What’s Up With 360 Videos?

11 Sep What’s Up With 360 Videos?

360 photos and videos have been around for a while, but it’s only in recent years that it became possible to use this technology to produce content on a larger scale, for mass audiences. 360 videos are common on YouTube and Vimeo today – hell, even Facebook has a daughter company, Oculus VR, that specialises in 360 videos and “virtual reality”. So, what is it about this technology? Is it a thing of the future we should all be excited about and prepared for, or is it destined to slowly sink into oblivion after a period of exceptional hype, like its distant cousin, the 3D video? 

 

First things first: 360 video vs. virtual reality

 

 

Sorry to break it to you: 360 video and virtual reality are not synonyms.

Both essentially use the same form – spherical, immersive, panoramic video. There are two key differences between them: first, virtual reality videos are by default interactive while the regular 360 videos are not; and second, in order to achieve this, VRs are necessarily computer-generated, while 360 videos, obviously, could be produced in different ways (otherwise there would be nothing for me to write about in this article). On top of that, for the full immersive experience, VRs should be watched (or participated in?) with the help of a VR headset, while the non-VR ones[1] could be viewed in almost-countless different ways. Now, this is important – watching 360 videos without the headset doesn’t necessarily make it a worse experience for the user.

 

 

To make it simple:

 

  • any sort of interactive games, where the player is immersed into the game world instead of just sitting in front of a display: definitely virtual reality
  • those amazing National Geographic animal videos: not virtual reality

 

 

Now that we’ve settled that…

 

What about me?

 

I get excited about new technology like a small child. So naturally, as soon as 360 started hitting off, it dawned on me – I could do 360 time-lapse. I build myself a rig with four Sony A7r2 and Samyang 8 mm lenses, mounted on on an aluminum machined plate. I set out to scout and shoot in the same way I did before with my regular rigs. Eventually, I got to exploring different approaches to 360 video, such as using a GoPro Fusion mounted on a DJI Inspire drone, resulting in breathtaking aerial panoramas.

 

 

The enormous advantage that 360 videos have over the more elite VR lies in the simple fact that they don’t require a VR set by default. This means that they can be experienced in any way imaginable: moving your cursor on your desktop screen, swinging your smartphone around, or you could project it in a dome, like it was splendidly done here. Therefore, 360 videos could be used for as many purposes as you can imagine.

 

Every day, I come up with fresh ideas and discover new possibilities of 360 videos. There is still so much to learn about this technology, and I must admit it is pretty cool to experience that beginner’s excitement all over again. I have one thing certain – I want (and will) work with it more in the future, trying to bring my technique as close to perfection as it is willing to go. Through 360 time-lapse, I wish to explore the old, signature features of my work – landscape, time flowing, remoteness – through new lenses, fresh perspectives, innovative technologies. I want to show the familiar passage of time in unfamiliar ways, bringing the spectator even closer to what I feel while creating the footage.

 

So finally, is 360 video going to render all other video forms obsolete? Almost certainly not. Is it here to stay? Almost certainly yes. And even if doesn’t linger, the wonderful innovative opportunities it offers should be put to as much creative use as possible while the hype still lasts.

 

If you wish to view or purchase my 360 video footage, you can do it through Blend Media.

 

To finish off with some amazing, inspiring footage, here’s a list of my all-time favorites:

 

 

[1]This simplified explanation excludes stereoscopic 360 video, where a separate input for each eye is created. These videos, therefore, require the use of a headset as well.