If you’re the kind of Kubrick-style perfectionist film maker who has to make every frame exactly right, then you may be finding VR filmmaking an unhealthy way to spend your time, with a whole lot going on in each frame. Well bad news: you’ve been wasting your time. Google research suggests that old habits die hard, and that barely anyone is looking around outside the 90 degrees they start a 360 degree YouTube video facing.
Of course there’s an element of chicken and egg here – are people not turning because they prefer not to, or because the filmmakers focus the action on what’s in front of them? All the same, the statistics are stark: people spend 75% of their time looking at the front 90 degrees in front of them. This is neatly demonstrated by the heatmap showing eye placement in a VR video, taken from Google’s blog post on the findings.
Google’s advice is to ensure that most of the action happens in front of the viewer’s eyes – although that does sound a lot like they’re arguing that people should make regular 2D films in VR. Which prompts the question of why should they bother making stuff in VR at all?
Hope is not entirely lost however, as there are notable exceptions, and the company reports that many of the most popular VR videos on YouTube get as many as 20% of their views with audiences looking behind the main action. “The more engaging the full scene is, the more likely viewers will want to explore the full 360-degree view,” the company writes. “Try using markers and animations to draw attention to different parts of the scene.”
In other words: make good films and you’ll get more engagement. Thanks Google, I’m not sure we’d have figured that one out on our own.