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Newsfeed - June 23, 2017
YouTube is introducing a solution to the problem caused by 360 Video - those all around views that look unnatural when viewed on a normal screen. It’s called VR 180 and it’s designed to bridge the gap between VR viewers and regular users, serving them both. YouTube plans to make it available to video creators to enable them to create immersive content.
Unlike 360 video which looks like you’re at the center of a rather small sphere and distorts the most central part of the image, VR 180 focuses on just the frontal field of vision. Aside from avoiding distortion, this also allows an improvement in the resolution - possibly even at the 4K level.
But the more important improvement is that while 360 created an all-around view, it was monoscopic. It relied on one camera and the image that it created was two-dimensional. In contrast, the new VR 180 standard is to be stereoscopic. It provides real 3D with genuine depth of field. This won’t of course make any difference if you’re viewing it on a 2D screen. But if you’re viewing it through a VD headset with separate screens for each eye then you get the full 3D image and the real sense of being there.
The downside is that you can’t turn around and see what’s behind you the way you could with 360. But this more than offset by the realism of 3D and the higher resolution. Furthermore, in practice - with most content - the interesting action is likely to be in one place, so the ability to “turn round” and see what’s going on behind you is of limited practicality. This is especially the case with videos, as opposed to interactive games, where you might want to turn and go in any direction.
In terms of the viewing experience, this is a major improvement.
But developing a new standard is one thing; getting content creators to take it up is another. To encourage uptake by content-creators, YouTube is working with hardware partners Lenovo, LG and Yi to create VR 180 cameras at affordable prices. According to Erin Teague, the Product Manager of YouTube VR, the VR 180 cameras will be pitched at a price point to attract the type of customer would ordinarily by a point and shoot camera.
“We took a step back to think about how to democratize VR video creation,” she explained, adding that the new standard would “unlock a whole new generation of VR content creators.
However, not to lose on higher resolution content, the Daydream team at YouTube parent Google, will be creating a certification program for camera makers to help them get their cameras working with the VR 180 format. They are also working with Adobe to adapt premiere to allow editing of VR 180 videos.
The idea is to adapt existing video techniques to VR 180 instead of requiring film-makers to relearn their core skills. On advantage that VR 180 has over 360 is that it avoids the problem of where the crew should stand. As Teague points out, traditional film-making, has the crew out of the camera’s line of sight. With 360’s all-around approach, that isn’t possible, meaning that “creator’s have to significantly change their production techniques.” With VR 180, that problem doesn’t exist.
Another area where VR180 holds an advantage over all-around is at the editing phase. 360 requires that the content of several cameras be stitched together. With the new system, conventional editing techniques can be used.
According to YouTube, content makers will also be able to broadcast and live-stream their VR 180 movies and videos, retaining both quality and the 3D characteristic that makes it so attractive in the first place.
By creating a better user experience and making the task of content preparation simpler that it is an present, YouTube could well be onto a winner here.