Our Quest to Understand and Push the Limits of 360-Degree Video Technology

At 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa. That sounded like a good place to bring a 360-degree camera.

Virtual reality has been around for more than a few years now, but finally, consumer grade products are becoming available and beginning to tip the scale from fringe technology into the mass adoption phase.

The crux for mass market adoption happens when there is enough content created for people to watch, participate in and be engaged by. For instance, 3D televisions were widely considered a failure, mainly due to the fact that there wasn't enough 3D content available for buyers to justify their investment in the television.

In contrast, thinking back to when VHS tapes started hitting mass adoption, the catalyst to their success was portable camcorders and the VCR. The technology was there, and people were able to use it and interact with it in a personal, meaningful way.

For 360-degree video and virtual reality, the available camera and content boom has already begun. Due not only to the availability of consumer ready viewing devices like Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard, but also to the easy to use, affordable cameras like the Ricoh Theta S.

360-degree cameras today have become so simple and so portable, you can bring them anywhere. Like on a family vacation, a trade show floor, or to the top of Africa's highest mountain as Cramer Stories lead, Jonathan Ronzio did for the 360 Degrees of Kilimanjaro 6-part YouTube series.

Ronzio in Kilimanjaro's alpine desert (Theta S photo)
Ronzio at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (Theta S photo)

In a recent sit down with Cramer's Director of Streaming Solutions, Vincent Higgins, we explore the current state of exploration in the field of 360-degree video.

"The ease, accessibility, and affordability of 360-degree cameras is causing the volume of user generated 360-degree content to expand. As this happens, more consumers begin asking for the technology, and more professionals begin making it. That's where we are now. Both those pressures are beginning to build simultaneously, and where they meet is at the mass market explosion of 360-degree video."

At Cramer, we're just getting our hands dirty playing with the tech that's available now. We've made some really high end videos for clients utilizing our 360-Degree GoPro rig to be viewed on the Gear VR platform, but we're also testing 360 streaming using handheld cameras like the Theta and finding out what works best on-site at events.

We're on the verge of the 360-degree video boom and we're experimenting with everything we can to find out what's the easiest to use, the highest quality, the best use cases, all of that. But it's not just about how it works. The nut we need to crack is why and when people would want to watch 360-degree video. Why is it more compelling or better?

"We've very quickly learning that just taking a 360-degree camera and sticking it on a tripod in a room, or on a stage, is not that compelling. You may have seen the technology used that way for the Presidential Debates, and while it's interesting because it is a new and unique way to watch, the content is simply not engaging enough for longterm viability when presented in that static form.

In contrast, the Olympics used 360-degree video in more compelling and creative ways. In their 360-degree broadcasts, they put virtual overlays, like scoreboards, below eye level so that if you were watching volleyball on your Google Cardboard, you could quickly glance down from the action to get the score. Digital additives and overlays like that add a lot. So does changing up the camera angle by live switching between multiple 360-degree devices, instead of staying static on one camera."

Ricoh Theta S Camera

"We're still in the phase of getting in while the technology is on the rise, and figuring out where this can really go. The Theta S is not the best camera out there right now, and better ones are coming, but it is incredible consumer friendly, and it does help push the market adoption and demand rate." - Vincent Higgins

The most exciting thing about 360-degree video right now is that we have companies like YouTube and Facebook fully embracing the technology, and we now have consumers not just waiting for content, but creating it themselves.

We don't see this one failing or dying out given the momentum and buy in its already built. The question is, how far will it go?

Jonathan Ronzio

Request as Speaker

Additional contributions by Vinny Higgins

Credits: Explore Inspired

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