The truth about 360° video: Trends and examples

(Almost) perfect 360° videos

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360° Video is perfect whenever it is allowed to mirror their strengths and do not have to expose their weaknesses. The first part of this article series discussed the contextual function of 360° videos. The second part emphasised the question as to the significance of 360 videos for the storytelling aspect and where and when a 360° image film or 360° video make sense.

This final, third article presents selected examples and trends. It explains why 360° documentation is particularly suitable for the all-round video genre and a really hot topic. Here come some more basics for makers of 360° films:

360° documentation

The popularity of 360° videos is currently constantly on the rise. This type of film is frequently implemented as a mixture of 360° video and 360° photo production. So it is not unusual in this genre that, although the viewer’s gaze is able to virtually circulate and discover, this need not always occur in moving video images but also in 360° photographs. However, the changeover from the moving image to photographs is far from being as painful as in normal, mono-perspective videos, because the user moves through the image world during playback anyway. Static images such as photographs or graphics are therefore also endowed with an element of movement. The mixture of 360° video and 360° photograph is perfectly suited for the realm of architectural or real estate documentation, because in this case the central task is often the rendition of immobile objects.

360° documentation usually features a length of between 5 and 7 minutes. If less, it would curtail the volume of conveyable information. If longer, the dramaturgy in films of 8 minutes or more usually poses inextricable demands of their makers. The rendition of the film itself also poses no problems for the first-time user and is intuitive after a short while. Especially, since the films are quickly loaded onto browsers and Smartphones.

After uploading to Google, YouTube or Facebook (which only takes a few minutes after logging onto the free account), the viewers are accompanied and guided by a voice-over during the video’s rendition. Even if this type of 360° film may occasionally be reminiscent of professional multimedia slide shows from the 1980s during inferior minutes despite interactive components: it reflects the demands of the 360° medium extremely well.

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The 360° video through the new Gotthard route filmed on Gopro by Swiss television is another good example. From a corporate communication perspective, it may perturb the Federal Railways somewhat that, of all things, the rails in the world’s longest railway tunnel never quite seems to fit during some minutes of the 360° mountain tour. Nevertheless, the video and its sophisticated technical solution handling the rendition of the blind spot sets new standards (the so-called blind spot describes the section in the video which is either unable to reflect image information for technical reasons or in which the object, to which the recording system had to be attached, itself appears in the perspective of the 360° video).

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Wherever the 360° camera is moving in documentations, it is important to not only pay attention to the recordable area of the camera zone before its rendition but also always to ensure that the viewer is able to understand the motivation for the motion’s direction during the tour through the video’s virtual reality. If the camera in the video changes direction unexpectedly at overly short intervals while the viewer himself is still busy discovering the 360° world, rendition will lead to frustration and ultimately to the fact that the viewer will no longer regard the video as a 360° experience for several minutes, but as any other video instead.

360° video: Best practice

Instead of using a traditional product video, Nescafé describes the coffee production process with Gopro cameras in a series of cleverly created 360° videos. The series starts with a rendition of the plantation where the coffee beans are harvested.

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360° image videos are also able to fully reflect their strengths in destination videos (tourism films). For example, Quantas uses a 360° World Video in connection with travel destination, which gives the viewer an opportunity to gain an idea of the comfortable trip and the desired dream destination per video even before his arrival.

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Naturally, this list must include a mention of the long-term market leader when it comes to modern experience and branded entertainment: Red Bull. The Salzburgian frontrunner uses 360° reports for adventure videos in its rendition of extreme sports, which provide the viewer with the feeling of being right in the video when the impossible is made possible.

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The ideal way for perfectionists

The 360° genre also has the ideal way in the 360° genre for those wanting unbeatable perfectionism when it comes to rendition. However, with regard to effort and costs, this is in a class of its own: in this case, the film set is completely built around the 360° camera. Either digitally in 3D on the computer or in reality: at the end of the 1990s and for one of the most elaborate 360° theme park films ever produced in Europe, the Bavaria Studios in Munich took weeks to produce decoration which was perfectly coordinated to the focal lengths of the 360° lenses. Previously, director Dani Levy and camera man Carl-Friedrich Koschnik had used the script to specify exactly how close the camera had to be to actors Meret Becker and Michael Gwisdek and at which point in the action. This resulted in the lengths of the necessary camera travel and positioning of the people, which also permitted the perspective calculation, drawing and construction of the decoration.

Digital perfection in 360°:

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At the end of the day, the perfect video is quite simple to determine. Perfection is not a given when only the technology of the video is in its maximum form. A 360° film is simply perfect whenever the video fulfils its purpose. And is therefore able to render maximum effect.

New trend: 360° bloggers

YouTube has permitted the streaming of 360° videos (so-called live 360 videos) since April. Video bloggers have therefore been presenting themselves to their fans in 360° video streams for some weeks now, including their wall cupboards and dirty laundry under their beds. Whether this should be understood as an antithesis to what was propagated in this series of articles on video, or as a sure sign of the fact that the trend towards 360° video has already exceeded its half-time, is left to be decided by the reader himself.

I cannot escape the feeling that the creators of this technology have come to accept a virtuality, which represents a shrunk version of what we as consumers had been dreaming of. Adrian Daub, NZZ dated 25 May 2016

Conclusion

Cleverly made, 360° videos are an attractive marketing and communication tool. However, you should never use 360° videos simply because they are currently really trendy. Instead, use them only when a recourse to the all-round view can also be contextually, editorially and dramaturgically justified.

Whenever the use of 360° video is senseless, there is a simple, tried-and-tested action alternative: not to produce a 360° video!


Additional information:

Getting ready for the shoot: 360°-Video

the author of this article, Kristian Widmer, has produced seven international 360° films, (Circlevision and Dome projections) for theme parks since 1998. In 1963/1964, Condor Films AG already produced a 360° film for location-based entertainment and is currently working on four new, customer-assigned 360° videos for entertainment purposes on Social Media platforms.

About Kristian Widmer
Kristian Widmer (49) is Executive Producer and CEO of Condor Films Ltd. He has been advising customers on film and video for 23 years.

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