Facebook’s top boss Mark Zuckerberg, a self-confessed Game of thrones fan posted a 360-degree video of the show’s opening credits last week. The video has clocked in over 3.8 Million views so far and Mark pointed it out in the post that it was the most-watched 360 video on Facebook in a 24 hour period. While Facebook was busy trumpeting about its video capabilities, YouTube went one step further by adding live 360 degree video and audio to its repertoire. It has launched live 360 degree video streaming and has started it with the stream of Coachella Music Festival:
YouTube has been streaming live videos of concerts, sporting events et al for quite some time now. And it has also been supporting 360 degree since March last year (Facebook has been supporting them since September). A combination of both these capabilities has ushered in a new age of event video streaming.
“If you can’t make it to that Beyonce concert; the next best thing is to be able to watch it in live 360 with all the fans surrounding you and with her up on stage from the front row.” said Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer of YouTube.
The race to Immersive Entertainment
Transporting the viewer into a whole different world. That’s what the two online video behemoths are racing towards now. Just about a week after Facebook unveiled its own non-copyrighted design for a 360 degree camera, YouTube announced live 360-degree streaming capabilities.
During the announcement, Mohan also took a potshot at Facebook and said “As a user, you don’t need to do anything. There is no fancy technology to purchase or integrate.” – an obvious reference to Facebook’s $599 Occulus Rift.
Now, the viewers can be the directors. Instead of watching a 360-degree video that took days to produce and edit, they can watch one while it is happening. And the fact that Google’s Cardboards can be bought for as cheap a price as $15, the technology has far more reach.
Related read: How YouTube channels can leverage Google Cardboard
Creating 360 degree videos
Consuming 360-degree videos has certainly become far cheaper and easier in the last few months. But creating them is still relatively costly. In the recently concluded annual Facebook Developer Conference F8, it was announced that Facebook has built the best 360-degree camera rig but has kept the hardware design and software open source. But still, it would cost at least $15 to $30 thousand to buy the components and hire the engineers/designers to put them all together.
YouTube has announced that it’ll release an API so that any hardware manufacturer can integrate Live 360 into their equipment. It has also built a 360 camera rig by teaming up with GoPro Inc called Jump. The official YouTube announcement also promises that 360 degree live video streaming and spatial audio technologies will be available at all YouTube Space locations across the globe.
While creating 360 videos is relatively easier now, making them look crisp and neat is not a piece of cake. If the internet speed of the consumers is slow, the video ends up getting compressed and looks messed up in VR headsets/cardboards.
What the future holds in store for us
YouTube’s plan to allow anyone to stream 360 videos live on its platform can revolutionize the way people experience events. Anyone with a 360 camera rig can showcase his/her point of view at a concert or a sporting event. However, from a consumer’s perspective, a lot needs to be done to make the technology better and affordable. Despite shipping over 5 million units, when it comes to quality; Google’s Cardboard isn’t in the same league as Facebook’s Oculus. For higher quality hardware, it is working with cameras like Ricoh Theta (Costs $350), ALLie (Costs $500) and Orah 4i (Costs $1800).
YouTube has also announced that prerecorded 360 videos can have binaural audio or 3D Audio recorded with special microphones. But it will work only via YouTube’s android app as of now. When this capability gets added to Live 360, it will add more realism to the viewing experience.
With Google’s I/O conference coming up next month, it’ll be interesting to see what plans it comes up with, for VR.
An online junky who can't get enough of memes, movies and music. I'm a marketing specialist at Vidooly.