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I’m standing in the office kitchen with my iPhone in the air. I tilt my head up and then back down; I turn to the side and keep walking until I’ve rotated in a complete circle. Suddenly I hear a voice from the hallway, “Ah, what are you doing?”
I calmly reply, “Oh, just watching some 360 video.”
15 years ago that scenario would’ve been fit for the plot of a futuristic film. Today, it’s just a regular day at the office.
For many months now our team has been working with 360 video — experimenting with cameras, perfecting the editing process, filming from helicopters, and spinning in circles with Google Cardboard. We’ve learned a lot and created some pretty killer videos. Now we want to share that knowledge with you and answer some questions. Why would you want to use 360 video for your business? How does it work?
On our summer work retreat to Tulameen, BC we filmed a bunch of 360 footage and put together this video. Watch it on any device and remember to spin to see all the angles. Then read on to find out how 360 video can level-up your business. Our resident 360 video expert Ben will take you through the basics — how it works, why you’d use it, and what kind of cool stuff you can film.

Katy: What is 360 video?

Ben: 360 video is exactly what it sounds like: It’s 360 degrees by 180 degrees of video being captured at the exact same time, from as close to a true centre (or an identical position) as possible. Imagine taking a panorama photo on your phone and spinning in a circle — instead of photos it’s video and it’s captured all at the same time. The catch is that there isn’t really one device that captures every angle of a sphere from the exact same spot — yet. This means everyone producing 360 video is doing it with devices that emulate this same position by placing two or more cameras back to back — as close as possible — and triggering them at the same time. Then when you’re editing you stitch all of the cameras’ images back together.
360 video is the newest frontier for content producers. It has limitless opportunities for live broadcasting and could be revolutionary for developers working in the telepresence (imagine full visual immersion) and dome projection industries. Social media and advertising platforms like Facebook and Youtube are supporting these industries with new developments. It’s ridiculously awesome to see someone’s reaction the first time they watch 360 videos. When they move the tablet or phone around and the perspective changes they burst out smiling or cheering. They’re excited about being able to play a part in viewing or interacting with video content.

Why use it?

Companies and individuals are just beginning to explore the potential of 360 videos. So far the best thing I’ve seen is Samsung’s #befearless campaign. They are using Gear VR to allow people to slowly overcome psychological phobias. For example, someone who is afraid of heights will walk across a suspension bridge after beating video-game-style levels where their altitude is advanced in virtual reality.
I’m excited to see how it revolutionizes education — especially when situational awareness is key. Imagine nursing students being tested in a virtual reality operating room, as opposed to referring to 2-dimensional slides on a screen. The potential for repeat viewing, multiple storylines, or characters being in the same shots is all yet to be explored. 360 video promises a lot of incredible opportunities.

How does it work?

At the moment, 360 video uses a similar theory to a panoramic photo. Two or more cameras facing different directions are triggered to record at the exact same time. Then you stitch all of the different cameras’ video clips back together with editing software. There are a few different rigs, including ones that stitch the videos together for you before you even download them to your computer. We’ve tested basic consumer-level ones and now use a professional 3D-printed rig and 10 GoPro HERO4 Black cameras. This setup produces some of the highest-resolution spherical images that the most common platforms can handle.
At the moment, Facebook and YouTube have the two biggest libraries of 360 content. Their mobile apps both offer the tools to playback the video. My favourite 360 app is GoPro VR. It allows you to download 360 content and scrub through it and play it back at full resolution.
There are also full virtual reality rigs like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or the less expensive and pretty cool Google Cardboard. Both the Gear VR and Google Cardboard still require a compatible phone.

What can we film?

Due to the restricted focal length and parallax issues, there are certain shots that would work with a conventional camera operator, but not with 360. Instead of thinking of a “fourth wall”, the directors and operators have to think about actually being in the shot themselves. Or they need to reinvent ways to automate and mount the camera rigs to be part of the scene.
A whole new thought process is involved when it comes to shooting. Our team needed to understand the editing capabilities before we could really understand how and what we could shoot. With our current rig, things that are too close to the camera (around 5 feet) don’t stitch well. Attaching a stabilizer doesn’t work because it blocks half the shot. Light sources that are too bright or too close result in half of the scene being exposed one way while the other half is exposed in an entirely different way. Those are just a few things we’ve learned, but as with anything new the technology is developed and barriers are broken every day.
Another thing to remember is that it takes longer for a viewer to orient themselves in each new shot or space. Unlike current popular video editing techniques, these videos aren’t choppy and shouldn’t be shaky, fast-paced or too technical in movement or lighting. In 360 video, these things can disorient the viewer and take away from the experience.

360 Video Suggestions

There are some notable businesses, independent studios, and creators making some really interesting content. Felix and Paul studios are producing content for brands like NBA, Universal, and Cirque du Soleil. The team at Corridor Digital is killing it with their 360 compositing videos. They are creating Where’s Waldo videos and behind-the-scenes videos for other creators. Those are a few of the cool ones — besides being a fighter pilot or Formula 1 driver, obviously.

Our 360 Experience

So far we have produced 360 content for our partner SKY Helicopters’ website and YouTube channel, as well as for their tradeshow booth where guests get to experience a flight right from the event booth. We also have a few projects in the works with local municipalities, schools, and businesses, including a new video for UBC Okanagan. And, of course, the work retreat video.
What do you think? Does 360 video blow your mind? Are you already brainstorming the different ways you could use it? We are too.
Want to work with us to create your own 360 videos? Get in touch.