Earlier this year, YouTube announced support for spherical videos in Google’s Chrome browser and Android phones. These videos allow you to control the camera and look around a central point in 360 degrees, either by clicking the onscreen controls or by using the accelerometer on an Android device. And more video platforms beyond YouTube are rumored to be adding support for spherical videos later in 2015.
A 360° video viewed in Safari
A 360° video viewed in Chrome
What does 360° video mean for creators and brands?
Spherical videos put you right in the middle of the action. Music videos released in this format surround you with dancers and pyrotechnics; other videos strap you to a helicopter in flight or onto the back of an F1 car speeding around the track.
Spherical videos invite active participation in a brand’s or creator’s offerings, whether that’s a live event, product simulation, or even animated content. A carefully crafted 360° video could prove more sticky than a standard ad because of this extra layer of engagement. Red Bull and other brands have already released content in this format.
How can you make a 360° video?
Currently, creating your own 360° masterpiece requires several pieces of hardware and software. Any still camera can capture a panorama over multiple exposures—but to create a seamless video experience, you need multiple cameras recording at the same time.
Camera rigs such as the F360 Explorer allow you to attach six GoPro cameras in a cube arrangement. Alternatively, you can make your own mount with a 3D printer!
Consumer spherical video cameras do exist too. They range from $500-700 and have fewer camera sensors than professional options, but they handle the labor-intensive process of stitching the different camera angles together. DIY methods such as the pod o’ GoPros put the onus on you to stitch the separate angles into a single 16×9 video that YouTube can understand.
The upload process
Once you’re done editing your spherical video, there’s one final step before uploading. YouTube has a special app that inserts a bit of code in the video file’s metadata (for details, see YouTube help). If you skip this step, YouTube won’t be able to detect that the video is spherical.
The original file uploaded to YouTube
How the file appears in Chrome or an Android device
The future is all around us
A few hurdles may limit widespread adoption of 360° video—namely, the processing horsepower required to handle handle these resource-heavy files. But with consumer virtual reality like the Oculus Rift primed for widespread release, the future looks bright for spherical content.
If you’re an enterprising creator or brand, you could quickly gain a large following by establishing yourself as a go-to destination for 360° video. We look forward to watching what you create!