360 Degree Video: The Future Or Just A Fad?
Every now and then we see the emergence of a new kind of video that gets everyone excited. The latest one that’s doing the rounds, and has got people talking, is 360 degree video.
Before we get into the details, let’s just get a handle on what it actually is.
360 degree video is created using a specialised camera system that captures all 360-degrees of the scene at the same time. The result allows the user to change the viewing angle and browse around the scene by dragging with the cursor. Alternatively, if being viewed on a mobile device, the user can tilt the screen or drag with their finger to change the viewing angle.
This exciting new development has opened a door to a world of possibilities when it comes to creating video content. Imagine being able to get a 360 degree view of the African plains or being put in the cockpit of a fighter jet. It’s also the kind of thing that would work great for virtual tours. In a nutshell, it offers the viewer a much greater sense of immersion than just standard video.
But does it have what it takes to stick around and make its mark on the video industry? Or is it just another flash-in-the-pan that will, inevitably, fade off into the abyss before it even gets going?
In recent years we’ve seen things like 3D and 4K video make their way into the consumer scene and, at the time, they all had a certain degree of hype surrounding them. When 3D video started creeping onto the scene; cinema’s started to play 3D films again, consumers could actually buy (relatively) affordable 3D video cameras and the first consumer 3D TV’s were produced and sold.
It was the same with 4K. There were more consumer 4K video cameras becoming available on the market and companies started making 4K ‘Ultra HD’ televisions. Mobile devices were even getting in on the action, with most top-of-the-range mobiles now boasting 4K capabilities.
However, the biggest difference between these two is staying power. 3D video appears to have slipped back into the void, whereas 4K has stuck around. Sure, they still play the odd 3D film at the cinema, but when was the last time you heard someone boasting about having a 3D TV? The answer is probably “quite a long time ago”. The main reason behind the downfall of 3D was that it was too much of a gimmick. The hype was generated simply because it was new and not because it was something we needed. I’m willing to wager that most people who bought 3D TVs probably stopped watching the 3D channels after a couple of months or so.
Whereas, in contrast, 4K video looks like it’s hear to stay and will probably even turn out to be a stepping-stone onto greater things. There are already whispers of tech companies working on making consumer products with 6K capabilities.
So where does this leave 360-degree video?
Like 3D video, 360-degree video does have quite a few shortcomings. For example, it requires a substantial amount of Internet bandwidth to play in a high quality. This is because it’s not just loading the angle you’re seeing; it’s also loading all the other angles you aren’t seeing. Which means that most users won’t have the RAM or Internet speed to watch a 360 degree video without any pauses or Internet buffering. Another downfall being that there aren’t many consumer-grade cameras available yet, and those that are leave a lot to be desired when it comes to video quality.
Despite the fact that both Google and Facebook have publicly backed 360 video, it’s hard to see it as more than just an experiment. You could argue how much we actually need 360 video? Granted, the ability to explore the whole scene is a great experience. But until there is a way for it to be easily viewable by consumers, it’s hard to see it being more than just a fad.