For the past two months I've been experimenting with the Ricoh THETA M15 camera. It's a camera that captures both video and photographs in a 360° panoramic view. I love the possibilities this camera offers but I think there's a lot of improvements that needs to be done with the software and the technology surrounding the camera! Let's start with what's possible with the camera: 360 degree photography.
The 360 degree photographs you take with the THETA camera can be altered in various apps but one in particular that works for me is Roll World. As you can see in the video posted above -- I was able to animate or "warp" a photo from one perspective to another due to the 360° panoramic view captured by the camera. I've been experimenting with this the past couple months and creating short Instagram videos that can be seen at this playlist. From what I've seen on the internet I haven't seen many people editing their THETA videos, most people are just posting clips to Instagram, which is cool too but I see a bigger potential for the photos and videos captured by this camera.
Above is a 360° video that can be viewed on YouTube on a limited amount of phones and browsers such as your iPhone, and the Google Chrome browser. This is a problem! The photographs and videos can also be seen on the Ricoh THETA website if you choose to upload your files there but it's difficult to share the videos on social media websites like Facebook, and Twitter. Yes, the photos and animated videos you create can be uploaded to YouTube, and Instagram but that leaves no power for the viewer to scan the panoramic view you capture when uploading the 360° metadata video to YouTube unless they are viewing on YouTube on select phones, and browsers. Another big problem is the 360 degree panoramic videos can only be seen ON the YouTube app! Meaning, if you decide to upload and share your video to YouTube, and share the link on Facebook; viewers will not be able to scan the panoramic view you captured in the YouTube app that opens through Facebook. Users must only view the videos directly on the YouTube app that allows you to have a look around the scene. I don't know how well this works on the other phones that allow the video to playback because I've only tried watching a shared video over social media on an iPhone, and an LG smartphone and again the users cannot scan the panoramic video unless it's directly on the YouTube app -- which is terrible for sharing! I guess other apps. and social media platforms need to catch up with what this technology has to offer but until then it's going to be difficult to get users to go directly to your channel and watch your 360 degree videos unless they are hardcore YouTube fans or smart with searching, and finding your channel (I know it can be difficult for some people to use smartphones still).
Lastly, I think editing softwares need to catch up with the technology so those who utilize a 360° camera can have the ability to direct a scene and what exactly the viewers are seeing. This is somewhat possible using the Roll World app I mentioned earlier but you don't have absolute control to pan around the scene multiple times whenever you choose. Using the Roll World app can take time! For instance, I've spent up to two hours at times exporting videos from Roll World just to create the possibility for me to import and edit the videos in Final Cut Pro X. When exporting your videos from Roll World, no audio is saved to the video clips so later you will have to match the audio from the original video files. I think there's so many possibilities of directing the viewer from the videos you've captured but unfortunately it's not made easy as of yet, and there's only 2 options creative filmmakers have to do so. One, you could prepare the scene ahead of time and face the camera in the direction you want to lead the viewers from the start, and manually whip the camera in the directions you want to lead your viewer. Two, open the raw video in the Ricoh THETA app on your computer and scan around the scene in full screen mode while screen recording with Quicktime or whichever app you prefer to do so. The latter option is definitely possible but you will most likely capture the mouse cursor in your screen recording.
Thanks for taking the time to read this rant of mine, it's a bit difficult explaining the troubles of the current technology surrounding 360 degree video. I plan on creating a review of the THETA camera in a few weeks, so if you're interested stay tuned for that!
OCTOBER UPDATE: As of late September Facebook has began supporting 360-degree video in the news feed for Android users. I've now uploaded my "360° Vacation In Texas" video to Facebook.com/RayRomanMedia and plan on uploading more videos as the support for other devices expands.