No, 360 Video is Not Going to Replace Traditional Filmmaking, but It’s Still Cool as Hell

I’ve gotten several emails at Filmmaker IQ asking if 360 video is going to replace traditional filmmaking techniques. The answer of course is “NO!” -followed by a definitive “HELL NO!” but that doesn’t make 360 video still really cool.

The funny thing is when this video came up in my browser I didn’t even know it was a 360 video. I thought the image was kinda of crappy so I clicked on the YouTube resolution and saw it was playing in 480s - I had never seen that nomenclature before – then I realized I could mouse click and drag my way around. The “s” must stand for spherical.

Spherical Video

The biggest reason why 360 won’t replace traditional filmmaking is it eliminates the director from the filmmaking equation. Shot composition and montage are effectively destroyed – everything is shot from only one focal length (wide) and the user can choose what to look at which can be more distracting than driving the story forward. I’m sure some enterprising director will come along and make a brilliant 360 narrative – and it’s going to be awesome. But it’s not replacing traditional film.

But more importantly, the question raises a bigger problem in the way we discuss the future of film. We tend to treat film as a monolithic endeavor – CGI vs Practical, Widescreen vs Academy ratio, VHS vs Betamax. With the exception of format standards such as the final example, there is very little that is monolithic about film. There’s room for all kinds of films, all kinds of narrative and all kinds of ways to tell that narrative. A 360 narrative film will happen one day, but that doesn’t mean we stop making traditional film when that day comes – there’s room for both.

We can get extremely narrow sighted when it comes to our view of the filmmaking world – it happens even to the best of us (Spielberg and Lucas have heralded an implosion of Hollywood – and it has yet to happen so Spielberg backtracked). I have been critical of the “democratization of filmmaking” because it has led not to good competition but competition with a deluge of crap – BUT the democratization also means there are a lot more demand and a lot more avenues to serve that demand.  In other words – there’s just more variety – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The day you can put on a VR set and enter a horror movie will be a landmark day. If they can figure out the technology to bring a companion with you into that film it will lead to a baby boom a la the Snuggle Theory.

Film Emulation for Digital Video, Explained

This video examines film emulators, reviewing their common features and suggested uses. Film emulation is the process of converting digital footage to appear as if it was shot on film. This process works by matching the color values of digital footage to different film stocks. Film emulation can be achieved through stand-alone software, with plugins, or by using color look-up tables (often called LUTs).

Film Grading

How the “Kiss Cam” Works

We’ve seen kiss cams — but how do they work? Here’s a peek behind the scenes.

It’s easy to be captivated by the occasional kiss cam fail or kiss cam prank. But behind the humor of kiss cam compilations is the hard work of the people who make it happen. Ever wonder if the kiss cam challenge is real, or fake? This is how it happens.

Kiss cam

10 Cloverfield Lane’s Title is its Biggest Spoiler

Through social media I heard that John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane was something to be marveled. I checked the reviews – most of them had glowing headlines and started off by warning readers that the review would not contain much plot description as that would ruin the experience of the film. Well the same warning goes here as the rest of this piece will contain major spoilers – but I might argue that the biggest one is right there in the title:

10 Cloverfield

I came at this film not having watched the original Cloverfield and knowing pretty much nothing about the film. I didn’t follow the press leading up to it – I even admitted as much to the ticket guy at the movie theater when he asked me if I was excited to see the film. I had no idea what was going to happen except the basic premise… and that it was connected to Cloverfield.

And that, when reflecting on the film, was a problem.

The dramatic tension of the film rests on the question of whether or not John Goodman’s character in the film is lying about what’s going on outside of the bunker. Is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being held captive or is she really being kept safe from the terror above. Unfortunately because we know it’s a Cloverfield movie, we know the latter is the truth. John Goodman’s character is still a monster in his own right, but the big finale sequence involving the alien monster doesn’t feel like a shocking twist but rather the payoff we expected from the title.

The film was adapted from an original script titled The Cellar – which I’m guessing was never originally tied to the Cloverfield universe. Judging by the loglines, the truth about what’s going on outside the bunker was meant to be a mystery and a source of dramatic tension. That tension doesn’t exist here.

But of course not being tied to a big name like Cloverfield would probably have scored the film $100 million less in box office sales. So I get why they drew the link. And I also realize that people have been tracking this film in the news as a Cloverfield successor so there’s really no way to hide that fact. But maybe this story wasn’t the right fit for the franchise.

Now reading this far, you might have gotten the impression that I didn’t like 10 Cloverfield Lane and that is far from true. I found it a very well crafted film which moved briskly apart from dialogue scene between Michelle and the Emmitt which I thought was just too slow and expository (I really was ready to nod off on that one which I can’t say about every other scene).

I really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I can’t help but wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I not known what would be on the other side of the bunker door. 


New 9×16 Festival Could Showcase YOUR FILM at the Next Cannes!

In certain filmmaking crowds it is often expected of me, as a student of film history, to abhor the modern trend of vertical video or 9×16. But many people would be surprised to find out that I actually do not have a problem with the format at all. We take photos in portrait mode, we Facetime in portrait mode, we read articles in portrait mode… the simple fact is a smart phone is just easier and more natural to hold in portrait mode. So why not have video that’s designed to fit that natural aspect ratio?


Now a clear distinction must be made here – we’re not advocating that all media be produced at a 9×16 aspect ratio. That would be as silly as calling for all productions to use 16×9 or 2.39 – some things work better in one format or the other and it’s up to the filmmaker to choose.

Until very recently, the 9×16 aspect ratio hasn’t been taken seriously by content creators, employed only by well meaning amateurs just trying to capture a spur of the moment event. Well it’s time to change that. What if you used the skinny aspect ratio to your advantage? What if you could be one of the pioneering filmmakers creating new aesthetics in the 9×16 video world?

Nespresso Talents 2016 is offering just that opportunity! An international search is on for the three most innovative filmmakers working in 9×16 to be showcased at the Cannes Film Festival 2016.

So How Do I Compose 9×16 Anyway?

The narrower framing of the vertical video may seem alien at first but it really isn’t that unfamiliar. If you’ve ever taken a portrait photo, you’ve framed for 9×16 – now we’re just adding motion. Check out these three Nespresso commissioned films by the jury members for some amazing composition ideas.

Martin Scorsese famously asked how you would compose a close up in widescreen. It can be difficult as closeups in widescreen result in some sort of compromise between cutting off parts of the face or having lots of empty room on the side of the frame that need to be filled. Well the human face (and body for that matter) fit much better in a 9×16 aspect ratio.

Landscapes might be something you would think lend themselves better toward widescreen and you’d be right. You’re not going to get Lawrence of Arabia vistas in 9×16 but if you look for interesting compositions, you’ll find lots of stunning natural imagery that fits the tall frame:

Architecture almost lives in the 9×16 aspect ratio – seemingly perfectly suited for this documentary on Doors:

And of course in animation – you’re only limited by your imagination:

Keep in mind that with the vertical edges of the frame so close, where you place your horizontal lines becomes much more important. Also consider what’s in the frame and what’s not and use that strategically to tell your story. With less horizontal real estate you have to be more selective about what you choose to show which can make for some stunning compositions.

Always remember: it’s what’s in the image and what isn’t – that’s the only thing that matters.

Technical Considerations

You can create your 9×16 film in anyway you want. Shooting video on a phone held in portrait mode would be the simplest but it may not be the most creatively interesting. For mounting GoPros and small DSLRs you can look into ball head tripods. These are designed for photographers who  shoot stills in portrait mode – however they are not great for shooting pans and tilts. In those situations you may need mount the camera on an L bracket on a fluid head tripod to get the sideways shot. You can purchase them premade or make one of your own:

L Bracket

You don’t have to always shoot locked off on sticks. Handheld is always an option when shooting 9×16 but there are some things to consider. CMOS sensors capture the scene from top to bottom – the resulting “jello effect” causes vertical lines to slant in a pan. In vertical mode, the “jello effect” will cause things to stretch-and-squish when performing quick pans. Because of the claustrophobic nature of vertical video – excessive camera shake or fast moves may cause motion sickness in the audience so either avoid that or use it sparingly and always with a purpose.

When it comes to editing you’ll want to create a custom timeline in your editing suite (like a 1080×1920 timeline) so you are filling the entire frame with your 9×16 image. Things like cuts, dissolves and other transitions will have a little different effect when working with 9×16 versus widescreen. The best approach is to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t for your idea.

How Do I Enter?

The Nespresso Talents 2016 contest is open to international entries starting on March 7th and closes on April 10th, 2016. The top three filmmakers will be selected to have their work screened at the world famous Cannes Film Festival in May.

Head over the Nespresso Talents 2016′s submission page to submit your entry- the deadline is April 10, 2016!



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