Author: Steve Callanan, CEO

Spherical videos or ‘360º videos’, as they’re also known, are nothing new, they’ve been around for many years now but they’ve always been costly and fiddly to produce. That’s changed as cheaper rigs and stitching software have dropped down to the consumer market, putting 360º video production into the hands of the everyday creator.

In addition, the playback support has been boosted by the support of video players like YouTube and Facebook along with Google’s Cardboard making it even more accessible. The ‘flood’ of VR headsets that are apparently going to hit our homes may also mean greater access.

However, all this buzz around the solutions for 360º production and consumption leaves the question of whether this really serves any purpose still remains largely unanswered.

360º video still has many technical and experiential limitations. The kit is still rather cumbersome and tricky to set up, stitching is rarely perfect and the inclusion of the support rigging that needs to be erased or covered over can be time consuming and expensive. The viewport is just a subsection of the video meaning the final experience tends to be a lower resolution than normal, or massive files need to be delivered to compensate. As there is no one person or object that a director chooses you to focus on, the picture must have an all encompassing, deep focal field to ensure everything is sharp(ish) which is troublesome for those looking for a more cinematic finish. There is still no standard for the editing of the video too - should it be left as one long shot, leaving the viewer to keep themselves entertained by the spherical experience itself? Or should the editor risk creating a multi-edited sequence that could frustrate viewers who are dragged away to the next clip while still exploring?

But all this aside, is the experience worth the cost, limitations and sacrifices? There is no doubt that the first time someone experiences 360º video they’re wowed, but the second and third time? Does the experience really retains its initial wow factor in its current state?

For the last 6 months we’ve been asked about enriching 360º video with WIREWAX interactivity two or three times a day - we’re told that producers are looking to give it some real value and purpose and retain its user interest. We couldn’t agree more, interactive 360º feels like the missing piece of the jigsaw; audiences are, in many ways, already interacting with the video (so half the work is already done) and allowing them to explore more, receive more information or ultimately choose when they want to navigate to another clip or exit the experience is the most powerful addition yet.

This means viewers aren’t just aimlessly spinning around, they can now interact with moving people and objects in the spherical space too. This also means producers can now create content designed to be fully interactive to create the ultimate immersive experience.

WIREWAX now fully supports 360º playback on desktop and mobile which the addition of motion-tracking hotspots. This is currently a Premium Services feature but it’ll soon be rolled out to the Studio for subscribers too.

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