360 degree videos are just one facet of the virtual reality revolution, though a hugely important one.
They’re destined to take top rank in the list of experiences alongside games, tours, learning, and the myriad of other VR experiences.
On this page we’ll be looking at what VR 360 videos are, how and where you can watch them, and what’s involved with creating your own.
What Are 360 VR Videos?
First, in case you don’t know what VR video is, it’s the new style of video that’s shot with 360 degree cameras.
The result is a video that will immerse you in the footage giving more of a ‘really there’ feeling. It can either be watched with a VR headset to get a full immersive experience, or in ‘normal’ 2D by dragging the mouse or even tilt your smartphone around the view. This changes the viewpoint and you’ll see images ‘within’ the video from multiple perspectives.
Watching VR Video
We’ve seen that there are two ways of watching VR video clips – either in standard 2D or by using a VR headset.
Clearly the best results are going to be seen with the full VR kit. That is using a headset and its associated powering device, either smartphone, PC, or games console. Watching in 2D does still give a deep and interesting experience, though it won’t come anywhere near to the full immersion you’ll get with a headset.
For either option, both Facebook and Youtube have 360 degree video channels.
Facebook VR Video
Facebook is of course a hugely popular tool for watching video, with millions of hours of footage uploaded. The social networking giant has put considerable effort into improving and optimising those uploaded videos.
In preparation for a likely explosion of VR content, Facebook recently changed the layout of its videos from equirectangular to a cube map. This basically means it uses technical wizardry to drop file sizes and reduce any distortion, each of which are important in the rendering of good quality virtual reality imaging.
On top of this, they’ve implemented ‘view-dependent streaming’ which streams only the piece of video you’re looking at. This reduces file sizes by up to 80%, helping the delivery of VR at the widely accepted optimum speed of at least 60 frames per second.
Youtube are going all out on the technology with plans to introduce a live streaming feature, potentially to illustrate the capabilities of a future Google VR camera. If the plan comes off, it’s clear they wouldn’t want to limit content to just videos shot with the Google device so expect to see a number of different ways to upload.
Take a look at Facebook’s full technical description for a detailed look at how all this works.
Nathie’s Virtual Reality Video Channel on Youtube – Not a 360 channel but worth a look if you’re into gaming.
Creating Your Own
These days everyone makes video. Our smartphones have made it easy, and you don’t necessarily need expensive equipment.
But to create VR videos, you will need something more complex.
We go into some depth on the create VR page, but essentially you’re going to need a camera that’s specially designed to do the job.
Prices vary and for the best results it’ll set you back a fair few quid or dollars. Though there are some less expensive models appearing, these have a way to go to match the higher end devices.
How To Share Your 360 Videos
You can of course share any videos you’ve created on Facebook or Youtube.
For an alternative though, you could take a look at Holobuilder. This lets you ” Create Amazing 360° and Virtual Reality Content – Free, Quick & Easy” and then either share them with friends via a link or embed them into any website or blog for others to enjoy.
All in all the watching and creation of videos for virtual reality is a major piece of the whole VR pie. One which many of us will enjoy a slice of. Unlike games where only true game developers can create masterpieces, videos can be created by anyone.
The options for shooting different subjects for your virtual videos and pretty much endless, and there’s sure to be a lot of good – and bad – examples floating around.