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Tech Talk

360 video

4/4/2018

Yet another enticing gimmick

With a high probability of certainty, I can say that you have fallen for gimmick technology. Maybe you bought a mini-disc player or a digital picture frame. You may have even considered a couch mixed with a refrigerator or a wireless text scanning pen. All that junk seems like obvious gimmicks, but at some point, a whole lot of people thought they were must-haves or “the wave of the future.” Well, sadly, gimmick tech is not in our rear-view mirror. Example A: 360 cameras.

Not sure what a 360 camera is? Have you opened up your Facebook timeline and seen a video or picture that seemed to move the contents of its frame with the movement of your device? That content was 360 degrees of fun. That might sound facetious, but there are practical applications for displaying 360 environments for users to interact with. The problem is that users are not indulging in the fun.

Just this last year, a major brand marketing research study reported that only 4.5 percent of 360 videos were clicked through by customers. Advertising and traditional video click-through rates barely reach 1 percent, but online audiences have had more than a decade to form habits in skipping video ads. When online video advertising first hit, click-through rates were near 20 percent. Online video was fresh, and consumers hadn’t been conditioned to glaze over them as soon as they started to roll. 360 video is in its infancy, and less than 5 percent of its audience cares.

The cost of 360 video is also enormous. For starters, professional 360 camera rigs can cost several thousand dollars. Compared to the starting price point of several hundred dollars for traditional video gear, a professional-looking 360 advertisement better see a marked improvement on return.

Unfortunately, gear costs aren’t the truly painful part. Time of setup and post-production of 360 video are the bane of many video producers and editors. Most 360 productions require a process known as “stitching” wherein an editor takes multiple camera files that make up a 360 shot, pieces them together like a puzzle to form the final product and then renders the stitched-together video file. As easy as that sounds, only the most intelligent of 360 cameras can render out overlapping portions of video on their own and make the final product something non-warped, let alone attractive to look at. Of course, producers also have to take into account production equipment such as lights, tripods, reflective surfaces and personnel in their shot. Accounting for all that eliminates many desired locations before a shoot even occurs.

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So on a professional level, 360 video is an expensive niche, i.e. a gimmick. But on the consumer “isn’t that nifty” level, 360 video is ready for its moment in the sun. You have probably seen advertisements for cheap 360 cameras such as the GoPro Fusion, Garmin VIRB, Ricoh Theta or 360Fly. These cameras will produce OK 360 video, and some allow you to broadcast live online. They do come with some serious limitations, and some require post-stitching to produce a 360 file. But if you’re the kind of person who rocked a Bluetooth headset or loves to show off your laser disc collection, by all means pick up a 360 camera and clutter your Facebook feed with birthday parties, kids’ choir concerts, bad seats at sporting events or amateur skateboarding tricks. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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