What Is 360 Video?

360 Video, also called spherical video or VR video is monoscopic or stereoscopic video that is viewed as a projection on a [virtual] sphere or cylinder, where the playback screen and/or the audience is inside of the sphere.

The effect is an all-encompassing video that gives the audience total freedom to look around them while the video plays.


Where is the audience looking?

How do you tell a story when you don't know where the audience is looking?

How do audiences behave?

Audiences and creators both are confused about when to look where, what to follow, what matters and so on. There is not much of an established 'language' of codified signals in 360 video that clue audiences into desired or appropriate behavior.

How are audiences watching?

360 Video can be seen on flat screens, navigated through click/drag or arrow keys. They can be watched on phones or tablets waved around[^1], or with headsets with varying degrees of responsiveness, accuracy, and quality. Audiences may have headphones of varying quality or may not. IF they do have their phones (with small phone speakers) held out at arm's length, there is effectively no stereo audio information. Audiences may be standing, on spinning chairs, or sitting on on chairs with backs. They may have objects near them or space to move. Audience's of different ages, genders, experience levels, or more have different reactions to headsets in terms of nauseousness or becoming uncomfortable. Audiences have different personal tolerances for content and content quality limitations like resolution or sound design. We don't know what the audiences ambient acoustic environment is, or their device resolution, or their device's color profile. Audiences may need to check their surroundings consistently: in public spaces, it can feel strange to become engrossed in an alternative reality, or one may need to check for nearby obstacles, hazards, or house pets.

There is a huge domain of potential watching environments for 360 video, and this is something creators have almost no control over.

How do we talk about this?

One challenge to creators is even describing what they are making to a lay-person or even others in their field. "VR", "360 Video", or "immersive experience" are being used interchangeably, and a lot of audiences are unfamiliar with the experience. How can we not overpromise and underdeliver, while still getting potential audiences excited about the reality of this medium?