The stereotype goes that when directors are figuring out how to frame a shot, they extend their arms, create a rectangle using their thumbs and index fingers, and peer through that box. And because movies and TV shows have traditionally been viewed on one kind of box or another, the process provides a rough gauge of what the scene will look like.
But when shooting 360° video, what does framing even mean? How does a director draw the viewer’s attention to a specific point when there’s so much to look at, with continuous imagery at every direction?
Filmmakers dipping a toe into this kind of video are learning that virtual reality is a completely new beast, one that forces them to rethink the traditional storytelling techniques they’ve come to rely on.
In the process, they are discovering new things about the power of audio.
George Lucas is widely credited with having said that sound is 50% of the moviegoing experience. While audio indeed has played an important role in cinema since the 1920s, with the rise of talkies, it’s proving an especially vital tool in virtual reality. With composition and framing essentially boiling down to making sure the horizon is straight and keeping objects and people that don’t belong in a shot out of it, subtle sound cues like footsteps from behind or a knock at the door can help guide viewers to particular points in a scene.