The enticing gimmick of 360 video

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With a high probability of certainty I can say that you have fallen for gimmick technology. Maybe you bought a mini-disc player or digital picture frame. You were stuck on a plane and after four hours of turbulence your brain was shook just right to convince yourself of the genius of a couch mixed with a refrigerator or a wireless text scanning pen. See all that junk seems like obvious gimmicks, but at some point a whole lot of people thought they were must haves or “the wave of the future.” Well sadly, gimmick tech is not in our rear-view mirror. Example A; 360 cameras.

Not sure what 360 camera is? Have you opened up your facebook timeline and seen a video or picture that seemed to move the contents of it's frame with the movement of your device? That content was 360 degrees of fun. That might sound facetious but there are practical applications for displaying 360 environments for users to interact with… the problem is users are not indulging in the fun.

Just this last year it was found in a cross market, major brand marketing research study that only 4.5% of 360 videos were clicked through by customers. Now that number is specifically in advertising and traditional video’s click through rates barely reach 1% rates, but online audiences have had more than a decade to form a habit in skipping video ads. The real problem is in delivery, production costs, and freshness. When online video advertising first hit click through rates were near 20%. Online video was fresh and consumers hadn’t been conditioned to glaze over as soon as an ad started to roll. 360 video is in its infancy and less than 5% of it's audience cares.

Plus the cost of 360 video is enormous. For starters, professional 360 camera rigs will run users several thousand dollars. Compared to the starting price point of several hundred dollars for traditional video gear, a professional looking 360 advertisement better see a marked improvement on return.

But gear costs aren’t the truly painful part. Time of setup and post-production of 360 video is the bane of many video producers and editors. Most 360 productions require a process known as “stitching” wherein an editor takes multiple camera files that make up a 360 shot, pieces them together like puzzle to form the final product then rendering the stitched together video file. As easy as that sounds, only the most intelligent of 360 cameras can render out overlapping portions of video on their own and make the final product something non-warped, let alone attractive to look. Of course producers also have to take into account production equipment such as lights, tripods, reflective surfaces, and personnel in their shot. Accounting for all that eliminates many desires locations before a shoot even occurs.

So on a professional level 360 video is a expensive niche, i.e a gimmick. But on the consumer, “isn’t that nifty” level 360 video is ready for it's moment in the sun. You have probably seen advertisements for cheap 360 cameras such as the GoPro Fusion, Garmin VIRB, Ricoh Theta, or 360Fly. These cameras will produce okay 360 video and some allow you broadcast live online. They do come with some serious limitations, and some require post-stitching to produce a 360 file. But if you’re the kind of person who rocked a bluetooth headset or loves to show off your laser disc collection; by all means, pick up a 360 camera and clutter your facebook feed with birthday parties, kids choir concerts, bad seats at sporting events, or amateur skateboarding tricks.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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