Maturing 360 video to work on big screens
One of the hypocrisies about my own work with 360-degree video is that it’s simultaneously fairly broad…yet incredibly limited. By that I mean that my team has produced a lot of video stories covering a wide range of topics, where as a news agency/production studio/software shop we shoot, edit, and distribute content in a variety of ways and environments. But, to date, I’ve only been able to surface our stuff on YouTube and Facebook.
This is pretty damning, seeing as how we’re also a broadcast operation whose calling card has always been tight integration of interactive media with traditional media formats. At the very least, I’d like to be able to take 360 packages that I’ve produced and reuse them on broadcast television. No dice.
So I’m hoping to see some traction in the next best thing — having some sort of proper 360 support on AppleTV, Android TV, and smart TV platforms. To date, Facebook’s app for tvOS doesn’t surface 360 videos, and it’s Facebook 360 app for virtual reality won’t make live 360 videos available until they’re over and ready as on-demand archive clips.
YouTube shows the most promise in this space — although awkwardly so, as the platform that’s long served as the World’s Most Universal TV Set does include 360 videos for all channels on Apple TV…but lacking the proper formatting controls displays such clips as equirectangular without any ability to move about the viewport space.
But, I have hope. For the leanback experience and the 10' UI, the emphasis with living room displays is on input controls, which Apple TV’s remote could certainly handle, either through its touchpad or directly as a motion-aware controller. Littlestar’s app does this on tvOS, but the corpus of available video isn’t what it is for Facebook and YouTube. It’ll happen.
Perhaps as more fodder for why YouTube may dominate this space is the platform’s futureproofing with support for 4K clips and 360 live. The pixelation and performance of most 360 clips on most laptops and mobile devices can’t handle the huge load imposed with live 360 productions, but on really big living room screens each of those pixels makes a difference.
Expect exciting work here!