Recently on the YouTube Creator Blog, YouTube announced support for interactive 360° video content. The videos will only be interactive on the Chrome Browser. You'll be able to click and drag with your mouse to look in all directions to expand the video frame, or click the arrows on the navigation to change your view. 360 content has also been enabled for the YouTube mobile app, but only for Android at this time.
For businesses and those looking to run marketing campaigns with 360 video content, this is great news. Although the platform could stand for some more features and a few refinements (we'll get into that later), having YouTube as a safety net for going viral is always a plus. Millions of users watching a 4K interactive video file can explode into a massive bill for bandwidth, but if you don't mind a few car company ads with dancing hamsters, YouTube will pick up that tab for you. You can also reach a much larger audience on YouTube, we've received 1,000s of views on some of our videos in just a few hours on YouTube that would have otherwise taken months to accumulate on our website.
To Add 360 Video to YouTube
For producers, you'll need to follow these instructions on how to add special meta data to your video file before upload. Cameras such as the Giroptic, Ricoh Theta, IC Real Tech Allie and Kodak SP360 will likely support YouTube out of the box. We're not sure if this means that the meta data gets added whether you want it or not, but I'd assume that's what they mean. Only the Kodak and Ricoh are available for purchase now. Don't expect any miracles when it comes to quality with these cameras.
If you have your own content filmed with a more professional rig, simply running the meta data script on your video file will do the trick. They also claim that 360 video is only supported up to 30 frames per second, but we've successfully tested 50 fps up to 1080 resolution, whereas our master files at only 30 fps are being transcoded up to 4K. So right now, responsive and fast framerate for VR is a trade-off for less resolution. In the future, we'd like to see up to 60 fps supported in at least 3k resolution.
To celebrate 360 video coming of age and being accepted into mainstream, we've released our virtual reality experience on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with Western River Expeditions. This content has never before been seen outside of in-person demonstrations with our VR headset, you might remember this video with reactions when we showed it at CES 2015. Watch it now on YouTube 360 (make sure you're using Chrome):
Just for fun, try the same video on our own player, if you mess around with our settings and zoom in/out with your mouse wheel you'll see there's a few neat features that we'd like to see in the future of YouTube's new offering. To follow us over on YouTube, please subscribe to 360 Labs' channel, we've been uploading most of our library over there but will continue to publish and self-host many of our videos on our website as well. Our player is just too cool to shut down, we can only hope YouTube 360 will have some of these features soon.
We Want More More More!
The first thing I noticed when loading up one of the new 360 videos in YouTube was the oddly distorted horizon. I really hope they'll make it a priority to look at the projection settings they're using and find a way to make this look better. The very next priority after this should be adding Google Cardboard support, a side-by-side viewing mode for VR, into the mobile app. This is a must have, and we assume it's right around the corner.
After that, a few extra features would go a long way. For example, we think zooming in and out of 360 video is one of the coolest features of this new medium. YouTube doesn't have the zoom option. We also like the ability to change projection modes, so you can do what we call "little planet," which is loads of fun. Without zooming, you can't zoom out to see the planet.
That aside, we're excited to see mainstream adoption of 360 video. Having a powerful platform like YouTube takes the burden off of businesses when it comes to going viral, we now have a safety net in YouTube to serve our content to the masses. We look forward to future developments and new features. In conclusion, if YouTube has given you the 360 bug and you've got to see more, it's important to note that there are entire platforms of 360 video content already out there with tons of cool videos. Check out Littlstar or Kolor Eyes if you want to wet your appetite for more awesome 360 video!