360-degree video might seem like a brand new fad, but the truth is that it’s not a recent development. The ancient, dusty archives of YouTube host early, low-quality 360 content from as far back as 2002 (which, alright, isn’t ‘old’ old, but hey, in internet terms it’s practically medieval). A couple of French firms were playing with it back in 1998 using fisheye prisms and gaffer tape, too.
The main reasons why it’s become so popular and ubiquitous in 2016 is that we’ve reached a bit of a magical technological renaissance and suddenly a majority of consumers have access to:
Fast and reliable internet/mobile data everywhere
Very capable internet browsers that can run apps natively
Stupidly powerful mobile devices with built-in gyroscopes
This of course also coincides with my perennial favourite: The Official Year Virtual Reality Goes Mainstream is 2014 2015 2016! 360-degree video is fun on a screen or phone when you spin around by flapping your mouse like a performing seal or twirling around in an office chair looking at your tiny phone screen, sure.
But the real immersion and fun comes when you put on a virtual reality headset and swivel around like a delighted, futuristic berk. That is to say when you remove the input lag between thinking about looking and looking, you get magic.
And with VR being so affordable now: a £5 cardboard headset works, an £80 Samsung Gear VR is incredible and a £600+ HTC Vive/Oculus Rift with a proper gaming PC is so bloody good it can’t adequately be described in words yet.
To summarise: 360 video is big news because it works, it’s cheap and you can use it in VR. Boom.
So what the Dickens does this mean for brands and content creators? Well, you can ride this technological wave and stand on the shoulders of giants… a.k.a. you can now do cool stuff really cheap.
18 months ago a 360-degree* video experience I helped demonstrate here in the UK for BMW Motorrad – the BMW Eye Ride virtual motorbike test ride – involved a 3D printed rig, ten £300 GoPro cameras, a huge mounting and ratchet system and a very talented film studio to cut and stitch together the individual videos into one hemispherical experience.
*Actually it was only 180-degree as you couldn’t see behind the rider; it was just black with no video signal at all.
State of the art 18 months ago:
Well, now, to get not the same effect but something far better, and with almost zero post-production required, you could spend as little as £130 on something like the LG 360 Cam.
State of the art 18 minutes ago:
Modern 360-degree cameras do all the heavy lifting. One small, rugged and self-powered device will automatically film and stitch everything together. You can even preview in 360 via a phone with a Bluetooth® connection at about 1/20th of the cost a year or so ago.
They say “360° and 180° image capture with one click. Dual 13 MP wide-angle cameras. 2K video recording and 16 MP spherical image support. 5.1-channel surround-sound recording. Supported on Android 5.0 (L OS) or later, and iOS 8 or later.”
So, for most use (phones, social media, website…) this is more than capable. And at that price it’s worth a gamble. If you’ve got interesting locations or experiences, why not have your social media team or marketing events people take an instant 360-degree snap or video. It’ll be as quick and simple as a regular photo.
For VR you’re probably going to want something a bit crisper so you’re going to have to up your budget to something like the Samsung Gear 360, which ups the image quality to 26 Megapixels, boasts higher quality video and is much more rugged. Plus, and this is entirely a personal preference, it looks adorably sci-fi. If it bleeped and rolled around after you, it would be the hottest gift for Christmas 2016.
In your face BB-8
So, in conclusion:
360-degree video isn’t new, but it is so hot right now
Everyone can play it on their phones, PCs and VR headsets
The cost of creating it has dropped from £10,000 to £100
Therefore you shouldn’t think of it as ‘that thing other people with massive budgets do’; instead try it for yourself and experiment with this awesome new technology while it’s still awesome and new. And that is why 360-degree video is everywhere you look.
You can take a look at some of the engaging videos that Breakfast of Champions, our video production specialists have made for our clients here:
ARTICLE BY KHAL HARRIS
Digital Strategist, tech fan and cheese afficionado