One of the more exciting changes for YouTube this year has been support for 360 degree video, which YouTube announced back in January 2015. Support for select videos finally began in March and now more creators are beginning to feature 360 videos as part of their content library. These type of videos offer a new dimension that add a distinct level of complexity and discovery.
It may be a little early to jump on the 4K resolution trend, but creating 360 degree video is one you should consider. In our quick guide, you can learn what it takes to create these kind of videos for YouTube, how to watch them, and what they are good for. If you haven't seen a video shot in this kind of production style yet, here's one of the first ones to have been uploaded to YouTube:
Creating 360 Degree Video: The Right Camera
To create a 360 degree video, you'll need a compatible camera. As time of writing, there are 4 cameras that YouTube lists as compatible with the feature. These range from $200-$500 depending on how good you are at finding deals. Oh, and not all are available just yet.
- Ricoh Theta
- Kodak SP360
- Giroptic 360cam
- IC Real Tech Allie
You should continue to follow the usual YouTube encoding recommendations for video, but if you are unable to grab one of these cameras, you can create a custom rig of your own. Perhaps you have 6 old Flip cameras lying around you haven’t been using for the past 5 years. Why not tie them together with some popsicle sticks and glue and give it a go! The video files can be combined using Kolor Autopano Video software, which is support by YouTube.
Even if you have the supported video, it’s not as easy as just hitting upload. You’ll still need to scrub the video through a 360 app available from Google support or if you are a little more computer savvy you could create a script to do the same thing. Instructions for how to do that are also available from Google.
How to Watch 360 Video on YouTube
Whether you’re testing out your final file before upload or you’ve successfully gotten your video on YouTube, there are a couple of viewing tips you may want to tell your audience to get the most out of the experience. The feature is supported on both Android and on Chrome browsers. Support is coming very soon for iOS and it is available on the Google Cardboard virtual reality set.
Watch 360 Degree Video Via Desktop
You can enjoy the experience either by clicking the pan button in the upper left corner with your mouse, or with my preferred method of using WASD. For you non-gamers out there, this is the preferred configuration for first person shooter games, which may shed a little light into Google’s thinking behind launching this feature. It really turns life into a video game where you can play in the sandbox and see anything going on in a video at any time.
Watch 360 Degree Video On Mobile
At first, I was skeptical that 360 video was even supported on Android. Quite honestly I couldn’t find the buttons to make it work. But then something crazy happened, the picture moved with my phone. When you are on mobile, it’s like you are in the video itself and as you move your phone, the view in the video moves with it. This feature of 360 video will be an amazing one to combine with virtual reality goggles to really provide a rich experience.
What is 360 Video Good for?
Some of the original videos released back in March felt weird to me. Yes, it was still an amazing feature, but without VR goggles it felt a little forced. The edits made me feel like I was always missing something.
Fast forward to today and the vlog I saw from prankster Roman Atwood had me much more engaged. It was fun to just explore the world around him as he went about his daily vlog. It was interesting to spin the camera around and see his lighting setup while at the same time be able to flip the camera and see the result of how effective that lighting worked. At one point Roman mentioned how I was probably paying more attention to the viewing angles than him and he is completely right. So if you’re going to use 360 video, make sure that what people are seeing is what’s important and not necessarily what you’re saying.
I see 360 video as an obvious marketing tool for real estate agents. It would be invaluable to be able to give virtual tours of a home to potential buys without having to go through the need to arrange a time to meet up and invade the home you’re buying unless you really want it. By the same token, this tool would work great for product demos. As you explain the product, potential buyers could pan around it and see exactly what you are talking about or even just let their attention wander to the features that matter to them most.
Another great use for the product is to deliver an experience not available elsewhere. It would be amazing to sit in the stands of a sporting event and choose exactly where I wanted to look. SNL used it to feature the front row of their 40th Anniversary Special. Getting those seats would have been difficult to get a hold of, but with the 360 camera viewers can get the full experience from the comfort of their own homes.
GoPro (of course) also used 360 video for a VR demo that, for me, demonstrated the ability for this technology to take us on vacations we’ve never been to before and enjoy experiences we’ve only ever dreamed of more fully.
It has been a long while since I’ve been this excited about a new feature from YouTube. So much has already been done on the site, but 360 video is something new and exciting. Before the novelty wears off, use it to attract viewers and get extra clicks, just from people amazed at the technology. Then experiment with it to try new and different ways for marketing yourself or your product that not many other people are doing right this minute. If I can get my hands on one of these cameras, or a half dozen old Flip cams, I will absolutely take you along with me for a full 360 degree ride at VidCon.