360° Video - an all-round experience

On Tuesday 3 September, Antonio Victor Garcia-Serrano presented his work on 360° video as he took to the Michelangelo stage inside the O2 Arena.

What makes 360° video special for Antonio is its interactive nature, meaning the audience is no longer passive but active, and can decide which point of view. He noted that while we’re quickly getting used to 360° photos thanks to new panoramic photo features on smartphones, 360° videos are still very new, for audience and industry alike.  360° already works brilliantly in purpose-built full dome cinemas like the icci 360° cinema affiliated with the University of Plymouth. The only downside being that instead of moving your mouse or tablet you have to move your whole head and/or body.

Antonio explained the two techniques to create 360° video: a single-shot spherical camera and the multishot method. The single-shot camera points directly upwards at the bottom of a spherical mirror which reflects and records everything around it. These video clips can then also be ‘unwrapped’ to the standard rectangular letterbox view which can playfully show people walking off the left of the screen only immediately to jump in from the right again (for more examples of Antonio’s work see www.zakato.com). A similar lens for the iPhone is available for those who’d like to have a go for themselves. The multishot method on the other hand requires several high res video images captured using a fisheye lens, then laid out in mosaic form and ‘stitched’ together into one 360° video.

During the presentation we saw about 20 different types of camera currently used to capture 360° material and heard Antonio explain how he’s working hard to create a 360° video camera capable of recording high quality content. 360° video has already been used for cultural, artistic, touristic, family and promotional content but still Antonio admits it’s not suited to everything and isn’t trying to replace traditional video but to complement it. He prefers to call it 360° cinema because of the importance of having a well-thought out script and clear plan of action before filming since storytelling in full circle is a much more complicated than your average point-and-shoot video.

Above all, Antonio explained what he, and the technology in general, need is content creators.  As a 360° technical enthusiast, he’s at campus party looking for budding directors and storytellers of all kinds to have a go with these exciting new techniques.

(Main image © zakato.com)