Imagine watching a concert online and being able to not only see your favourite band rock out on stage, but also the excited crowd and the star-filled sky above the venue.
In other words: imagine experiencing a full 360-degree view of that concert, without ever having to leave your house. YouTube wants that for you. The Google-owned video site has just added support for 360-degree video uploads, meaning people will now be able to upload their footage taken with a 360-degree camera, and you'll be able to watch it for free.
All you need is the existing YouTube app for Android, and then you can move your phone or tablet around to see all different angles as the 360-degree video plays. YouTube hasn't yet made the feature automatic, so content creators will need to use specific equipment and a special process to start uploading 360-degree videos, but eventually, everything will be streamlined.
Until that happens, we've explained everything you need to know below.
Here's an example of 360-degree video:
YouTube has highlighted a playlist to demonstrate its new feature (the first video is in 4K!):
Will YouTube ever allow iPhone users to view 360-degree videos?
Google is all about bringing the latest features to Android users first. That said, if you don't have an Android device, you can still watch 360-degree videos by going to YouTube.com on your computer or watching embedded videos in Chrome. In order to move around and see from all different angles while on a computer, simply drag your mouse. The YouTube team said it will soon add support for iPhones, iPads, and other devices too.
How can you shoot and upload 360-degree video?
First of all, you need a 360-degree camera to shoot 360-degree video. Here's a few cameras compatible with YouTube:
Any video shot with the above cameras will unfortunately need to go through a special upload process, but YouTube said it's working to make the process automatic, meaning the site's uploader will immediately detect and handle 360-degree video. Until then, you can use the Github page to find more technical information about the video format, along with a script you need to run on the video file to insert the correct metadata.
Is this the first time YouTube has played with 360-degree video?
In 2013, for instance, YouTube hosted a 360-degree live stream of a Kings of Leon concert in London. For the first time on YouTube, viewers were able to watch a live stream through a 360-degree camera. It allowed them to see the event from all angles. We found it a bit nauseating to navigate at the time, but it was definitely fun to try and even allowed us to capture an on-screen photo of the concert and share it.
Are 360-degree video and VR the same?
A 360-degree YouTube video gives you the ability to pan around and feel as though you're n the middle of the action, especially when viewed on an Android, because it's more fluid to tilt your device to see from side to side rather than scroll with a mouse, though we suspect strapping on an immersive VR headset like Oculus Rift would probably be a bit more captivating.
Samsung has recently made the connection between 360-degree video and VR. It announced that it is working on a new product for Gear VR that looks like a robot vacuum mounted to a tripod. During its second annual developers conference in San Francisco, Samsung announced Project Beyond, a camera that not captures 360-degree views and 3D footage. The product is meant to work with Samsung's Gear VR headset.
Project Beyond, which does not yet have a price or release date, is the latest camera to hop on the 360-degree video trend is unique in that it is capable of capturing footage in 3D as well as a gigabit of data every second. It also features livestream capabilities over bandwidth, stereoscopic cameras, and the ability to wirelessly send images to Gear VR, allowing you to remotely immerse yourself in wherever the camera is positioned.
The eventual goal is that you'd be able set the camera outside, and then, from elsewhere, navigate and see through that camera as if you were in there by simply wearing Samsung's virtual reality headset. Amazing, right?
Does YouTube always experiment with different types of videos?
YouTube launched a beta feature in 2011 that allowed YouTube users to view 1080p video in 3D. While Google recommended using a 3D camera for better results, the feature included a conversion process that worked for all 2D video uploaded in HD regardless of camera. Google eventually published the feature for all users in 2012, though you need inexpensive 3D glasses or 3D-capable hardware to take advantage.
More recently, YouTube quietly unveiled a beta feature that essentially allows a content creator to upload multiple camera angles for a video, thus enabling you to watch that multi-angle video along with the audio track. The feature is automatic, meaning YouTube stitches together the camera angles to create one video. Thus, while watching the published version, you should see options on the right for toggling between all the views.
Want to know more?
If you’re around Los Angeles, you can visit the the YouTube Space to experience a technology showcase from now through April. YouTube's Creator Tech team is hosting the event, where you can try out the 360-degree cameras listed above and learn about new techniques.