While the terms are often used interchangeably, 360 video and VR are considered two different experiences.
360 video is recorded from all angles using a rig of multiple cameras or one omnidirectional camera. Users can dictate the direction or view of the video based on a central point in space, dictated by the camera. These videos can be viewed in a headset or on a screen.
Monoscopic is filmed using one camera per field of view from one single point of view, whereas stereoscopic has a separate video mapped to each eye.
Both types of 360 video can be enjoyed with or without a headset, but the viewing experience for stereoscopic 360 video is optimized for a headset.
VR (virtual reality)
VR refers to a simulated digital environment in which a user can physically move around and interact using equipment such as a headset and body gear. Users can navigate, control, and influence the environment beyond the direction they are looking.
This is often referred to as 3D and many 360-degree videos are labelled as 3D or VR, But if after stitching there is only one 360×180 equirectangular image then the resulting video is 2D and not 3D. It takes two distinct 360×180 equirectangular images to make a 3D video.
Creating 360 Videos
For the best experience view all of our featured 360 videos in Google Chrome.
360-degree video camera filming overlaps angles simultaneously. Through a method known as video stitching, this separate footage is merged together into one spherical video piece, and the colour and contrast of each shot is calibrated to be consistent with the others.
This process can be done by the camera itself, or using specialized video editing software that analyses common visuals and audio to synchronize and link the different camera feeds together.
Usually the only area that cannot be viewed is the view toward the camera support called the Nadir (or zenith for aerial filming).
It is then rendered at high resolution – most commonly at 4K resolution – with positional or binaural sound to give an immersive and real experience.
Omnidirectional camera rigs are the most expensive average cost well over £3,000. Here are some examples multimple camera rigs – GoPro’s Omni and Odyssey, the Nokia OZO, the Facebook Surround 360, the Kodak Pixpro.
All of The more popular handheld dual-lens cameras such as the Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360, Garmin VIRB 360 are much more affordable averaging around £300. We use a Ricoh Theta S and have recorded some amazing 360 video footage.
GoPro are due to launch their own 360 camera in late 2017 called the GoPro Fusion. Aimed at the consumer it records in 5.2K and has something they call overcapture. This feature allows you to edit the 360 video footage to look good on a flat screen, paning within the footage to adjust the view from wide to narrow.
In late 2016, 360/VR specialist Orah started shipping its 4K Live VR camera called Orah 4i. This camera is incredible prices at over £3,000, but both GoPro and DJI are rumoured to be due to announce a similar product aimed at the commercial professional 360 video market.
Viewing and Playing 360 Videos
For Monoscopic playback on desktop, you can use the browsers Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Edge.
360 video playback is not currently supported in any mobile browsers for IOS, in Apple’s Safari browser (desktop and mobile), which is a really disappointing from Apple.
On desktop, you can explore a 360 video with your arrow keys, mouse, or trackpad. On the right side of the player, you’ll see a compass that indicates the direction you are facing in the video. Clicking on the compass will reorient you to the original positioning of the video.
All mobile devices will require a built in gyroscope sensor for 360 video playback. If a 360 video is played from a device without this sensor, the video will not be rendered for 360 and will play as flat. If you are having trouble viewing in 360 from your mobile device, look at the device documentation to make sure it has a gyroscope sensor.
Taking advantage of this gyroscope behaviour, devices such as Google Cardboard viewers and the Samsung Gear VR serve as headset enclosures that your smartphone can be inserted into, for viewing this content in a virtual reality format. They feel like a dedicated head-mounted display, but use the display of the phone itself and internal lenses, rather than containing dedicated screens of their own.
Google Cardboard, in the form of low cost DIY kits has helped virtual reality become more readily available to the general public.
Publishing 360 Video
In March 2015, YouTube were the first in early 2015 allowing users to upload and view 360-degree videos, with playback on its website and on Android devices.
This was not a surprise as Google (YouTube and Android’s parent) had been pioneering 360 photography since 2008. Google also announced that it would collaborate with camera manufacturers to make it easier for creators to upload 360-degree content recorded with their products to YouTube.
Arch rival Facebook followed in Autumn 2015 by adding 360-degree video support. Facebook own VR headset maker Oculus VR. All the big players now have their eyes on the 360 video market.
However Vimeo were late only launching 360 video hosting in March 2017.