Virtual Reality Shoot Tips: Distance and Personal Space

By: Stacy McKenzie  – Director of Lucid Studios

Personal space is a major feature of shooting in 3D virtual reality.  When used well it can be an absolute asset for telling your story. If you want to create an intimacy between the subject that you are shooting and your viewer by comfortably putting them closer together in a conversation, personal space is a great place to start. In the reverse, if you want to create tension, depending on the relationship that you want to achieve, you can use an infringement on personal space to do so. To prepare for, and understand, shooting interactions in VR you should keep in mind a few things;

  • Personal space is culturally defined. Some cultures have more personal space and others have less. You should take into consideration the predominating culture of the audience who will be watching your video/film. Also, have a sense personal space norms of the culture that your subjects are either from or are currently in.

* Click here for a resourceful article to get some examples and concepts of personal space across cultures.

  • Who is your camera? In virtual reality the camera can either be an omniscient observer

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or a character itself.

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This role of the camera will be established relatively quickly into the video/film. By knowing “who” you want the camera (ie. the viewer) to be, you define where your camera is going to be and how it is going to move through the world. I will go into this more in another blog post. Be thoughtful and prepared to use personal space to your advantage to set a tone or move your story along.

  • Know your equipment. Every camera is different. Some of them are able to move freely within a scene, and some of them are locked into a location for better or worse. When you choose your set up and choose your camera, you should do some tests with people and objects to get an authentic “feel” for the distance of things. It helps if you are using a camera that can do a live stream in VR so that you can see how close something feels in the moment. For example; when working with the Lucidcam, I am often shooting scenes in a first person perspective. Even though this camera shoots in full and authentic 180 degrees, there is a feeling that you are actually 6 inches to a foot closer to your subjects that the camera actually is. This might just be part of the process of acclimating to VR, but nonetheless the feeling is there. If I am shooting in the United States (and my characters are in/from the United States), I know that the normal personal space distance to stand from a subject is around 3 feet, and I will make sure that my camera is 3.5, sometimes even 4, feet away as a comfortable baseline.

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Once you have a decent grasp on the use of personal space in a scene, you can start applying the same concepts to the viewers interactions with every space and depth in general. You can start manipulating depth to shock the viewer or draw them into details that you want them to notice.

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