The off-screen space is what the viewer imagines that exists beyond the frame based on the audiovisual information perceived within the field of view. In contrast to human vision, cinematographic shots limit the image we perceive. But this changes in a 360 degrees shot, since the framing limits don’t exist. The image resembles the image of the human eye and it is the viewer himself/herself who creates the frame by looking around within the 360º ​​shot in a similar way as it would in reality.

This doesn’t mean the audiovisual narrative within the 360º ​​shot doesn’t allow playing with the field of view and the off-screen, but it has other rules of play.
To begin, like a conventional shot, a 360º shot allows off-screen limited by the scenery. So you can play with what is behind a door or outside the room where the camera is positioned, for example.

On the other hand, the off-screen limited by the four spatial segments of the frame doesn’t exist when preparing the 360 ​​scene, although it does exist when the viewer selects the viewing angle with his/her eyes. It’s the viewer, with his or her interaction within 360º space who creates the on and off screen space. We can say that the on and off-screen coexist within the shot. There is off-screen in 360º, but it will be different for each viewer and in some way it’ll be random when narrating, because we don’t have control over what each viewer is going to watch. We will need to direct the attention with the elements that we have (space sound, gazes and actors’ movements, illumination games …)
There is also a third type of off-screen space, the one behind the camera, also called “fourth wall” or “fourth screen”, which could be defined as the imaginary screen on the other side of the image, where the viewers are. In cinema, theater or comics, this fourth wall is also used to narrate.

In 360º it is slightly different, since there is not a “behind the camera”, because all the space is filmed. But there is this fourth wall, since in the point of view of the camera there is a viewer and when composing the scene you can use that viewer to narrate. The viewer can be omniscient or be part of the scene, the scene can be directed to him or even he can have first person point of view of one of the characters, or see his/her own body … The feeling of immersion and experience of a 360º environment makes the fourth wall acquire an even more powerful dimension and its well-used narrative potential can be enormous.

When composing the internal narrative of the 360º shot, we have to discover tricks for this new language to play with the field and the off-screen, both of which we have absolute control, and that the viewer creates himself when selecting with his glance at what angle of all the scene he or she observes and which not. We must use scene planning, stage management, scenography, lighting, spatial sound, montage, visual effects, composition, even other virtual reality resources (such as directional temperature sensations, 4D installations, etc.) in order to show that the field and off-screen in our story are not random. This is one of the many difficulties and possibilities of this format.


– Alejandro Lendínez –