Daniel J. Harris on the Rise and potential fall of 360˚ video…
It seems like every time you open social media at the moment someone has an amazing 360˚ video to share – that often isn’t that amazing. 360˚ video looks to be to 2016 what aerial filming was to 2015 – the next big thing! And again, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
With both Facebook and YouTube adding 360˚ video players to their platforms at the end of last year the floodgates opened for 360˚ videos to be shown and shared across the world. Most are short form videos promoting an event, occasion or product in a different perspective – full 360˚. For those that haven’t experienced 360˚ yet, basically you can look 360˚ around a camera position to look ahead, behind, above and below you and be immersed fully into the space of the video you’re watching. It is amazing. Most of the time.
Click here to see Visit Wales’ 360˚ video shot at the 6 Nations rugby match between Wales and Scotland at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Ensure you open the link in a Google Chrome browser in order to see it properly – Ill explain why later!
360˚ opens up a whole new world of immersion with video and audiences can experience things they’ve never seen before. The affordable Samsung Gear VR headset powered by Oculus runs off a high end Samsung phone. It’s a great way to experience 360˚ in that it genuinely feels as though you are in that space and experiencing what the video is sharing with you. The down side is that you must wear the headset, you cant see where you are going and it quite often mists up obscuring your view.
Google Cardboard allows you to slide your mobile phone into a piece of cardboard folded into a headset – and again you can move 360˚ to feel as though you are immersed in the world of the video. Bespoke apps and Facebook on your mobile allow you to move around 360˚ and explore the video without putting something on your face. There’s now lots of ways to experience 360˚ video.
However, not all that glitters is gold! There are a few flaws. Watching on your computer requires you watching using Google Chrome rather than Explorer or Safari – which don’t support 360˚! 360˚ video files are massive so they’re often crunched down and lose quality. The preferred method of shooting at present is by using 6 x Go Pro cameras and the footage stitched together in post-production – meaning there are a multitude of seams for your character or objects to cross through and often disappear and then reappear if not stitched properly – and the biggest bug bear of all – some people just don’t understand the point of it!
If you have an immersive experience that encourages the user to look through the complete 360˚ of the camera position you create that wow factor as they look around! The above Visit Wales and BBC Wales rugby video is a great example as it offers the viewer the opportunity to see what it would be like to stand at the end of the tunnel as the players run out, to be on the pitch as the pyrotechnics explode and to be stood on the pitch in front of he Welsh team as the national anthem is sung. These are viewpoints that very few people have ever experienced at an event such as this. A new experience and amazing in 360˚. BBC Wales and BBC Connected Studio have piloted this same content on BBC Taster with great results.
But… for every great 360˚ experience there are 10 poorly executed versions laying in wait! Some of these are poorly stitched and look tacky or are just poorly planned – some 360˚ camera positions offer 180˚ of an event and then behind you a big grey wall – making the opportunity to turn around and look behind you absolutely pointless!
At the moment the cost commissioning a 360˚ video or purchasing the equipment in order to shoot it yourself isn’t cheap. However, over the next few weeks and months the marketplace will be flooded with cheap and effective camera set ups that will allow the average video enthusiast to go out and shoot 360˚. What this means is that there will be even more content hitting social media – both good and bad.
My fear – as a 360˚ video director – is that audiences will be swamped with poor 360˚ video and will resign themselves to disliking it before they’ve had a chance to really experience what makes 360˚ great – a fully immersive experience and a viewpoint like no other. Content is king and if audiences see too much rubbish before they get a chance to see the good stuff then 360˚ may be dead in the water before it’s had a chance to shine.
I encourage everyone to find great 360˚ experiences and to ditch the bad. It really is a whole new world, but only if done right.
Daniel J. Harris has shot or directed 360˚ video for BBC Wales, Visit Wales, the WRU, Welsh Water, Atticus Digital and Adidas. To find out more about Daniel visit http://www.focusshiftfilms.com