360 degree videos: is it VR enough?

360 degree videoWill 360 degree videos be in the future of VR? Or is it a temporary fad that will disappear the way 3D TV has gone?

Also check out my top 5 favourite 360 degree videos at the end of the article!

What is a 360 degree video?

It is:

  • a video where you can choose what to look at in every direction unlike conventional videos where the video creator choose what point of view that you see.
  • you control where to look using
    • a finger to swipe in the desired direction for touchscreen or
    • use a mouse to click and drag on a video on a computer or
    • for the best viewing experience, using a mobile VR headset like Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR and simply look around like you would in real life by turning your head. That’s why 360 degrees videos are sometimes called VR videos.

How do you create 360 degree videos?

There are many ways:

  • Easy to use: You can use a special camera like the Ricoh Theta S or the newly announced and to-be-launched Samsung Gear 360 with 2 wide lens cameras placed back to back to take easily take photos and videos with a click that are automatically stitched together to create the 360 degree content. Cheapest solution for 360 degree videos.
  • Higher quality: You can use a special camera rig to hold many GoPros together to take videos that have to be post-processed to stitch the separate videos together. You can find some of the rigs here at 360 heros.
  • Cinematic quality: Check out the Lytro Immerge where they use light field technology to provide the best video experience where you can move around within some limits in a video. Estimated to price in the 6 digit figures when released sometime in 2016.
  • Computer Generated Videos – Basically an animation. Animators are already used to creating a 3D space for their animations. Hence the only difference is allowing the user to point the camera in any direction they want. Since it is computer generated, the video resolution can be set higher than anything captured by a camera but it is still bottlenecked by the viewer display resolution. It is also difficult to create unless you are trained in animation and normally an entire team of animators work together over years and with a lot of budget to create a hollywood level movie (for example Pixar movies)

Right now, there are much more 360 degree videos than VR Games among all VR content. Some notable online platforms or events where you can see 360 degree videos are:

  1. Sundance Film Festival 2016  – a film festival with the New Frontier section that featured over 30 VR video experiences. Some of the VR video content was downloadable for a period of time to watch on through its mobile app.
  2. Youtube360  or Facebook –  user-generated 360 degree video content platform
  3. DiscoveryVR mobile app – my favourite company generated 360 degree video content platform (there are many more)

The reason 360 degree videos has been able to catch on quickly is because it is relatively easier to create 360 degree videos with just a special camera compare to VR games which require programming knowledge or game design skills.

Also with just our mobile phones and a Google Cardboard, we, the users, are able to view 360 videos cheaply. On the other hand gamers need to purchase better quality VR headsets and hand controllers and a powerful PC so the cost of playing VR games is much more expensive. 

However, currently most 360 degree videos suffer from:

But perhaps the greatest factor that cause VR purists to chide people for associating 360 degree videos with VR is that the immersiveness of videos cannot be compared to that in games where you are in control of body instead of just a pair of eyes.

While the lack of interactivity does make a very big difference in the experience of using the VR headset, 360 degree videos can serve a different sector of the industry that is more related to the real world like marketing, travel, education, so it would be different from computer generated visuals that we see in games. By transporting the viewer through the videos to feel as if they are present in the actual location, it is a type of immersion that can’t be found in other form of experiences.

Top 5 360 videos

(Comment below if you have your own favourites)

1. Marketing of new car by Audi using a 360 degree test drive experience

2. Marketing of new movie by Disney/Star Wars by showing a flythrough of the surroundings of the world within the movie with action sequences


3. Promoting of Dubai as a Travel Destination through a travelogue by Haresh from Ministry of Funny (there is also travelogue on Bali and Taiwan which are equally as good)

4. A Music Video by JJ Lin promoting his new music

5. Promoting Action Sports and related products through showing professionals performing daring stunts

I believe that it is up to each person’s own definition of VR. How well the consumer take to accept these concepts and the continuing popularity of it will ensure that 360 videos will be able to remain in the definition of VR at least in the near future.