How to make a 360 Animated Short Film
360-degree videos are a hugely underrated niche on YouTube, to the point that most users of the social media platform are unaware that the functionality even exists. My channel, Studio Capon, has tens of thousands of subscribers with millions of views, and 360-degree animated content is what we specialize in.
When we first started down this path, there was no guide on how to go about making this kind of content. Thanks to exploring the tools made by Adobe, plugins from companies like Mettle, and 3D tools like Maxon C4D, we can now create these videos in a fraction of the time it took when we first started.
Research: With every new project, you will need to conceptualize what you are making. Our videos tend to lean towards recreating retro video games as inspiration for this new medium. So, we will either need a script of the story or base footage of the game to simulate. There are plenty of video game channels that post footage of them playing these games, which can easily be downloaded as reference material. If you want to know how to write a 360-degree video script focusing on a story, here is a video tutorial on how to do that.
Planning: Whenever I go into the planning phase for my 360-degree animated video game-themed shorts, I start by making a list of all the models, animations, and VFX that will need to go into the project. Once I have this list fleshed out, I can determine how long the rest of the project will take to complete.
Modeling and Texturing: Next to animation and rendering, creating 3D models is the most time-consuming aspect of these projects. I like to use Maxon Cinema 4D to create my environments, character models, and vehicles. With the help of Adobe Mixamo, I can quickly rig my character models to be animated. Mixamo is a program that is available with a Creative Cloud subscription. Mixamo also has a full library of pre-animated templates for bipedal characters.
Audio and Music: Audio is the one aspect of these kinds of projects I like to outsource. I have a list of select voiceover talent and composers I call for audio services. This makes the most sense to me since I’m not an audio engineer.
Animation: Following the patterns, timing, and movements presented in video game footage, I can quickly get the timing down for how models should move, down to the frame. If I didn't have these kinds of references available I would record myself acting out the scenes to use as reference footage.
Rendering: Depending on the quality of your video, this can take weeks or even months if you are working with 3D scenes. Our Pac-Man video took 9 MONTHS to render. When you are exporting 360-degree videos, you are exporting PNG sequences at 4k-8k resolution with 60 frames per second. We export as a PNG sequence first because the files can be so large that computers regularly run out of room on your hard drive. If the project crashes before your video exports fully, you could lose all the time you spent rendering, but if you are exporting as a PNG sequence, you will only have to render after the last frame that finished.
Upload to YouTube: After compiling the PNG sequence, applying VFX, and adding audio, I export it as a YouTube-ready 360-degree video file (MP4). These files often take a while to upload, and then you have to wait for YouTube’s system to process them.
Thumbnail and SEO: Don’t forget to add a catchy thumbnail and useful description full of related keywords for SEO purposes. With a thumbnail that is nicely designed, it will help you with your click-through rate. When the YouTube algorithm picks up that people are clicking on your video, it will start to boost the ranking. When the video has the proper metadata by analyzing keywords and your description, it will figure out who to show your video to, allowing it to be seen.
Distribution: This seems to be the final step that so many creators miss. Once your video is done, share it with your network on all social media platforms, groups, and friends who may be interested in the content. You should spend around three hours creating content around your animated short, maybe more if you can contact outlets to pick up the video.
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