A couple weeks ago, we covered the basics of VR360 video and just scratched the surface. The ability to consume VR360 video content has exploded in the last six to twelve months, with no end in sight. Today, I want to go over some of these channels and what they bring to VR360 video.
To begin, VR360 video content—when stitched and edited together—looks like this:
This weird looking image with lots of distortion at the top and bottom is the file that we give to the hosting service/content provider. As part of that file delivery, we provide appropriate metadata that notes that the content is 360-degree video, how it’s to be structured, and a few other important details. Much in the same way the Mercator projection displays a spherical map onto a flat surface, our video is equally distorted when viewed in a flat format; but looks perfect when viewed as a sphere.
There are several ways to host VR360 video content. YouTube is the front-runner with some of the best content delivery networks and VR360 video projection protocols. Not far behind is Facebook, offering inline content on a variety of devices, allowing the audience to consume content seamlessly. Several different products allow embedding of VR360 video content on your website in a seamless and fluid way that’s easy for the consumer to use and explore. And like the VR360 technology they use, content delivery networks continue to grow and find smart ways to support this new medium.
Generally speaking, there are three ways for audiences to consume VR360 video content: phone, computer, and head-mounted displays.
Phones: Currently, phones and mobile devices are one of the best ways to consume VR360 video content. Support is nearly universal and content is easy to access. Built in gyroscopic sensors allow viewers to look around the world in real space and move through effortlessly.
Computer: Personal computers also allow great access to VR360 video content, letting viewers click and drag around to see the whole experience. This sense of control gives audiences an experience they’re comfortable and familiar with, while also lending itself to longer form content or multiple videos to be viewed. As of this writing, Chrome and Edge have support for YouTube content. Safari is not there yet, though analysts predict it will be soon. There is a plethora of third-party VR360 video hosting apps and plugins worth exploring as well.
Head-Mounted Displays: The penultimate experience in immersive, VR360 video content is head-mounted displays. (The ultimate experience features the video display on a 360-degree environment where viewers could literally walk around and explore the virtual environment, as seen in this ad.) These headsets offer the most engaging experience for this sort of content. These devices boast high-quality pixel density displays with high framerates, which deliver better experiences for the viewer. In addition, headsets offer 3D stereoscopic capabilities. I’ve been fundamentally disappointed with 3D in my experience, but head-mounted displays bypass a lot of the historic issues that 3D content has had in the past. Our cameras are one of the few on the market that are capable of capturing 3D VR360 video content, and the results thus far have been breathtaking.
While the higher price headsets like Gear VR, HTV Vive, and Occulus Rift are impressive, your trusty smartphone can act as your ticket to get on the VR360 video bandwagon. With the help of an inexpensive headset, ranging from Google Cardboard to something a little nicer like the one seen here, you can be zooming through VR360 videos in just a few minutes. With so many ways to consume content, it’s easy for your audience join in on the experience.
Next week we’ll take a look at what goes into creating great VR360 video content.