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Insights

The immersive world of 360° video

12 February, 2016 - Source: Knit

We’ve been anticipating 360° video going mainstream since we first got our hands on the technology early last year. Recent launches including YouTube hosting 360° video in March, and Facebook supporting it in Newsfeeds in September, appear to have finally catapulted the medium into the public domain.

 

360° video provides a new tool for storytelling and an interesting way to forge connections between brand and consumer. The technology has numerous applications and as the equipment you need to create 360° content becomes cheaper to purchase (a good basic camera will set you back around £600), and mobile camera technology evolves, production and consumption of 360° content will become increasingly common.

What is 360° video?

360° video enables users to view the recorded environment from any direction from the position of the camera. In traditional video the film-maker decides where they want you to look and frames the shot accordingly. With 360° the viewer can decide to look at any direction from the camera at any moment. Viewing can be done on desktop (by tapping or dragging to move the camera view) or if you’re using your phone, you simply move your device to pan around the recorded setting. 

Using a low-cost virtual reality headset, like Google Cardboard creates an even more immersive experience; blocking out the users peripheral vision as well as using lenses which focus the eyes to give a better sense of depth. Professional content is made using an array of wide-angled cameras that record a 360°×180° field of vision. 

The configuration of the wide-angle cameras captures an area that when combined equates to a full 360 degree view. This content is processed into a spherical panoramic video where the content from each lens is then ‘stitched’ together (using a software package like Unity) to form the 360° environment.

We’ve produced a series of 360° video projects at Knit over the last 18 months. Projects have included filming at a series of live music events and venues, and recently we visited the meerkat enclosure at London Zoo. Users were able to explore the meerkat’s home via Google Cardboard at the V&A Museum in London as part of Digital Design Weekend.

Brand opportunities

There are a range of opportunities for brands to add this immersive 360° content to their communications mix. It enables brands to transport their audience to different places and perspectives. For early adopters some brand will offer consumers their first experience with 360° content – often a powerful and memorable moment.A few brands have already experimented with this technology: Ferrari, BMW, Target, Land Rover, Apple, Dior as well as performers such as Bjork, U2 and Indie band Foals have all recently published 360° content.

A couple of our favourites

One of the most interesting applications we’ve seen by the shoe brand, Toms. The 360 video contentallows viewers to explore an area of Peru in which volunteers are delivering pairs of shoes as part of Tom’s ‘One for One’ charity initiative. Bringing this activity to life allows viewers to ‘see’ how purchasing a pair of Toms can help those in need, delivering a powerful incentive to purchase whilst also encouraging brand advocacy.

Facebook recently hosted StarWars 360°for the new film, The Force Awakens, whilst announcing the arrival of Facebook supporting 360° video in Newsfeeds. This could signal the start of an interesting trend of production companies and studios using 360° content to create additional hype around their upcoming releases.

We’ve also been impressed by the 360° content hosted by the app VRSE. The production quality of the branded videos is extremely high and there is a clear correlation between the narratives of the short films, the supplementary editorial and campaigns run by the brands.

Whilst we are seeing an increasing number of interesting applications of 360° video the technology is still in its infancy and there are some significant challenges we’ve encountered when producing 360 video. It is very difficult to achieve the perfect stitch when editing the content in post-production. This is a time-consuming process and often requires several attempts to get it right.

The actual file sizes of the videos also mean that streaming on YouTube needs a large amount of bandwidth. This can cause lag and buffering issues that tarnish the immersive experience.

Despite these challenges we don’t think it will be long until we’ll be viewing property, ‘visiting’ new countries, sharing our holiday experiences, and basing a whole host of our purchasing decisions on the basis of 360° content we’ve experienced.

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