A 2D film can show you something, but a 3D film in virtual reality can make you feel it. If done right, you'll feel immersed in a new world that surrounds you. If done wrong, you'll get nauseous and uncomfortable. SilVR Thread, a 360-degree VR video company, figured out a few important ways to get the feeling right.
Because VR can make you feel like you're somewhere else even when you actively know you're not, a poorly shot 360-degree video can result in some pretty bad experiences. For example, if the camera shakes in a significant way you'll probably start to feel sick. You might think fully stabilizing the video would solve the problem, but it just creates a new one—and that's one of the surprises SilVR Thread discovered when trying to make a more compelling point-of-view experience.
Without a little shake from significant movement in the video, the experience can feel uncomfortably controlled. We expect some shake at certain moments and if it isn't there just a bit, we distrust what we're experiencing. That not only prevents a fuller immersion, but actually feels wrong when it happens. Imagine dropping down into a trampoline and sinking in but seeing yourself bounce back up. Your body feels betrayed by your eyes in a rather odd way, making it very important to stabilize—but just not too much.
SilVR Thread also found that it helped to keep the body of the videographer in the shot to ground the viewer in the experience. It might seem weird to step into someone else's limbs, but it actually gives you an important sense of scale. Instead of feeling like you possessed another human being, you feel like you have an actual presence in the video instead of like an invisible floating entity.
That grounding translates to more than just a sense of presence. In training applications, seeing from the perspective of the person performing a task can make you feel like you're the one doing it. You can create an actual, visual memory of doing something the correct way. This makes for an incredible learning tool that people can utilize to learn new skills better and faster.
Shooting enjoyable and effective-360 degree VR video requires an unusual learning curve. The rules of normal filmmaking don't really apply, and tiny choices can create vastly different feelings. You have to figure out what every choice means for the viewer—and if that's an advantage. It's a tough process that many are trying to decipher, but what SilVR Thread seems to have figured out is that we react better when the experience feels more human.