Our Vision of 360 Degrees Film
360-degree videos and Virtual Reality are remarkable techniques that shall conquer the mass market in the coming years. Since we at mindnapped are convinced by the possibilities of this piece of technology, we’ve been working intensively on it in the last few months and have begun to offer the production and postproduction of 360 degrees video as a new service. 360-degree video gives the impression of being in the middle of the action. The way we’re able to convey content can be extended to a whole new facet – users are given the opportunity to no longer participate passively in a film, but are encouraged to actively deal with the content. Through different technical devices, they can move around a film in all directions and so they themselves can choose from which way they want to look at things.
How Does This Technology Work?
Like every technical innovation from recent years, 360 degrees video is also undergoing rapid development. Almost every month, new systems are announced – both in terms of hardware and software. The basic principle is that an image is recorded, showing all directions filmed from a single point. Seeing as physics doesn’t allow this to be done with a single camera, all systems are based on a combination of several wide-angle images (at least 2 cameras).
In our tests and shoots from recent months, a system with 6 GoPro cameras has turned out to be the most effective camera system, with the best result.
6 cameras shoot in all directions and are then combined into a single image. What sounds so simple, however, requires a lot of work and expertise in post-production. First, the recordings of 6 GoPro cameras must be copied and synchronised. From this point onwards the work really starts. Although there are specialised programmes in the professional sector which support the video stitching (ie. putting the different images together into an equirectangular projection), it’s usually still necessary to do adjustments by hand afterwards, like cutting out the tripod or retouching artefacts at the edges.
In the meantime, we’ve been able to optimise our workflows over several projects. We are now able to solve all the problems that this technology entails, while also saving time efficiently and providing our customers with a perfect 360-degree video. The end products are suitable for 360 degree playback on Youtube, in cardboard – as well as in VR headsets and other (also zoomable) 360 degree viewers found in the Internet.
A Misunderstanding: 360 and VR
Even if the marketing of large hardware providers suggests something different: 360-degree video and virtual reality are not the same. Clearly defining the difference helps to better understand the possibilities that 360 degrees provides. One speaks of a virtual reality when the user can enter another world in which he can move freely. 360-degree video however does not provide this option. Rather, the viewer can look in all directions from a fixed position, which corresponds to the position of the camera (or cameras, more information comes later) during shooting. Nevertheless, the camera can be moved (but not live and not at the request of the spectator). If, for example, the camera is attached to the helmet of a skier, you can follow his ride down the slope in the video, but you can’t go up with the lift or take the perspective of a deer in the forest next to it. The perspective must stay the same.
The fact that the terms 360 degrees and VR are often associated with each other, and are even used as synonyms for each other has to do with the fact that both run using similar technical devices. Although you can watch 360-degree videos on your computer, in a browser or on your smartphone or tablet, the videos achieve their best effect using VR headsets. These headsets cover the spectator’s entire field of view and have sensors that analyse the direction of vision and the inclination of the head. Thus, the image is updated automatically according to the movement of the head. This conveys a degree of immersion, which impresses everyone who’s tried this technique.
In contrast to 3D television, we are dealing here with a piece of technology that allows a truly new image effect. No technology company will turn down the chance to make money from this development. So, in addition to the pioneers, Oculus (who were bought by Facebook in the meantime), manufacturers like Sony, Google and HTC have announced their own promising VR headsets. Which hardware will become a success, is still unbeknown to us. What, however, is in agreement by experts across the board, is that 360 degrees and VR is the future.
The Possibilities with 360-degree videos
The downside of 360 degrees, that the user is not captured by a real virtual reality, is perhaps also it’s biggest advantage. While true VR content (which is primarily about games) inevitably requires the use of VR headsets, 360-degree video can already be viewed with existing hardware. Most current browsers allow you to view the videos, which are now also distributed by YouTube and Facebook, along with some other specialised providers. The simplicity of access to 360-degree video is a huge advantage of this technique.
As far as the possible applications are concerned, we’re just at the beginning of development. But VR and 360° Video are already shaping marketing and the possibilities seem endless – as DesignRush recently showed in their blog. In short: Wherever a viewer is, or wherever it’s possible to look around a place, all-round videos can be used; whether behind the scenes, in a factory, at an event or in the middle of the stage at a concert.
Here is a comedy sketch we recently produced to showcase the possibilities of 360-degree-video and(!) 360-degree-audio! Please enjoy: