Unity Can Make Your 360-Degree Video Pop With Animations, Volumetric Lighting, Interactivity

During the Vision AR/VR Summer 2017 keynote presentation, Unity revealed a piece of technology that could be a real breakthrough for 360-degree video. The company developed a low-cost way to add real-time animations, 3D effects, and interactive elements to standard 360-degree video recordings.

Natalie Grant, Senior Product Marketing Manager VR/AR/Film for Unity Technologies, took the stage during hour two of the opening keynote at this year’s Vision Summit to demonstrate some of the tools available in Unity 2017 to enhance 360 video content. 

Unity 2017 leverages techniques derived from the film industry to embed 3D objects into the recorded 360-degree video. When you open a 360-degree video with the Unity 2017 video editor, the software creates a duplicate layer that it can use to key out the foreground so you can insert objects between the foreground and the background.

With the foreground and background separated, objects that you place in between the two layers appear within the scene. The technique also enables occlusion of 3D objects by elements of the foreground, which reinforces the illusion.

Unity’s 360-degree video editor also enables the use of real-time volumetric lighting effects within pre-recorded video. With the Unity 2017 editor, you can place a CGI light source outside the video sphere directly behind the sun in the video to cast realistic lens flares that react to your vantage point.

Unity’s video editor also lets you build interactive stories out of 360-degree videos. The software lets you chain multiple 360-degree clips together into a narrative that the viewer can move around within. Unity developed a gaze-based locomotion system, whereby you lock your gaze on a text bubble that represents another vantage point, and it transports you to the new locale.

The video editing software includes two preview panes so the editor can see what you’d see inside an HMD while making changes to the 3D environment. The upper pane features a spherical representation of the video recording, and the lower pane gives a preview of the HMD view.  

Unity didn’t say when the video editor would be available to try, but you should see it soon in an upcoming release of the Unity 2017 beta.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.