Commonly referred to as the precursor to virtual reality, 360-degree video is becoming increasingly popular around the web as more people are getting their hands on the equipment needed to make 360 video. It seems that soon enough the technology will become mainstream and will replace conventional cinematography in the same way the new 2160p 4K UHD TVs are replacing the old 1080p ‘Full HD’ TVs on store shelves. One sign that this transition is already happening is that three of the major social networking and video sites online – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – have already added support for 360 video.
YouTube at the Forefront
YouTube was the first major video site to add support for the technology last year, allowing its users to upload and view 360-degree videos. This came as good news to people who had been recording content with their 360 cameras like the Ricoh Theta. Initially, the user had to add some special metadata to the upload to make the playback work properly, but YouTube has since refined the feature to work with less hassle.
Within hours of the support being announced people started uploading an abundance of 360 content, including videos of 360-degree live poker, which have enabled poker fans to get a virtual reality view of the games they are watching, and videos of extreme sports which enable viewers to get a true heart wrenching experience. Of course, you don’t need VR glasses to view these videos, but it seems a VR headset would make viewing the scenes feel a lot more natural.
Facebook Followed Suit
A few months after YouTube added 360 video support, Facebook followed up with a similar update of their own. Of course, it wasn’t a surprise to many of us, because Facebook had already announced that the feature would be coming during the F8 conference earlier that year, and everyone knew it was inevitable as soon as Facebook purchased Oculus the year before. This was just one of many features Facebook has added in an effort to make their video capabilities more competitive, including the addition of pop-out video, and making efforts to remove copyrighted videos from News Feeds.
Twitter Joins the Pack
Finally, a few weeks ago Twitter went ahead and made the leap themselves, adding support for 360-degree video uploads. The site chose a perfect time to kick off the feature, right before the start of the NBA Finals, as the official NBA Twitter account started the show by posting 360-degree videos shot with the Samsung Gear 360. Although it took Twitter a bit longer to catch up with the pack, the move was less expected from them, being that they don’t have any previous support tor affiliation with 360 video or VR as YouTube and Facebook did.
When Will 360 Video Become the Norm?
With all of these sites adding support for 360 video, one has to ask themselves when it is going to replace standard video as the norm on social media. Some think that conventional 2D recording will always have its place because it is more convenient, but in terms of professional productions, we could see a major shift where 360-degree content becomes dominant on the web and single-angle content is left more for the home recordings and lower budget films.