Snap Inc.’s Spectacles aren’t a replacement for your phone’s camera. They’re an alternative lens for your Snapchat stories.
Shooting videos with Snap Inc.’s newly released Spectacles seems super-simple. Put the sunglasses/camcorder on your face; tap a button to record; open Snapchat to review your video; add any filters, text or emojis; upload. But it’s not that simple.
Shooting every snap with Spectacles is tempting. The circular clips and “from Spectacles” label on your snaps can signal your Snapchat savvy. But don’t. For starters, Spectacles record video with a fish-eye view and, by default, webcam-quality standard definition (you can upgrade to HD before posting, but it’s not a drastic change). You also can’t apply lenses, including the new World Lenses, when shooting with Spectacles.
That doesn’t mean don’t shoot with Spectacles. Just think of them as another lens, as more of a supplement than a replacement for your phone’s camera. That’s how I’ve started thinking of them since picking up a pair last week. I’ve donned Spectacles on a walk around my neighborhood, worn them while skateboarding, taken them to run errands and used them to document an anti-Trump protest.
Here are some questions I’ve started asking myself when deciding whether to shoot with Spectacles.
Are Spectacles the best (or only) way to capture this?
Since you don’t have to hold anything to shoot with Spectacles, you can record yourself doing pretty much anything that would be hard to capture, or at least hard to capture well, while holding a phone in one hand: skateboarding, doing a backflip, drawing, playing foosball, riding a bike. In the same way that GoPro cameras opened up opportunities to record activities that were otherwise difficult to capture from a first-person perspective, so do Spectacles.
And since Spectacles can stay on your face, they can be a more immediate and more natural way to capture unplanned moments. Not only do you not have to pull out your phone and open Snapchat to start shooting, but you don’t have to hold your phone in someone’s face to record them. Even though that person is aware you’re recording them — and they should be made aware — the feeling is different. With the phone, the person may feel like they’re being recorded; with Spectacles, it’s more like they’re being seen.
Will viewers know they can rotate their phones?
People may notice the “from Spectacles” label in the snap’s upper-right corner, but they might not have any idea that means they can rotate their phones to see beyond the Snapchat-standard vertical frame. Until it’s safe to assume people will be aware of the circular format, figure out ways to let them know they can turn to a horizontal or diagonal view. These cues can be as simple as a snap posted before recording to alert them of the option or tilting your head/pointing your finger while recording to tease the scene.
How long should the snap be?
Unlike a phone-shot snap, you don’t have to hold down anything to record with Spectacles. Being hands-free is handy, but it makes it easy to forget that Spectacles snaps don’t have to run 10 seconds long (or 20 or 30 seconds if you press record two or three times). To keep a snap at just the right length — before it gets awkwardly long to the point that you try to fill a few seconds or someone asks if you’re still recording — press and hold the recording button to stop the shot.
How’s my breath?
Spectacles come with a built-in microphone, which is nice because it’s close to your mouth but less nice because it’s closer to your nose. If you’re a marginally heavy breather or doing something where you’re breathing heavily while recording — like something that fits the GoPro test — you’ll either want to mute the snap when uploading or shoot it somewhere with a lot of ambient noise to drown out your nose.
When will I post this snap to my story, and what do I want to post before or after it?
Spectacles don’t automatically post your videos once you’ve finished recording them. But you probably knew that already. What you may not have known — or at least what I didn’t know at first — is that, when you do finally upload a Spectacles-shot video, it’s inserted into your story based on when you recorded it, not when you uploaded it.
So if you film something with Spectacles, then film a snap with your phone, upload that phone snap and then a few hours later upload the Spectacles snap, the Spectacles snap will appear in your story before the phone snap. That might seem really obvious and not a big deal at all. But it’s something to keep in mind if, when reviewing your Spectacles snaps, you realize you want to add a snap before or after a Spectacles snap, like “Sorry about my breathing.” You can’t.
But the asynchronous upload can work the other way. While shooting a scene, you can alternate between your phone and Spectacles, post the phone-shot snaps in the moment with a teaser telling people to rewatch the story in a few hours to see the Spectacles angle, which could put an entirely different perspective on the entire scene and whatever narrative you’re trying to tell.
There is a wrinkle to the temporal insertion of Spectacles shots. If you wait more than 24 hours after recording the Spectacles snap before uploading it to your story, it’ll be inserted into your story at that time, as if you had just recorded it.