Last month, YouTube experimented with Choose Your View, which allows the user to have multiple camera angles of the same video. Now the popular video website is trying out another feature to keep viewers interested: 360-degree videos.
Just like any YouTube experiment, there are a few videos available now that showcase the idea, such as a Formula 1 car racing down a track and the viewer sitting in a flying red couch. Obviously, the quality isn't as good as you would expect even at higher resolutions because it is limited to the camera's shooting capabilities. That's not to mention that these videos will take up four to five times the bandwidth of a regular YouTube video. Additionally, the feature isn't widely available yet. You can only use the 360-degree feature on the Google Chrome browser or the YouTube for Android app, but it's bound to be widely available in the future.
As cool as the feature looks, the process to actually shoot and upload the videos does require a bit of work. First, you actually need to buy a camera that shoots in panoramic, 360-degree views, and YouTube supports four of those cameras: the Kodak SP360, the Ricoh Theta, the IC Real Tech Allie, and the Giroptic 360cam. YouTube said that the video needs to be at 24, 25, or 30 frames per second with support for higher frame rates coming in the future.
Next comes the upload process. Uploaders need to add metadata to the video file for 360-degree video playback, and they can do it in one of two ways. The easy route involves downloading the 360 Video Metadata app and then creating a new file that enables the 360-degree controls for the viewer. The harder way involves some knowledge of Python script to make the new file before uploading it to YouTube.
The company is really pushing for this new feature to work, even going as far as hosting an event starting today through April at its YouTube Space in Los Angeles, where people can try out the cameras and learn how to shoot and upload 360-degree videos.
Considering the rise in VR products in the last few years, this seems to be the next logical step for YouTube. The popular site attracts millions of viewers every day, and with VR on the rise, the company is looking to expand its user base to those who want to purchase VR headsets when they become available to the public.
Watching a regular YouTube video through Oculus' Crescent Bay or Razer's OSVR isn't enough, but by adding a 360-degree view of the same video, the experience is bound to please future VR customers as well as giving regular YouTube viewers a new tool to play with while watching videos.