By Larry Corwin, Creative Director and Margaret McLaughlin, Executive Producer

Today we’re unveiling Here and Now— the first Facebook-produced video filmed in 3D-360 with the Facebook Surround 360 camera.

Virtual reality and 360 video mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, it means gaming. To others, it’s about creating or watching visually epic scenes. Here at Facebook, we see it as an incredible opportunity to connect people with new experiences and different perspectives, bringing us all closer together virtually in a way we never could have before.

After the Facebook Surround 360 camera was built, Facebook’s creative studio, The Factory, set out to explore the possibilities of what it could do and how it could be used to convey deeper stories of humanity and connection in a fully immersive stereoscopic 360 experience. The result is Here and Now, a short film that transports you to the middle of the main hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York, where you’re immersed in the stories of the people passing through. From family members reconnecting, to a final embrace as a young daughter departs for a trip, to a group of teenagers heading out for the night — you feel like you’re right there watching these moments unfold.

Here and Now is filmed and directed in a radically new way to match the power of this new fully immersive stereoscopic 360 media. Here the line between viewer and creator are blurred. Even though there are various audio and visual cues that lead you from one part of the story to the other, you are free to engage any character or vignette you want — often getting to know a character before they become central to the story. Other times you may want to gaze out into the beautiful architecture or scan the crowd to take in the whole experience like you would in real life. In many ways the story becomes your own — and each time you watch, you can experience the scene and story differently.

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With this film, we wanted to start to explore what’s possible with the Facebook Surround 360 camera and share some best practices about shooting in 3D-360 that we learned along the way:

  • Pre-production
    • Shooting a narrative film in 3D-360 takes careful preparation and planning. This includes creating storyboards that take all 360 degrees into account, as well as blocking out primary characters so their stories don’t overlap, but rather lead from one to another seamlessly.
    • Since viewers have total control of where they look and when, it’s important to use subtle video and audio cues to guide them along the journey.
    • Rehearsing choreography is also an essential step in pre-production. Since Here and Now is one single take, it’s essential to have precise timing for characters to enter and exit the scene for the narrative to be cohesive, much like theater.
  • Production
    • Since it’s not yet possible to render the full spherical 3D-360 footage on the fly, we didn’t have the benefit of playback while shooting. This meant we had to make story and script changes without re-watching takes after they happened live. Again, the more preparations made in pre-production, the less guesswork on the day of the shoot.
    • Ultimately, we shot 13 complete takes over three nights at Grand Central Station. Of these, four were considered as contenders for the final film before we finally decided on a hero that best blended performance and choreography.

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  • Post-production
    • It’s not possible to do post-production in a Gear VR—or any other headset—so finishing color and sound means working on elements on a standard monitor and with standard speakers, then exporting and uploading the file to a Gear VR headset. Because of the size of the files, each export and review cycle takes significantly longer than on a typical film project, so it’s important to budget time accordingly and work this into the overall post-production schedule.

You can watch Here and Now on Oculus Gear VR in 3D-360 if you have a Samsung device or as a 360 video on Facebook here.

You can learn more about the Facebook Surround 360 camera here. The system includes a design for camera hardware and the accompanying stitching code, and we will make both available on GitHub this summer.