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TECHNIQUE: The difference between composition for spherical 360 photos and 360 videos

a scene from KA: the Battle Within
360 photos and videos appear similar but the difference in how they are viewed requires different approaches for composition.

At first glance, it might seem that composing for 360 photos and 360 videos should be pretty similar.  However, because of the way they are viewed, 360 photos and videos actually differ in composition.

With 360 photos, the viewer has potentially unlimited time.  The composition for a 360 photo can therefore be complex, with multiple points of interest around the viewer.  Indeed, users may expect to see interesting subjects wherever they look, including above and below them.  Therefore, there could be many subjects.

Here’s a sample with multiple points of interest: the flowers, the chandelier, the gallery entrance, and the converging lines of the hallway.

Although sometimes the same composition technique can work for some 360 videos, I believe 360 videos often require a different approach.

With 360 videos, viewers usually don’t have the opportunity (or desire) to pause a video and look around.  They will be looking at primarily one direction at any given time.  The 360 videographer therefore can provide a central focus for the viewer, so the viewer won’t feel lost or overwhelmed.  It doesn’t mean the central focus is static — the central focus of the video could move around the video (for example from the front of the viewer, the focus could move to the viewer’s side).

For example, one of the 360 videos I really like is Felix and Paul’s KA: the Battle Within.  Although Felix and Paul carefully composed each scene so that every angle looks good, there is a strong central focus that never leaves the viewer guessing as to which direction they ought to be looking.  Indeed, in several scenes, the action takes place within about a 120 degree view, with the rest of the 360 frame in shadow, dimly lit only by candles.

Here is a preview of KA: the Battle Within (the VR experience is available on the Oculus Store):

Do you agree that 360 photos and videos should use different types of composition?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!