The importance of exposure in 360 video

In typical photography or video, creators have a lot of control over what their camera picks up. A key aspect that can help or hurt a final image is exposure.

With the field of virtual reality and 360 video expanding rapidly, it is important for budding videographers and photographers in this area to take care to properly expose the images they will capture.

Flattened 360 photos taken at different exposures with the RICOH Theta V.

For this tutorial, I will mostly talk about controlling exposure with the RICOH Theta V. This model is RICOH’s newest 360 camera and allows users to capture high-resolution photos and videos in 4K/30 fps. The Theta V retails for $399.95 and has some accessories, such as a spatial audio microphone, that can be bought separately. I believe that this camera is easy enough for beginners to use, but has enough quality for advanced videographers to use as well.

A videographer could manually control when the Theta V records, but he or she should download the mobile app the works with the camera. The app, called “Ricoh Theta S,” can be found for free on the App Store and the Google Play Store.  From the app, users can not only turn the camera on and off, but they can preview what the camera sees and adjust ISO, shutter speeds and white balance as needed. Theta V users should note that in order to adjust these setting, the camera must be connected to the phone over Wi-Fi.

A screenshot of what previewing an image looks like in the Theta S app.

To adjust the exposure, a camera operator needs to open the preview viewer within the app. From there, users can press “EV” in the lower left-hand corner and use the slider to allow more or less light into the camera. The shutter speed, ISO and white balance can also be fine-tuned from this screen.

According to 360Rumors, “the correct exposure is the one that shows a real world object at the same ‘brightness” as in real life.” The previous hyperlinked article, which also gives a pretty general overview about exposure itself, said that with most 360 cameras on the market, users have limited exposure control but these types of cameras also are less susceptible to getting the wrong exposure because it can evaluate the whole scene around the camera.

As someone who has just learned how to create 360 videos, I did not personally take exposure into account as I should have until was presented a challenge in my recent video that I made with classmate Paidin Dermody.

Last month, we decided to film the University of Kentucky’s MacAdam Student Observatory as a 360 video project. The facility is only open on clear nights, which does not allow for much light for starters. Also, some white fluorescent lights were also available within the observatory, but most of the research and study done within the observatory is completed under red lights, which allow person to preserve their night vision.

We wanted to be able to authentically capture this uncommon lighting, as we are both journalists and wanted to show what a typical experience is like in the observatory. Thus, we had to learn about controlling the settings on our camera while in the field.

Check out our final project below. It can also be viewed on


MythBusters Shark Experiment — Story Review

The great thing about the emergence of virtual reality and 360 video is that, along with the completely new content, already present content creators can hop on and give their followers an additional layer of coverage and media. This is exactly what Discovery Channel and MythBusters do in their 360 videos on a shark experiment.

The two videos I watched and am going to review compliment each other in that they follow an experiment through the reconnaissance of the producers to the execution of the actual experiment. Both videos are narrated by the show’s host Adam Savage and he does great to guide viewers while also providing great information about what they are seeing and how it’s all involved in the experiment.

While the two videos are two parts of a whole, I thought it was interesting that the producers tried different things in both to make each capable of being a standalone content item. The biggest difference in the two videos is the placement of the camera. In the first, the camera is held by a diver as he swims past two shipwrecks that have a bunch of sharks swimming around them. The camerawork is really well done and the ride along is really smooth. The second video takes place on the haul of one of the shipwrecks where the experiment is taken place. The stationary placement allows for a nice contrast and a more engulfing view of the sharks swarming around you.

One of the things that seemed a bit new to me in a VR experience like this was how cognitive and upfront with this being a VR experience. Savage pointed out pretty quickly in the first video that he wouldn’t be in this video and at times hyped up the features of 360 videos a little much. This could simply be for promotional purposes, especially in the second video where he talks about how viewers can’t get this immersive environment in any other way, but I wasn’t too bothered by them because it was a really cool experience being so close to underwater shipwreck and a crazy amount of sharks. To me, this seems like the perfect use for 360 videos and while it’s not completely narrative driven, it serves as a really nice complimentary piece to the show.

The blatant statements about this being a 360 video also work because of the many ways they take advantage of it. Savage specifically tells the viewer where to look at certain points to great effect and there is also so helpful and informative labels that pop up throughout the video like in the screencap below. The type of VR experience leads to the viewer wanting to look around without any necessary nudge from the producers, but Discovery and MythBusters does a good job of making fun like in the second video they talk in-depth about a shark that lost half of its jaw in a fishing accident and then Savage lets you know that that shark is currently in the shot so you can try to find him.

This type of content is something that Discovery is no stranger to at this point, as they have a whole VR page on YouTube. And it’s pretty clear that shark content is a great match for this medium as four of their top 10 most popular videos feature sharks in some way. The shipwreck video is actually the page’s number one video sitting at over 15 million views, so I think that is pretty telling in itself.

Overall, it’s hard not to be entertained when Adam Savage and MythBusters is involved. These particular 360 videos add a great extra layer to the experiment and are fun to experience.