360-degree photos are nothing new in and of themselves. For several years, already, there have been photographers and providers that could create such images using costlier technology and thus higher investment costs.
But, with the fast technological development of smart phones and also platforms (above all Facebook), creating them is becoming increasingly simpler and more affordable.
360-degree videos were introduced first, and in June 2016, the capacity for 360-degree capability on Facebook followed. The potential and the technology behind this are impressive: Who would have thought, even just 5 years ago, that we could manufacture such 360-degree images with little cost, to say nothing about a 360-degree live stream?
With the introduction of the option of 360-degree presentation in Facebook postings, there are additional possibilities for online marketing, thanks to this content format — both because it is really fun and because it conveys content more clearly.
There are several smartphone apps by now that can include 360-degree photos. An app that is simple to operate but that is impressive in its quality is Google Street View (available for iOS and Android).
Some smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung now also offer devices to create 360-degree recordings (e.g. the Samsung Gear 360 camera), but traditional camera manufacturers have also recognized the opportunity and are conquering the market with several products, such as Kodak, Nikon or Ricoh. Just after it came on the market, I got a Ricoh Theta S, a special 360-degree camera that is configurable with the help of its own smartphone apps and offers various camera configuration options (ISO, ...). The photos are saved on the smartphone and can then, for example, be downloaded directly to Facebook.
Figure 1: Example of a handy 360-degree camera, the Ricoh Theta.
In principle, you can also create 360-degree images or merge individual images yourself in a program such as Photoshop. However, this necessitates additional costs and requires the appropriate information and materials. For example, you can integrate the additional information, such as the names of the peak on the mountain panorama image or other information about the items/elements depicted, into the image.
360-degree photos and videos can also be taken from above using a drone, or from a higher perspective during a flight. This, in turn, increases the possibilities of this exciting format.
Such "all-round panorama" images are, technologically speaking, nothing more than a JPG image that is automatically converted to a 360-degree photo based on the recording perspective and the corresponding technological parameters on 360-degree capable platforms, such as Facebook. Finally, it is provided with the corresponding pivot and angle functionalities, allowing the all-round view to function properly.
Figure 2: An original 360-degree photo
In Figure 2, you see an original 360-degree photo. This is the town square Kufstein, in Tirol. The photo was created using a Ricoh Theta S, mounted on a tripod. The image was reworked at the end with the tripod edited out.
It’s easier to create a 360-degree photo than you might think; the quality of the images rests on the choice of production devices and/or software.
There are more applications for 360-degree photos than any of us can currently imagine: The market is developing quickly and many new ideas have being tried and implemented. However, there are naturally a few "obvious" uses for 360-degree photos:
1. Tourism: From 360-degree views of a hotel room or other hotel areas (wellness area, exterior, dining room, etc.) or a restaurant, to panorama images of various sightseeing locations (panorama views from the peak, 360-degree photos of the ocean, etc.), photos offer many applications.
Figure 3: The 360-degree panorama of a mountain landscape.
Even for a cruise ship, such 360-degree photos can offer potential guests a taste and can convince them that the ship will cater to their wishes. They are also well suited for indoor shots such as museums or other special locations, for example.
Figure 4: 360-degree recordings can also be used for special locations.
2. Retail & Industry: With a 360-degree photo potential customers can be shown a boutique or a branch location in advance (product range, etc.). Exciting glimpses into production in a factory, a warehouse, or about the size of a production location can also be provided in this way.
The photo of the lower town square in Kufstein was used for a Facebook campaign. The "Kufstein Country" logo was edited into the image using Photoshop as part of an online competition. Facebook users could count/guess how often the logo was hidden in the 360-degree photo and thus win a weekend in Kufstein country. The result was a high interaction rate (reactions, comments, shares as well as clicks) and thus appropriate attention for the altered appearance (new logo, new name).
360-degree videos are a different matter. Along with the constant movement, there should also be a corresponding storyboard so that the viewer doesn’t become bored but can select and change perspectives while watching.
Creating a 360-degree video works with many devices that you can also use to take a 360-degree photo. You can either use a 360-degree camera such as the Ricoh Theta S, a product from another manufacturer, or you can build a mounting set with a GoPro or another piece of hardware.
Before planning a campaign with a 360-degree recording, you should first consider whether a 360-degree video or a 360-degree photo is most appropriate. Several applications overlap: with others, it is simple.
The New York Times has already undertaken 360-degree photo and video reports, offering virtual visits to theaters of war such as Yemen and particularly illustrating the drama of such scenes and their victims. With NYT Daily 360, a new report is documented and assembled every day using 360-degree photos or videos to underscore the topic or scene:
Figure 5: Use of 360-degree videos by the NYT.
But let’s return to more positive content and uses. A single video tour of an entire cruise ship with a dozen or hundreds of interesting perspectives (of the outdoor area with a pool, sun deck, etc. to the interior area with various restaurants, bars, entertainment areas, the various room categories, etc.) would be much too long and complex.
In this case, it would be better to create 360-degree photos of individual areas. 360-degree videos are better suited for the mall or other areas whose splendor cannot be fully shown with photos. The same considerations also go for hotels, restaurants, and destinations.
Video: In the Rhythm of Vienna - 360° Video
In my opinion, the culmination is 360-degree live streaming. Never before have we been able to come so close to "live" and to take part from multiple, self-selected perspectives of one event. There was, for example, a 360-degree live stream of Obama’s farewell event, and everyone who couldn't be there live on-site, could participate in the event.
Important note: Not only, but especially with live streaming, as the organizer or stream operator, it is important to verify whether or not you have the right to stream or to film organizers or persons recognizable in the stream. This must be cleared in advance in every case.
Video: The 360-degree live stream of Barack Obama’s farewell.
360-degree content and its use and consumption are here to stay. VR glasses, appropriate apps, and platforms will find increasing distribution in 2017. Well-made and well-thought-out 360-degree content can help many brands, and their companies distribute their products, services, topics, and competencies better and more sustainably. Nowadays, the technology is fail-proof, but it depends on how it is used.
Published on 02/28/2017 by Karim-Patrick Bannour.
Karim-Patrick Bannour is founder and CEO of the social media agency viermalvier.at. Together with Anne Grabs, he wrote the social marketing best-seller “Follow me! – Erfolgreiches Social Media Marketing” (Galileo Computing). He also frequently speaks and gives workshops for organisations such as ÖHV or The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. In 2016, he founded the Amazon agency MarktPlatz1 and together with his team supports providers and traders on Amazon.