands which show that the format is maturing. And the next step is interactive 360 video.
That’s where I’m from. I’m a live action director that’s picked up 360 as being the next big storytelling tool.
David Betteridge Filming on Location
He starts out building his own GoPro rigs, then building his own DSLR rigs, occasionally using Garmins and Fusions for action shoots, now using KanDao Obsidian
Question: What cameras are you using for 360-degree video capture?
Answer: I’ve used all sorts of GoPro rigs. I was originally using the standard cubic rigs then building my own, using GoPros with fish-eye lenses. Those worked very well.
For action and sports shoots, using the smaller cameras like the Garmin and the Fusion. All of which I think are great.
And then we built for the higher-end shoots rigs out of DSLRs, Panasonic and Sony. With a variety of fish-eye lenses.
Then recently we bought the KanDao Obisidian, which we just started using. We’re getting some excellent results from that.
Kandao Obsidian on a Motorized Track in Scotland
Clients intrigued by using 360-degree media, but have to decide how to best use and distribute the outputted experiences
Question: How do you pitch clients on 360 projects? What are they using them for?
Answer: A lot of times its agencies or clients coming to me, and they say they want to work in 360. But they don’t really know why.
It is essential to think of the audience right at the beginning – how will they be experiencing the film. Are you looking to put this into an app? Or is this something specific to Mobile? Facebook? YouTube? The big question is is this going to be used for headsets?
Increasingly, we’re seeing that people are understanding the best use of 360 video is in the headsets. That’s where you get the real emotional connection to the content. That’s where people are having the most success.
There’s all these different sorts of challenges about how you get them in front of an audience. So I think for me, that’s where apps come to be an integral part of what we’re trying to do.
Shooting in a Cave in Indonesia
Betteridge utilizes Zoom H2n mics with cameras, sound editing done via Premiere or Facebook tools
Question: Sound is obviously important in the 360 landscape… how you approach that?
Answer: If we’re doing something with a budget for proper ambisonic sound mix, we’d often use a location sound recordist who specializes in that. But a lot of time, if it’s just background audio running underneath voiceover or narrative, we’ll record ourselves under the camera using a Zoom H2n. That works very well with the Kandao, as it has a sync cable.
Premiere is quite simple as it has ambisonic presets for projects. So a lot of the pain points that were around a year ago are taken out. Also Facebook has a really good audio studio for ambisonics, in terms of creating your own or augmenting the H2n audio with additional sounds.
It’s gotten a lot simpler recently. If it’s something you know is destined for headsets, then I think audio is a really, really important to look at.
GoPro Entiniya Rig in Hong Kong
Betteridge’s team uses a number of post-production tools, such as Autopano, Mistika, Skybox and Mantra VR
Question: What’s your post-recording pre-uploading to InstaVR tool set?
Answer: Stitching really depends on the camera you’re using for the shoot. Two that we use are: Autopano Video and Mistika. For all of our editing, we use Premiere, which has good VR tools on there. And we use some of the plug-ins from Mettle. And also Mantra VR for stabilization and effects. Those work very well with Premiere. And that’s really our toolset for post-production.
Custom Panasonic Rig in Cincinnati
InstaVR enters the picture as he looks to add interactivity and create apps completely in-house
Question: How did you first become interested in using InstaVR?
Answer: I was looking for a way to create apps, but without going through app building companies and their costs. I found four or five platforms for doing this. I’ve watched them develop over the last year or so, to identify which would have the toolsets that I thought would be most adaptable to what I want to do.
I tried InstaVR out. I thought, “This is really simple.” It’s got a fairly easy learning curve on it. Even though it seems to have a lot of functionality within it, it’s something you can just start clicking. And within a very short period of time have something built.
And we had the first interactive project we wanted to handle ourselves, and not go out of house. That was something we looked at using it for and has worked very well.
Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan
Both links and hotspots add the interactivity sought by clients
Question: What features of InstaVR are you mainly using?
Answer: The perspective we come at it from is telling interactive stories. So it was originally for Links, to allow stories within different scenes. This is what we were originally doing with Unity, creating story trees. So people could decide how visually you went through it, interactively.
Now, we’re getting quite a lot of clients liking the idea of 360 media with hotspots. And keeping it very simple so the audience doesn’t get too confused by it. So at the moment, hotspots are something we’re using a lot, which is not something we originally thought would be the case. We originally looked at it for multi-threaded stories. But now we’re putting together interactive stories, so we’re using hotspots and links.
Garmin Virb 360 Sports Cam in Egypt
Betteridge leverages cross-platform publishing (Gear VR, Android, Web), starts to see more interest in training and induction videos
Question: What platforms are you publishing to? And what types of projects?
Answer: We have used Gear VRs, primarily for events. The one we’re currently working on is purely for Android, and another one for Web. So it really is different based on the project.
From a business point of view, there’s a lot of clients looking for apps for training. We’re beginning to see people talking about those type of projects. There’s big opportunities for training.
What we’re particularly interested in is interactive 360 storytelling. People can navigate around immersive storyscapes. For entertainment projects or documentary projects, we think 360 works really well with that.
Filming at a Favela in Brazil
Best feature of InstaVR is ability to do everything in-house
Question: Any advice for a user considering trying out InstaVR for the first time?
Answer: I started originally using InstaVR for one project. Cause I’ve done some interactive stuff before, but it’s all been in Unity. Which is obviously quite time-consuming. So I really just did it for one project, but it definitely seems that interactive is the next step that people want to take. It’s become very useful.
With Unity you can totally customize, but it’s incredibly time-consuming and buggy. Finding decent Unity developers is difficult, especially within a budget. But the great thing about InstaVR is you can bring that in-house. It’s a very useful tool for us!
Tate Gallery London