In a world first, BBC TV’s tech show Click is about to transmit a special 360-degree edition.
It will contain never-before-broadcast views of Cern’s Large Hadron Collider, an immersive video games review and a conjuring trick in which the magician could not hide anything from sight.
Audiences will also be able to stream an interactive version, which they can experience via virtual-reality headsets.
Making the programme was no easy feat, as its presenter and producer explain.
“Cameras running. Action!” shouts Steve. I stand there, looking awkwardly at the camera, and do nothing. Except start counting to 10 in my head.
Normally, I’d have launched into my piece to camera at those words, but on this special shoot we have to give the audience “landing time” to get their bearings and then turn around to see what’s behind them.
During that awkward silence, you might spot another difference from our normal programme.
There are no “behind-the-scenes”.
Everyone is in shot at all times, so had better be doing something useful.
That meant the camera operator often had to play-act after hitting “record”.
Mind you, first they had to start each of six GoPro cameras in the cubic constellation we were using. Then they had to do a weird clapping dance that wouldn’t be out of place in a flamenco show.
This was to provide an audio and visual synchronisation point for each of the video files, so they could be stitched later. At least, that’s what Steve said.
Personally, I think he was compensating for the sitting around that followed.
Then it was my turn, and here’s the third difference on a 360 shoot: one-take wonders.
You might think we film everything in one take anyway, but a normal 2D Click consists of shot changes every few seconds – close-ups of points of interest mentioned in the voiceover, general shots to cover edits we make in my or the guest’s talky bits.
We decided it would be incredibly jarring to cut to different shots in 360, so for the most part, each two-to-five minute section was recorded “as-live”, in one take. My words, interviewee’s answers, and, in one case, a massive pool of water overflowing and nearly soaking our shoes.
As a presenter, it feels much more “live” than normal. The energy is higher, you can have more fun and be freer, knowing that whatever you do, and wherever you go, it will be in shot, with no need for repeats in close-up.
Whenever you want to talk about something, you just point to it, and let the audience look around. It’s a lot less formal, and more like talking to a person than a camera.
But there’s a lot of pressure to get everything right in one go, and it tends to go best after a good dose of the three R’s: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Of course, not every story works in 360, and this has certainly been an education in telling them in a compelling way without all the usual tricks of exciting cutaways and fast edits.