Introduction to 360 Video

360 video, virtual reality, augmented reality — all forms of what I call immersive storytelling.

What is immersive storytelling? Well, it’s nothing new — we’ve been doing it with great novels, monologues, plays and movies for centuries.

With 360 video, a a type of virtual reality storytelling, we can bring our audiences in an enriched environment faster than ever. What used to take minutes, hours or even days for our audience to “buy in” to a story — be it a novel set in a different time/place or a play causing an audience to feel the emotion of the protagonist — engaging our audience has an entirely new set of tools with virtual reality.

360 video, or spherical video, is the process of capturing video in all directions, including up and down, to create and share an environment to an audience.

But I think Facebook does a much better job defining this:

A 360 video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. Viewers can pan and rotate a 360 video’s perspective to watch it from different angles.

That place can be physical. That place can also be emotional. What makes 360 and immersive storytelling so exciting is we can deliver an experience on a much larger scale than ever before.

It’s cool. It’s new. That should be enough of a reason, right?

Load up your GoPros and point them in all directions and go!

Wait a minute.

The first question you should always ask when considering 360 content is why.

Why do I need to bring my audience here.

And by here, I mean exactly here. This specific place you are filming.

Why is it interesting and is it interesting enough to not have a single focal point.

Samsung Gear VR headset.

First off, check out some amazing collections of content. I would start with the Facebook 360 community and the YouTube channels that are specific to 360.

Desktop

Using Google’s Chrome browser (will work best with 360 content), click, drag, zoom and watch.

Mobile (iOS and Android)

Download the Facebook app or YouTube app as starters and begin searching for “360 video.”

When you watch it, move around, look up, look down and look around as you see and hear different parts of the story.

Headset (Samsung, HTC, Oculus)

While desktop and mobile browsers reach the largest audiences, a number of companies have been developing standalone headsets to fully immerse the audience in a 360 environment. Facebook’s Oculus is one of the most well-know devices but requires a power computer tethered to the device — so does the HTC Vive. The Vive also has add on sensors that you can put in a room which build a virtual space in the real world (more on this in later post).

But what has become the most widely adopted headset is the Samsung Gear VR. A device developed in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus that attaches to Samsungs flagships phone and does not require a separate computer.

What can be exciting as a producer of 360 content, your audience can have a different experience every time they watch you video. They might discover a new element or character in your story. They might see a detail down at their “feet” that makes them feel or think of how they would feel if they are standing there.

Well, (selfish plug) you can always hire someone like me. (See 360 work here)

If you want to get started in producing 360 video for your organization I would check out some of the many resources on gear (here, here and here), editing and stitching software and best practices.

I’ve also written a post of some of my mistakes while shooting in 360. I encourage you to give it a read and not mess up as much in the beginning like I did.

As you get started, either producing on your own or hiring someone, begin to think about how your story can take advantage of this new experience.

First you have to decide what type of 360 video you are going to produce — feature or ancillary.

A feature 360 story is a video that is stand alone entirely in 360 with maybe a caption on YouTube or Facebook. (Example: Grand Central Station / Facebook)

Ancillary 360 video compliment other media in a story. This might be embedded on a webpage or paired with other photos and an article that give it context. (Example: Ft. McMurray Wildfire / Weather.com)

A standard about the organization video is not meant for 360. Nor is a public hearing or meeting.

I’ve put together a couple key questions to ask that can help you make a great 360 piece.

  • Would you need a wide lens to show the spaces in the story?
  • Are you visual elements exciting if you watched it looking backwards?
  • Can you get lost in your scenes?
  • How would allowing your audience to look around benefit the story vs. controlling the perspective?
  • Do you have the distribution network and the following on that network to support 360 video?
The GoPro Omni 360 camera will be released in August of 2016. The company has fixed a number of problems with filming in 360 from overheating cameras to frame-by-frame syncing with all six cameras.

We are in the Stone Age of 360 video right now. In 2015 and 2016 we are just figuring out how to shoot with these cameras and where to put them.

It have yet to find really compelling narratives that benefit from the 360 experience. Do I think we are wasting our time? No.

I believe we are at the cusp of a major shift in how our audiences understand and digest facts and stories.

Video has evolved into quick explainers with large graphics to efficiently give us maximum information in a short amount of time. But we don’t feel connected to those quick explainers.

I feel that 360 video can not only efficiently deliver an experience but create an environment that allow our audiences to have individual experiences that they can share and create their own memories.

As we begin wearing our devices more often — smart watches, wireless headphones, fitness trackers — in conjunction with the super computer that is a smartphone in your pocket, you are essentially wearing a number of sensors that each individually know where they are in relative space to your eyes and ears.

This combination of sensors and controllers that are becoming more common technological accessories to smartphones will allow more audiences to dive deeper into immersive content with less barriers to this delivery system.

360 video is the beginning. It’s the beginning of how we interact with our information and use it to form our individual experiences and opinions.

It is vital to study our successes and failures with this medium in order to move the field in a positive direction both for producers and consumers.

360 Video Gear Guide: Everything you need to know to get a 360 production off the ground. From cameras to monopods to software.

I offer a 2–3 day on site workshop that will teach you and your team, be it faculty, students, journalists, editors and staff how to plan 360 stories, produce 360 content in the field and stitch, edit and distribute 360 video.


Please contact Steve here if you’d like to schedule a workshop.

Immersive Storytelling

Articles, how-tos and highlights of 360/VR storytelling

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Helping explore the world through thoughtful and engaging stories.

Immersive Storytelling

Articles, how-tos and highlights of 360/VR storytelling