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5 Things Marketers Need to Know About 360-Degree Video Right Now

Technology is in a constant state of motion in the online video industry, but that doesn't mean marketers need to adopt every new trend. One thing you do want to pay attention to, though, is 360 video.

I recently attended a YouTube Space event in New York City that was all about 360-degree panoramic video and came away with interesting findings on this new form of virtual reality technology. Drone footage is having its moment right now, but I think 360 video is the next big thing in production, so get ready.

Here are five things you need to know about 360 video right now:

1. It's a different form of storytelling. One of the most important things to consider with 360-degree video, or spherical video as YouTube refers to it, is that creators approach this format as an immersive experience rather than a typical video. Unlike traditional videos and cinema, the viewers have control over what they see. YouTube compares this to a choose-your-own adventure in its blog announcement.

In a nutshell, the viewer controls the recorded camera angle by tilting and panning on their computer or mobile device via the video player. This can be an excellent tool for publishers that want to deliver a rich media experience: You could give your audience a fully interactive look at a tradeshow, a real estate listing, a new building, or even a sports or news event, for example.

2. Like most new systems, there are some pitfalls. 360 video produces some amazing footage, but because it's a new technology there are some production downsides. For marketers, the number one pitfall right now is the cost.

The GoPro and Google Jump
The GoPro and Google Jump

Creators need special cameras to capture 360-degree video. Google and GoPro are creating a 16-camera array called the Jump that can capture high-quality video, but the rig is estimated to be in the $7,000 to $10,000 range based on the cost of 16 GoPro cameras. It's set to be released later this year. Google is giving select creators early access to the Jump cameras by applying via its website.

360 Heros created its own GoPro rig that uses six GoPro cameras (sold separately) and will set you back $595. There are several consumer 360-degree video cameras out there that are priced around $300, but quality has been a concern with many of them. So, pricing options and quality vary, but it'll be an investment.

Also, keep in mind that any production team will need time to get up to speed on these cameras. Composition and framing will need to be mapped out and planned ahead of time to accommodate the stich lines, for example. Consider the cost and time of training if you are looking to produce 360-degree spherical video.

3. It will change your production team's workflow. It's helpful for marketers to understand the production process. Your team's post-production workflow will require some modification. To start, the multi-camera content will need to be "stitched" together in editing to create a seamless video.

While some manufacturers do this for you inside of the camera, others require that you use post-processing software. Programs like Kolor (acquired by GoPro), Video-Stitch, and AVP have been popular with early adopters. Video-Stitch says 1 minute of video takes about 1.5 minutes to stitch.

All of this media will also need to be stored somewhere for ingestion and post-processing, so you may need to bump up your team's storage systems to accommodate the workflow. At minimum, it is suggested that you have 32GB RAM available on your system when working in this format.

Editing this spherical content will differ from other video projects, as well. Once the footage is stitched together, your editor can use popular programs like Adobe Premiere with plugins to finish the video. The main difference is the creative process for your editing teams. They will not be assembling a sequence of shots to show an audience, but rather a 360-degree image that the viewer will have control over when watching. Keep this in mind from beginning to end—from brainstorming and storyboarding to shooting.

4. There's a lot of opportunity for viewership. The popularity of spherical video is steadily growing in part thanks to video giants like YouTube supporting 360-degree video uploads. Viewers can watch 360-video on YouTube via a computer or its iOS and Android apps.

YouTube is even working with spherical camera manufacturers to allow for seamless compatibly in future releases. Right now, additional metadata and a script must be included with your video upload in order for it to work correctly, but chances are YouTube will simplify this process in the future.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift

Wherever YouTube is, Facebook can't be far behind. The social network is definitely making a push for spherical video distribution. Mark Zuckerberg revealed in March that Facebook was testing a 24-camera setup that would allow viewers to move around within a video. He even hinted at plans to get spherical video working in the Facebook newsfeed. This, coupled with Facebook's acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014, is proof that we'll see spherical video on Facebook sooner rather than later.

VLC Media Player and Windows Media also support 360 video playback, in case you were wondering.

5. Once again, timing is everything. Just like live streaming, virtual reality technology has been around for some time now. However, timing means everything when it comes to technology. The emergence of apps like Periscope and Meerkat are great examples of that.

This year, streaming took off on these apps because of the ease of accessibility. Not only can we easily watch live streams, but also we can also quickly create them.
Spherical video is following that same path. With YouTube and Facebook investing in it, both publishers and viewers will have the opportunity to distribute and watch 360-degree video content.

Time Couch, a virtual reality experience posted on YouTube
Time Couch, a virtual reality experience posted on YouTube

Another reason I think 360 video will take off is that it doesn't require viewers to wear a virtual reality headset like in the past. While the headset option is there and promises a more immersive experience, your audience doesn't need to wear one in order to enjoy spherical video. This simplifies the viewing experience because your viewer doesn't need to invest extra money to watch.

Last, but not least, you can expect to see more spherical video creation with the release of consumer-priced 360-degree video cameras. This could be a huge factor given the popularity of photo and video sharing sites. That, in addition to the growth of high-quality smartphone cameras, drones, and GoPro-style sports cameras, could make for a huge push in this new way of producing video.

As with anything else, marketers and publishers should keep in mind how something will benefit their brands. If providing your audience with this type of an experience makes sense, then keep an eye on 360-degree video. Think about the five factors above and decide whether or not you want to experiment with this format.

Stjepan Alaupovic's article first appeared on OnlineVideo.net

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