In recent years, 360-degree videos and VR have seen an enormous explosion in popularity for immersive content production. Both have given us a unique way of consuming content by making viewers feel like they’re there rather than a part of the audience.
But, if you’re unfamiliar with 360-degree videos and VR, these terms likely mean nothing to you. Or, if you don’t know enough about each, you may be trying to figure out which one is best for you. Let’s take a look at the differences between 360-degree videos and VR, as well as when to use each one.
Dome Highlights - Immersive Projection Dome By Lumen & Forge
What Is 360° Video?
360° video (also known as immersive video, spherical video, and panoramic video) refers to videos that have been captured in 360 degrees. These types of videos can be animated or live-action (though the former is much more difficult to create).
This concept isn’t new by any means. Photographers and videographers have been experimenting with this concept for a long time, as seen with the Al-Vista camera released in 1898, which was the first 360° panoramic camera of its time to be mass-produced. Today, it’s so widely supported that social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube natively support them. Chances are you’ve probably come across one before, even if you didn’t know it. To learn more about the history of VR, check out this article.
Live action 360° video is recorded with a specialized omnidirectional camera, or a multi-camera rig consisting of multiple cameras that capture a spherical field of view. Content captured in this way allows for a more interactive viewing experience. When viewed on computers, tablets, or smartphones, viewers can pan, tilt, and look around in any direction as they watch the video. For an even more immersive experience, 360° video can be viewed through a VR headset or, projected onto a dome.
Al Vista Panoramic Camera - Image Credit to Science Museum Group
Titan 360 11K Professional 360 Camera - Image Credit to Immersive Shooters
360° Videos Pros and Cons
Easier production. It’s much easier to record 360° videos than it is to produce VR-ready content.
Better accessibility. 360° videos can now be viewed on most devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones.
It’s cheaper. The cost of a high-quality 360-degree camera is typically more affordable than the costs involved with VR development.
Shared immersive experience. When viewed in a dome, 360° video becomes something hundreds, if not thousands, can experience at once, whereas VR is more individualized.
Less interactive. Most 360° videos are passive viewing experiences. While viewers can look around the video and achieve some level of interactability with features like hotspots, it’s not to the same degree as VR.
Less immersive. 360° videos are more immersive than regular videos, but still less immersive than what you’d experience with VR.
Animated 360° videos are challenging to produce. Unlike live-action 360° videos that only need a camera, animated 360° videos require specialized software and a lot of planning.
CEO of Lumen and Forge wearing a VR Headset
What Is VR?
Virtual Reality (VR) is a viewing experience that typically involves the use of a head-mounted display (HMD), like a VR headset, but recent technological strides have also paved the way for VR domes, an exciting new way to experience VR in a shared space.
The idea of VR is to replicate the sensation of being transported into the media, giving the viewer an experience of unrivaled immersion. VR commonly uses computer-generated environments, giving the user much more interactivity. Users can create digital art, communicate with other VR users, and explore tailor-made digital worlds first-hand, all from the comfort of their living room. Not all VR content has to be digital though. For instance, you can also view 360° video in VR, allowing the ability to watch live broadcasts of concerts, conferences, sports games, and more.
There are varying levels of VR you can experience. Semi-immersive VR, for example, can be implemented in such a way that digital content overlays the real-world environment through the use of Augmented Reality (AR). Fully immersive VR, on the other hand, involves complete immersion in the digital environment that incorporates sight, sound, and sometimes even touch and smell.
VR Pros and Cons
Fully interactive. Viewers become users who can interact with the environment around them.
Enhanced immersion. VR transports you into the media, making it feel like you’re actually there rather than simply watching it on a device.
Many more possibilities. There’s an unlimited number of possibilities with the ability to create custom worlds from the ground up.
Requires an HMD or dome. You must have an HMD (VR headset) or access to a specialized setup to view the content, especially with stereoscopic VR.
Motion sickness. Some VR users may experience motion sickness as their senses try to discern what’s virtual and physical.
More expensive and complicated production. Digital VR content is much more costly and difficult to make, involving specialized equipment and software.
MELT 360° Dome at SxSW By Lumen and Forge
How to Utilize 360° Videos and VR for Business
360° videos and VR are so versatile that they can be applied in essentially any industry. In real estate, for example, real estate agents have begun using 360° videos for virtual tours, which allows potential buyers to tour the home before they visit it in person. Or, on a larger scale, you can use them in one of our projection dome venues the next time you need to hold a large-scale event, like a trade show or corporate experiential pop-up, to really wow your guests.
VR is just as versatile, if not more so. With the power of VR, you can create unique digital environments to showcase your products to your customers and capture their attention with a highly immersive, awe-inspiring experience. You can also use it internally, as a means of collaborating with teams remotely and bolstering your onboarding process by providing a realistic environment that employees can use to train.
Ultimately, these technologies are a great way to pique the interest of your customers and encourage them to engage with your brand in a fun, exciting way.
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At Lumen & Forge, we specialize in immersive 360 and VR content production services. Our expert team can help you determine whether 360 video or VR is the right fit for your project and business goals. We utilize cutting-edge tools and techniques to create memorable and impactful experiences for your customers and employees. Contact us today to learn more about our 360 video and VR production capabilities and how we can bring your ideas to life!