360° videos are recordings where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time. So it is a video recording, which allows the viewer to see all 360 degrees of the location that has been filmed and during playback he is able to choose his point of view – he has the control of the viewing direction.
For a long time the production and playback of 360° videos was too expensive and complicated to be used for masses but the technology has become increasingly accessible over the last years and now the technology is at a stage where it is cheap and easy and good enough to make VR and especially 360 ° videos a reality for companies looking to create more immersive content.
In Germany 360° videos got more popular when Google announced that 360degree videos would be natively supported on YouTube and the video-sharing website enabled the upload of virtual reality videos in March 2015.
In the beginning the videos could be viewed only on the YouTube App for Android or on the computer on Chrome by using the mouse to drag the point of view around. But 2 months later YouTube brought the possibility to watch the clips also to iPhone, iPad and other devices.
First there were only a small number of 360° videos circulating in the internet like the recording of a volcanic eruption filmed on a helicopter or a reportage of the Vice magazine about New York protests against police brutality.
So YouTube decided to publish a playlist of selected clips to give an idea how 360degree videos could be used to get in touch with viewers. One of these clips on the playlist was for example a video about the electronic music festival Tomorrowland (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j81DDY4nvos) and another well-known example of the first clips published by YouTube is a special episode of the web comedy show „Annoying Orange“.
Recording and output devices
360 degree Videos and photos are a new phenomenon, which was hyped through different channels and devices. There are several ways to record such a video or photo. The most common and widespread thing are 360 degree photographs which can be taken by everyone without special equipment. Most people noticed this new kind of media through Facebook. Facebook was one of the first channels who pushed the hype and offered its users a way to create and share 360 degree photos. This leads to the first way to create this kind of “360-degree media”: the smartphone. There are different ways how to take a 360-degree photo, but it always starts with taking a panorama picture, for example with the included iPhone panorama function. Also Android user can take panorama pictures through special apps or also through included programs. After you took a panorama picture you need the right channel to publish it, otherwise it would just be a normal panorama picture. Like mentioned before, Facebook converts panorama pictures automatically into 360 degree videos through using their smartphone app. Also Google Street View or special websites can show those photographs.
Besides that, 360 degree photographs can also be taken in a more professional way. Professional photographs use high-end cameras and a tripod to take those kinds of pictures. Normally a picture consists out of a few pictures. It’s common to build it through eight pictures. Furthermore, it’s recommended to use a wide angle or even a fish eye lens. With those lenses, it‘s more simple to stich the pictures with a panorama stitching software together.
The most difficult and costly kind of 360-degree media are 360 degree Videos. They are mostly produced by professional filmmakers, because it is much more difficult to record a 360-degree video than to take a 360-degree photo. These results from the fact, that you can’t just film one sequence and then the others, every angle of the video must be filmed simultaneous. Therefore, it’s necessary to have several professional cameras which are stitched together in a cube. Those cameras can record all video sequences from all angles simultaneous. Afterwards the sequences need to be stitched together with professional stitching software.
Another important aspect of this subject are the different devices where 360 degree videos and photos can be watched. The most common way is to consume them through your smartphone: the included sensor makes it possible to adjust the video through moving your smartphone around, what creates a special effect of “being in the video”. Of course, it’s also possible to watch those kinds of media on your Laptop or TV, but then there’s only the option to move around in the video through a mouse or a different kind of remote control. The most exciting and realistic way to watch 360 degree videos is through head-mounted devices like Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR. Those devices are like a kind of glasses, you just put them on and then you can watch the video from every angle just through moving your head, like in real life. That kind of technology is also used in video games und will probably become a big thing in the upcoming years.
User experience and additional vaue
With 360° videos comes a new perspective for users who want to watch video content. 360° videos not only focus on the content but on the User experience itself. As already mentioned users are now able to interact with videos and create their own point of view. But you have to keep in mind that the interaction possibilities are limited: Users are free to change where they’re looking but are unable to control or explore their environment any further. But if the video is produced and executed well, it will give users a first-hand experience, which allows them to understand the content in a better way (of course this is depending on the subject and function of the video).
Pros and Cons of 360-degree Video
Some advantages of 360-degree video are: immersive user experience; opportunities to establish industrial innovation; viewing and creating content without special equipment (through smartphones); advanced storytelling (with the public controlling viewing angles); viewership on a myriad of platforms (YouTube, Facebook, VLC Media Player, Windows Media); free apps (for creation and streaming); lowering prices with demand.
On the other hand, 360-degree cameras and editing software are expensive (e.g. Go Pros cost 5k US dollars; Jump costs 10k US dollars), apps and Facebook are incompatible, the production process requires modifications (due to the massive amount of spherical content that needs to be “stitched” together, stored and edited) and the viewing quality needs improvement.
Cyber Implications of Artificial Realities
There are three kinds of artificial realities: virtual, augmented and mixed methods. Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a real environment which enhances immersion through vision and hearing. Augmented reality layers digital components atop an existing reality, in a way that they enhance one another but can be told apart, and is usually developed into apps (e.g. Pokemon Go). Although 360-degree technology is not virtual reality, it can be implemented into augmented reality.
To enhance AR experience, software systems may integrate shared metadata from a host of sensors tracking a person (like facial recognition from photo apps or material from mass media profiles). This raises a number of privacy concerns regarding data sources, and whether combinations of data aggregated by AR may compromise personally identifiable information.
To counteract these effects, companies should invest in protocols that guard records (encryption of data at rest, in use, or in flight) and intellectual property. Ensuring the integrity of information in AR becomes critically important when dealing with 3D renderings of facilities, GPS data and equipment location. For example, if data in a cockpit of AR display became compromised, a plane could veer off course.
Fields in which 360° Video technology is being used
360 degree videos are a trend in many different fields like entertainment, marketing and journalism.
YouTube: There are a lot of YouTuber and vloggers using 360 degree technology to entertain their followers and to make their daily clips more relatable by giving the viewer control of his point of view. So the viewer should get the feeling that he is really part of the clip or rather part of the life of the YouTuber and this kind of feeling pretends some special kind of connection and feeling of belonging. One successful vlogger who is using 360 degree videos to reach his fans is Casey Neistat. He is an american YouTube personality and filmmaker who is releasing a lot of videos. And for example he published a video in which he is giving the viewer a look around of his hotel room. In this clip he is kind of jumping around at this place and the viewer or user has to follow him to see what he is actually talking about. So this user experience definitively includes a lot of interaction and the person who is watching feels like he is part of the action. Casey starts in the middle of the room, telling you that he will show you around and then he sits on the sofa and suddenly he is disappeared and tells you something about the bed or the window and in the next moment he is standing in his shower and telling you not to look around too much because it’s really disgusting in here and so on…. The person who is watching has to follow him by drawing the mouse or moving the tablet and to be honest you have to be really quick to stay tuned to the different stations. But if you are quick enough to follow its pretty funny and entertaining to be part of this.
Further there are a lot of TV Show masters using 360° videos for their shows or additional content on the Internet. Like Jimmy Fallon in America or Jan Böhmermann in Germany.
Another example for using 360 degree videos for entertainment itself are recordings of concerts like the following:
In general there are more and more clips of concerts and this could be an area of 360 videos which is quite important because a concert usually is an event you would really like to be part of it. Or imagine you have visited a gig of your favourite band and now you are able to watch this concert again and again with changing point of views.
As you can see there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to 360 degree videos. But we will have to see if this Trend will be a long-term thing or if it will replaced by a new video format soon.
360° videos are not only a trend in entertainment itself but also in marketing, to illustrate that you can find a few examples for ways 360° technology in marketing in this article.
A well-known way for video marketing are of course image videos for companies because they can make a brand or a product more relatable. For example Nescafé was one of the first companies to use 360° technology for marketing purposes. They even created a whole app which shows how their coffee is made via 360° videos. Nescafé not only shows users the freshness and natural gathering of their coffee, but also produces great branding while generating new leads, check http://360.nescafe.com/ for the whole experience. Another popular example is Mercedes Benz: During the IAA Motor Show in Frankfurt some new cars and models were presented. Mercedes didn’t want the experience to be exclusive for event attendees only, so they created a video as a way to increase user engagement and extend the reach of their message.
360° videos are also used a way of marketing for entertainment content: For the horror movie “Ouija Part 2” a 360° video trailer was created besides the usual teasers and trailers, in which the user was able to react to certain noises and movements in the video.
Of course whole events can also be showcased via 360° videos, e.g. the festival Tomorrowland, which was one of the first to use this technology. Also amusement parks or fairs can show their portfolio of attractions in a relatable way.
But this new technology can also be used in advertisements for stores, restaurants, fitness-studios and so on. 360° videos can transport the atmosphere of a store or restaurant pretty well and can be used to illustrate the individual benefits. Same goes for marketing in the travel sector or even for promoting whole destinations. Hotels, Resorts, Spas or Clubs can show their potential customers what they have to offer in a more profound way as the user can get a feeling for the place and if it fits his needs. For example Mariott Hotel uses a lot of these videos, as well as Tourism Australia. To experience the idea of standing amongst cute Australian kangaroos, check out the following video:
A lot of media companies and newspapers use 360 degree videos to include their users in their investigations. The New York Times for example publishes every day a video from their reporters around the world. That is extremely interesting because they also record videos in war zones or in other places where you normally wouldn’t have the chance to get close insights. 360 degree videos are a new chance for newspapers to create a new kind of media which is also interesting for the digital native generation.
by Matthias Greiner, Magdalena Mau, Mafalda Ferreira & Verena Klier