Pro Tips, Tutorials

How to Work With Mettle Skybox 360/VR Tools in Premiere Pro

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If you try to add standard effects to 360 video in Premiere Pro, it may look just fine within your 1080 x 1920 Program Panel frame — but beyond that frame, you will see seams. The seams occur because the standard effects are not smart enough to recognize the 360-degree sphere beyond the border. When you apply the standard blur effect to 360 video, a large black seam will be visible beyond the border, and this will disrupt the 360 space.

 

Working with Mettle Skybox 360/VR Tools

The Mettle Skybox 360/VR Tools plugin for Premiere Pro is one of the most popular and affordable plugins on the market that will enable you to add effects to 360 VR footage. The plugin includes a number of effects that you can keyframe within the Effects Controls Panel of Premiere Pro. These effects can be applied to the footage directly, or to an adjustment layer in your timeline:

Mettle Skybox Blur: Standard blur to make footage appear out of focus.
Mettle Skybox Denoise: This filter will help remove visible and unwanted noise in darker areas of the footage.
Mettle Skybox Sharpen: This effect is especially good for sharpening “soft” looking footage. In my tutorial, I used a Ricoh Theta S camera, which doesn’t produce a very sharp 360-degree image.
Mettle Skybox Project 2D: The Project 2D effect allows you to place text and 2D objects (like graphics and logos) within the 360 video space.
Mettle Skybox Rotate Sphere: The Rotate Sphere effect is one of the most important tools here. It allows you to move and direct the attention of the viewer by tilting, panning, and rolling the footage. For example, you can tilt and pan the scene to direct the viewer’s POV in another direction. If the action that needs their attention is behind them, you can keyframe the video to move toward that direction. You can also roll the image to adjust the horizon line if it’s not straight.

Mettle Skybox 360/VR Tools supports Equirectangular Monoscopic 2:1 and Stereoscopic 1:1 Over-Under frame layouts. But what does that mean?
 

Monoscopic vs Stereoscopic Frame Layouts

360-degree frame layout is determined by the type of camera you shoot with. The Ricoh Theta S that I used is a great starter camera because of the price and easy setup, but it doesn’t have the best resolution. One benefit of using the Theta S, however, is that it comes with free software that can stitch your 360 video into Equirectangular frame layout automatically.
 
Equirectangular (Monoscopic 2:1)


What the Ricoh Theta S video looks like after it’s stitched together using the Spherical Viewer software. This frame represents 360˚ horizontally and 180˚ vertically.

An Equirectangular Monoscopic 2:1 frame layout is the most common for uploading 360 video to platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Essentially, equirectangular is a flat stitched image representing a spherical space, and can be viewed as this flat image on a singular surface. Premiere Pro and other panorama viewers can recognize this image as covering 360˚ horizontally and 180˚ vertically — hence the 2:1 ratio, 360:180.
 
Stereoscopic (or Stereographic) Projection


Planisphere made by Rumold Mercator, 1587

The best way I can remember what stereoscopic means is by thinking about audio. Stereo audio has a left and right audio channel, while mono just has one. Similarly, a stereoscopic 360-degree frame layout has two images, one right and one left. Stereographic projection, historically, was a form of mapping a 360-degree sphere onto a plane. It was commonly used in the late 1500s and 1600s for creating cartographic maps of the earth (once they agreed it was round, and not flat!). Today, you can see the same type of stereographic mapping taking place with 360 video. Doesn’t the cartographic map above look a lot like the Ricoh Theta S stereoscopic 360 image before stitching?

Stereoscopic, side by side. This is how video is recorded on the Ricoh Theta S camera, before stitching.
 
Stereoscopic 1:1 Over:Under

Stereoscopic Over:Under is the other frame layout with two images that’s supported by Mettle in Premiere Pro. In the images below from Mettle, the top image represents your right eye and the bottom image represents what your left eye would see, which each one representing 180 degrees (180˚:180˚=1:1). The Theta S doesn’t shoot in Stereo Over:Under format, though — two pricier setups that can are the Google Jump (rig for GoPros) and Nokia Ozo.


Stereoscopic Over:Under. Image from Mettle.com blog post featuring 360˚ TRESemme production by Malka Media Group.

Once you’ve applied Mettle Skybox 360/VR tool effects to your 360 video footage in Premiere Pro, your can preview your video using the Mettle Skybox VR Player, which is a free plugin. If you’re on a PC, you can connect an Oculus Rift to preview the video through the player within your headset. (Oculus Rift is not compatible with Apple at the moment.)

In my next 360/VR tutorial, I’ll be reviewing the Mettle SkyBox 306/VR Transitions which enable you to transition from one 360 shot to another. These transitions include Mobius Zoom, Random Block, Gradient Wipe, and Iris Wipe. I’ll show you how each transition works, how to customize them to make them your own, and how to to use them efficiently with the Mettle Skybox 360/VR Rotate Sphere effect.

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