If you’re a beginner enthusiast videographer, or professional dabbling into new territory, 360 video might be a great new adventure. Capturing immersive 360 degree footage isn’t complicated, but there are a few things to consider. Let’s answer what is 360 video, where does virtual reality come in, and how can you start shooting yours? Let’s jump in.

Defining 360 Degree Video

What’s a 360 degree video?

You’ve seen it a hundred times, and sometimes it looks better than others. Other times, it’s distracting, overwhelming, and unnecessary. So what is 360 video and when and why should you use it?

360 Video Definition

What is 360 video?

360 video or 360 degree videos are immersive, spherical video recordings where a view in every direction is recorded simultaneously.

These shots require an omnidirectional camera or collection of cameras set up to achieve the 360 view. The purpose of 360 video is to immerse the viewer in the experience as if they were there.

360 video and virtual reality are sometimes used synonymously, but the key difference is in the way these videos are viewed. A 360 video viewed on Facebook or Youtube is simply considered a 360 video. Whereas a 360 video viewed through a VR headset, like an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, is considered virtual reality.

Make your own 360 Video:

  • Pick a 360 video camera or rig
  • Choose the right content
  • Motivate your camera
  • Heighten the stakes

There are some beautiful 360 panorama shots below to further highlight the purpose of using this technique.

What is 360 Video?

If you want to create your own 360 video or want to know how to make a VR video, good news, they’re the same thing! It just depends on how you watch it later. So let’s jump into how to make a 360 video. 

Create 360 Video

How to make 360 video

So how do you shoot 360 videos? What’s the proper rig, how on earth will you edit it, and how will you watch it later? Filmmaker Rob Nelson takes us through the entire process. 

Create 360 video

Get a Camera

Most 360 degree cameras are built to last but it can be hard to sift through them all and determine what’s best for you. If you don’t have a 360 video camera yet, but are in the market for one, it might be time to consider your options.

One of the best 360 degree video cameras is the Insta360 One X. It’s easy to use, weather proof, and offers incredible footage for a reasonable price. This post isn’t a gear review article, but I think a general overview of the top contenders deserve a mention.

Especially, if you’re starting to think 360 videos might be your next conquest. The video below provides a basic review of the top 17 contenders under $1000.

Which camera fits your needs?

How can you create 360 videos with multiple cameras? 

The 6 GoPro Rig

6 Go-Pros are typically used to achieve this. See below. 

How to Make 360 Videos with Multi-Cam System

While many 360 videos are shot by setting up multiple cameras, it may not be very advantageous to your time or budget. In the first video, Rob decides to use the multiple camera setup, so if you have the budget for that, there are a few tips.

Before Shooting

Label each GoPro. You’ll need to be able to match up the footage to each camera later in editing. Just use a piece of tape, labeling each one 1-6. And then, turn them on in order. 

Of course, make sure all of the GoPros have the same setting. This is an obvious first step to make sure the exposure is the same in all the cameras as well to make sure you’re shooting in the square setting

60 frames per second is also suggested. This is helpful for syncing later, but also, it’s similar to what the human eye sees naturally. So later, when it comes time to watch it on a VR headset, it will look that much better. 

So what about shooting?

Create the proper context for using a 360 video camera. Not everything needs to be seen this way. 

Content Supports 360 View

It’s important to have a real reason for it. Use the medium to its advantage, but one way to do that is by not over using it. 360 is immersion, and you’re inviting the viewer into something spectacular. Make sure it is. 

If an audience watches your video and it’s simply you walking through a store or in a car with friends, is there a need for a 360 degree view? I mean maybe if the cinematography reflects the mood or story, but just make sure the content supports using it.

Travel videos are usually pretty great content that supports the 360 video format. We get to see it all, from every direction, which is usually, the point of travel videography. 

360 Video - Gondola Ride in Venice

360 Virtual Reality

But most importantly, Virtual Reality or VR, has become the main function of 360 video. It’s no wonder considering the purpose of virtual reality- to emerge the viewer into an entirely different reality than the one they’re in. Here’s what I mean by full immersion:

Brace Yourself!

This article won’t get too deep into VR, but you can’t have VR without  360 video. And today, in the advertising world, nearly everyone is taking advantage of this powerful tool. See below. 

VR Marketing

What else?

Not into VR? You can still fully emerge your customers or audience without a headset. But keep in mind, the 360 camera won’t do all of the work for you. Which leads to the next point…

Don’t be lazy 

The main reason why you’d even consider going 360 is because you want the user to experience your product or content as if they were there. So make sure your camera movement is motivated to match that. 

If you’re shooting a car commercial for example, put them in the driver’s seat. If you’re using a 360 camera simply to show every angle of a listing you just put on the market, that’s great too.

Just make sure this unique camera is a way for the audience to experience what it’s like to drive the car (or use the product) without ever having to leave their home, instead of just seeing it elsewhere. 

360 Video - Race Cars

Raise the Stakes

In some other cases, albeit more terrifying circumstances, you can use 360 to heighten stakes and the reality of say, cliff jumping in Italy? 

360 Video - Cliff Diving

360 Video Formats

How to watch 360 videos

Regardless if you own any VR equipment, there are multiple ways to watch your 360 footage. 

YouTube or Other Web Players

Have you ever dropped in on Google Maps to a location you’ve been to before? While it feels a little creepy, it’s a pretty cool experience. It may not be a true 3D experience like virtual reality, you can get a pretty good feel for being there.

Watching other 360 videos on YouTube or Facebook, or any other web medium can still emerge your viewer. And this similar to viewing it on a mobile phone. If you’ve created a a great 360 rig or used a solid 360 camera, it’s likely anywhere someone watches your video, their phone included, you’ll hook the viewer.

VR Headset

But of course, nothing says submersion quite like VR. Recommended VR headsets include Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. While these can be pretty expensive, it’s the best way for viewers to fully experience the world you created because they’re now at the center of it.  In fact, they can just turn their head, to adjust their view.

Google Cardboard

Another immersive technique, but way less expensive! Google Cardboard will turn your phone into a virtual reality headset. You’ll have to hold it in place with your hands, it still shows your 360 video experience in excellent quality. 

Get Inspired 

The Best YouTube 360 videos

You’ve already seen cliff jumping in Italy, taken a gondola ride through Venice, and been down a million foot water slide.  But in case you’re still on the fence here are the best YouTube 360 videos we could find for a little extra motivation and eye candy. 

The camera brings you into the heart of the savanna, up close and personal to some of the most beautiful (and terrifying) animals alive. 

National Geographic’s Lion 360

While it’s no question these types of videos are best for capturing the full extent of our world, it makes sense we’d use them outside of it. The magnificence of space is perfectly captured Cassini’s final exploration. 

Cassini’s 20 year journey determines how fast Saturn rotates

Far less easy on the eyes, comes our next choice — The Ring 360 Experience. Whether you’re a fan of the 2002 horror film or not, it’s pretty impressive.

This short film keeps you in a cold, dark, room filled with television sets. It makes great use of the 360 degree view by the constant change of decor when a light or TV turns on. 

The 360 here creates fear in isolation

Tell whatever you story you want. Any genre is welcomed by the 360 view but you can see how certain genres will benefit the most from this immersive innovation.

And whether you use a 360 degree camera, or a GoPro rig, start creating experiences instead of just videos.


Different Types of Cameras

Now that you’re more familiar with 360 videos, what other kinds of experiences can you create, and with what other equipment? The next post will give you a bit more insight into various types of camera categories to see which is best for your next project. 

Up Next: Different Types of Cameras →
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