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A 360 world view

The invention of moving pictures revolutionised the concept of viewing, back in the 1890s, but with the invention and advancements of cameras, the change in the entertainment industry came in with a quick pace. From manual cameras to digital cameras, from 2D to 3D (still adding more dimensions to viewing and experiencing), our eyes had a lot to look out for in the past few decades. But then came a turning point in the history of filmmaking and production when Google announced that it would collaborate with camera manufacturers to make it easy to upload 360-degree content recorded with their products to YouTube in 2015.

What's so cool about it?

360-degree videos show you all the six sides of a cube, which include the ceiling and the ground other than all the lateral sides. The video is typically recorded using either a special rig of multiple cameras or using one dedicated camera that contains multiple camera lenses embedded into the device. The footage thus formed is stitched together to form a single video. This is done by using specialised video editing software that can analyse common visuals and audio to synchronise and link the different camera feeds together. The only area that cannot be viewed in these videos is the camera support.

Specialised omnidirectional cameras and rigs have been developed for filming 360-degree videos. Some of the rigs include GoPro's Omni and Odyssey and the Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K Dual Pack Pro - they all consist of multiple cameras installed into a single rig. In March 2015, YouTube officially launched the ability for users to view and upload 360-degree videos, with playback on its website and Android mobile apps. 360-degree videos can be viewed through personal computers (PC), laptops, smartphones and dedicated head-mounted players. When viewed on PCs, the mouse can be used to pan around the video by clicking and dragging. On smartphones, internal sensors are used to pan the video based on the orientation of the device, that is by shaking and tilting it.

Appearance in India

"We came to know last year that this form of video was a huge hit in the USA and some other countries, but at that time there was only one 360-degree video in India – Arijit Singh performing live in Mumbai. We thought of bringing the technology to Eastern India as we have a good film industry here (in Kolkata). We got the equipment from Hong Kong and spoke to a few artists for the video. Underground Authority (music band) agreed to work with us as they were ready to experiment with their music video. The video we created was the first band music video in 360-degree in India and probably the only one with stunts," said Pratik Kedia, NotchFX studios.

Pratik explains how it all works. "There is a 360 camera rig, which has slots for six cameras. We used GoPro for our shoot because it has high definition quality, we used six separate cameras to shoot from six different angles. Then we had to synchronise the footage of each camera into 1/10th of a second and sync them to form a single video. We form it in a 2:1 platform and then we place it on a spherical video which converts it into a 360-degree format," he says.

There are some dedicated cameras available now for the purpose of shooting 360-degree videos but that technology has not come to India till now. Pratik adds: "This technology has taken a lot of time to adapt in our country. There are fewer videos produced in India, most of the videos which we see in Facebook have been produced in USA and Japan. For such professional cameras to enter the Indian market, it will take another couple of years since people here became aware of the existence of 360-degree videos only in the later half of 2016 whereas the actual technology was a hit in the USA in 2015."

"People know of 'panorama' which is a still image covering the 360-degree vision but not the ceiling and the ground, whereas this new video format can give you a peek at everything without leaving a single angle unseen."

The Future

"This new form of video, I feel, won't last long, it's more like a passing fad. It is trying to give the audience a new idea with a new vision but one won't like to watch this sort of video for long, they are better viewed in short timelines, like promos. Making a feature film with this technology is not a good idea, as people would not have the patience to watch a two-hours long film in 360 degrees," expresses Rakesh Bagui, NSHM Knowledge Campus Kolkata.

"The general public here (in India) is not quite aware of this technology. Through forced marketing, they might be able to aware people about the existence and the experiment behind the new concept, but the background of the technology has to be made public so that people understand the purpose. The point of interest of this concept is yet not clear. With a new style of presentation, something can gain people's interest for a while, but it does not last long. Watching some of the videos online, many kids tried to copy them and create 360-degree videos on their own, but since they did not know the technicalities many failed and several flaws were found in those videos. Lately, I have not noticed much hype about the concept."

Since the background of 360-degree videos is not known, the public interest isn't high. The difference between a normal video and this format of the video has to be established to inform the general public how it will benefit them. Just that it looks good it not a reason good enough to create a market.

Many 360-degree videos created are labelled as 3D or Virtual reality (VR), which is wrong. If after stitching the videos there is only one 360x180 equirectangular image, then the resulting video is 2D. Most 360 degree videos are monoscopic or 2D. on the other hand 3D is viewed as two distinct 360x180 equirectangular images directed individually to each eye.

When the concept of 3D vision appeared, people were not ready to accept or appreciate it either, as it made them uncomfortable watching something pop out of the screen. But with time the technology had developed and now 3D films are ruling the box-office.

"3D has developed a lot over time, now the 3D movies are very smooth. Nobody cares much about 2D since they have understood the difference between 2D and 3D. It's not that they know the technology behind the two, but they can differentiate the look distinctly with their eyes - 3D is more accurate and smooth, while 2D seems more artificial. Some distinct difference between regular and 360-degree videos must be established so that people want to watch that kind of video all the time. The point of interest in 3D is that everything seems close to the viewer and makes one believe that he/she can feel them," explained Rakesh Bagui.

If you haven't come across any 360-degree video yet, zoom in front of your device and get hitched to it for an awesome experience, while you see every possible angle during an event at one go – as if you are present at the location and spinning about to see it all.
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