The Rise of 360-Degree Videos: Immersive Experiences and Content Strategies


360-degree videos come bearing more visual information than standard videos and are the perfect catalyst for audience retention in an increasingly distracted world. Brands have started using these videos to deliver immersive experiences to smartphone users as well as those with VR headsets.

In this article, we take a closer look at the rise of 360-degree video and uncover its impact on video marketing. Among other things, you will discover how the technology works, what use cases it has, and how you can use it for your business or personal brand.


360 Degree Video: A Brief Overview

360-degree video refers to a type of video made with advanced simultaneous capture technology. These videos can be explored in 360 degrees, so the viewer can turn the screen or the viewing device in any direction to explore the view from that angle.

For a 360-degree video shot in the middle of a forest, the viewer can explore trees in all directions. He can even view the trees behind him and the sky above. 360 degrees of vision covers every inch of the viewer's perspective, making these videos perfect for VR.

And that leads to a misconception that 360-degree videos and VR are the same. While 360-degree videos are the assets used in VR experiences, they are not the same as VR. VR refers to virtual reality, which is an experience that often relies on 360-degree videos.

Before exploring the differences between 360-degree assets and the viewing experience called VR, let’s go over the key advantages and drawbacks of 360-degree videos.


The Advantages Of 360-Degree Degree Video

360-degree assets are often used in conjunction with VR headsets to deliver virtual experiences. But these videos can have advantages other than their VR use case. In fact, their most important benefit is that they are accessible to most people who don’t own VR headsets.

  • You can watch 360-degree videos on your smartphone - Most new smartphones have 360-degree viewing capabilities.

  • They can lead to a 100%+ engagement rate - Because the same video can be viewed over and over from different angles, more viewers are likely to replay content.

  • They expand traditional video's communication potential - 360-degree videos redefine what it means to capture video content. They capture content beyond the standard frame.

  • They are more immersive than traditional videos - 360-degree videos are quite immersive and provide a sense of presence that is quite valuable in the remote era.


The Disadvantages Of 360-Degree Video

These videos aren’t as easy to film - Special equipment and rigs are required to film 360-degree videos.

  • Creators can rely too much on technology and overlook the substance - Just because 360-degree viewing is a novel experience. Viewers are more likely to watch relatively mundane content in 360. And this can make creators lazy.

  • They might lead to excessive video consumption and blue light exposure - The immersive nature of these videos can hook viewers into perpetual consumption, which is not good for their eyes.


360-Degree Videos And Cameras

While the term "traditional video" might make alternatives like 360-degree and panoramic video seem relatively recent, wide-horizon cameras have been around since the late 1800s. The first 360-degree camera was mass-produced as far back as 1898.

So, why is it that the rise of 360-degree video took years to come about? Because of convenience and immersion. Previously, capturing 360-degree video wasn’t economically feasible or convenient. Moreover, consuming such videos required hardware that many people did not own.

Today, smartphones allow pretty much anyone to experience 360-degree videos. Filming such videos has become practical for businesses as well as for individual content creators. They simply need to hire one of the companies that rent out 360-degree video-capturing rigs.


Uses Of 360-Degree Video Today

The ability to film 360-degree videos without owning a 360-degree camera is a relatively recent development that many businesses have embraced.

360-degree videos have been used creatively by brands in the following ways:

  • Teasing experiences - Vacations are easier to sell when a business's prospects can see a location in 360 degrees instead of a traditional frame.

  • Displaying products - Art galleries and other businesses that showcase products on walls and shelves have used 360-degree videos to showcase their products.

  • Selling experiences - 360-degree videos have been used as immersive digital experiences via VR parks and remote virtual visionscapes.

  • Developing goodwill - Many businesses have started offering free 360-degree experiences to their communities.

There are multiple 360-degree videos of the space as well as of ocean depths. Their immersive nature is perfect for showcasing unexplored territories and for educating people about the world. Immersive videos can break down prejudices and unite humanity.

They might not replace real experiences, but are a helpful alternative for those who have no way to access a specific real experience. An American who might never visit the Middle East might have various misconceptions about the region and its people and culture.

However, by exploring different 360-degree videos of areas within the Middle East, many of those biases can disappear. Without said videos, he might have held fictitious beliefs against a foreign culture. And by having a virtual experience, he can come closer to reality.

Aside from making remote realities more accessible, 360-degree videos can also make fictitious worlds more believable. The gamification of 360-degree video has made it possible for consumers to immerse themselves in narratives that aren't entirely real.

VR games rely on 360-degree graphics, and some creators are even producing 360-degree movies. Of course, linear narrative structures cannot unfold completely in a 360-degree format. As a result, 360 movies are much shorter and have a limited plot.

360-degree videos are better suited to gameplay compared to idle viewership. And that's where they merge with VR.


360-Degree Videos For VR: Limitless Possibilities?

To write fiction that can unfold in 360-degree video, you have to write a 360-degree plot. These plots are easier to program than to write.

And as 360-degree videos become more gamified, input becomes more important. Sophisticated hardware for input is the step that separates VR from standard 360-degree content.

If you're making 360-degree videos to be consumed via Meta Quest, you can do a lot more than if you were making them for standard smartphones.

Of course, more 360-degree content is geared toward VR. But that doesn't mean 360 content is useless for smartphone viewers. Most people do not own a VR headset. And if you want to create immersive videos for them, you have to opt for non-gamified 360-degree videos.

The table below shows the difference between the possibilities of traditional 360 and VR.

Traditional 360-degree video VR with 360-degree visuals
Viewing direction controlled by the viewer Viewing direction as well as plot progression controlled by the viewer
Finite visual data Virtually infinite visual data
Ideal for browsing locations Ideal for interacting with virtual locations


How Do You Use 360-Degree Videos For Your Brand?

While VR experiences have their place in a brand's marketing toolkit, 360-degree videos hold their own place. And nothing illustrates the advantage that 360-degree videos have over VR than the following example.

Thomas Cook, a travel agency, created virtual travel experiences for potential buyers. It used 360-degree video but was kept exclusive to VR headsets in their outlets. Prospective buyers would need to visit a Thomas Cook location to get the virtual experience as a part of a sales pitch.

In contrast, 360 Vacation VR, a YouTube channel, uploads dozens of 360-degree videos from locations all over the world. There are no hardware limitations because most viewers can use their smartphones to access these videos. As a result, the YouTube channel has a broader audience than the VR headset experience.

So, if you want to use 360-degree video for your brand, you must choose the most accessible platform: YouTube. Once you know that your content is going to be hosted on YouTube, you can gear its script and film toward its algorithm.

Step 1 - Come Up With An Idea

Whether you choose to publish your content on YouTube or Facebook, any 360-degree video distribution platform is just that, at the end of the day: a video publishing platform. Both Facebook and YouTube allow users to explore 360-degree videos, but your content idea has to be interesting for these platforms to push your content.

On YouTube, 360-degree viewers like to explore remote territories and exotic locations. If that aligns with your brand, then you can create that type of content. On Facebook, people like to explore roller coaster rides and deep dive into fantasy realms.

While fantasy realms and remote regions are popular niches, they aren’t the only types of 360-degree videos you can make. So be creative and be engaging. To arrive at the right content type, you must consider your personal brand (or business niche).

Remember that 360-degree video is simply video where all angles can be explored by your audience. You can film lectures in 360-degree if you're an educator. Your classes might not be as engaging as a rollercoaster ride, but they'll definitely be more engaging than traditional lecture videos.

It is also worth noting that even though your 360-degree videos are smartphone-compatible, they can also be consumed via VR headsets. So whether you're showing off your home or speaking from the stage at a conference hall, some of your viewers can feel like they're actually in the space with you.

And as more and more people buy VR headsets, this portion keeps growing. So when you come up with 360-degree video ideas, focus on immersion and be open to both smartphone viewers and VR headset users.

Step 2 - Write A Script (If Required)

In traditional video, the script is more important than the location, but in 360-degree video, location seems more crucial. Many 360-degree videos are not even scripted. They simply show off a location. As long as that engages people, that's good enough.

If your content requires a script, though, then this is the step where you pen it. Again, the 360 format informs how detailed the script needs to be. It can be as tightly scripted as a politician's speech or as loosely written as a reality TV outline.

The type of content you make and the primary value your audience gets to define the script specifications. Small or large, detailed or loose, once you've written your script, you need to move to the next stage.

Step 3 - Scout The Location

Generally, the less important your video's script, the more important its location. If the point of your video is to give your viewers the experience of being in a particular setting, then the content idea dictates the location.

But you can use specialized tools like Unreal Engine to create entire worlds for 360-degree videos and VR. Your videos can be set in specific indoor or outdoor settings with the rig-filming method or in a computer-generated world via VR asset development. The distinction between captured videos and rendered videos affects the next step quite significantly.

However, before getting to the film/capture stage, you need to understand one requirement that both computer-generated 360-degree videos and 360-captured videos have in common: novelty. If you want to captivate your audience, the location of your video must be new. At a minimum, it should not be saturated.

The location has such a great impact on a video's engagement value that you can turn the most boring lecture into an interesting piece of content by setting it in an exotic location. And instead of giving lectures about surgery, you can take students into an operation theater with the help of 360-degree videos.

Immersive learning and immersive entertainment are both possible with 360-degree videos. But they are not guaranteed. After all, not all 360-degree views are equally stimulating. That's why most creators edit their videos for hyper-engagement. However, editing the video comes after shooting.

Step 4 - Set Up A 360-Degree Filming Rig And Film

Unless you plan to generate your 360-degree video entirely on your computer, you need to film your content via a 360-degree rig. You don't necessarily need to own one, though. The rig can be rented for one-off or consistent use.

5G technology and the general speed-creep of internet connectivity have made it possible to remotely film 360-degree videos by renting a rig and hiring a cameraman in a remote location.

Faster data transfer rates can also increase 360-degree video consumption, but that's beside the point. For filming purposes, internet speed equals long-distance content capture.

Whether you hire someone to film a public square in Central Europe or personally film your neighborhood market with a 360 rig, you need to be mindful of people's privacy.

In a traditional video, you need to get the consent of a handful of people who appear in a limited frame. But in a 360-degree video, you have to be far more vigilant. And seeking consent from hundreds of people passing by a spot isn't practical. Fortunately, the editing stage offers an alternative that protects their privacy in such cases.

Step 5 - Edit The Video

The editing stage is crucial for privacy and engagement purposes. Let's start with engagement before addressing privacy.

A key advantage of a 360-degree content environment is that you can pepper it with interesting occurrences in all directions. If you shoot your video in a location where only one aspect is interesting, you can stitch another element from another place in the other direction.

You can also edit different locations chronologically to make the overall video more interesting. Imagine a video that takes you to the seven wonders of the world, allowing you to explore each view in 360 degrees. Well, you don't need to imagine that. It is already a reality. Multiple YouTube channels allow you to visit the 7 wonders of the world virtually.

Because the above video is computed-generated, there are no privacy concerns. If you choose to shoot in a public place, make sure to get prior permission from those who might appear in your video.

Alternatively, you can blur out faces to protect their privacy. It is worth remembering that editing isn't just a tool for maximizing engagement. It is an important privacy protection tool that can protect you from litigation.

In the future, you might have access to AI-powered editing programs for 360-degree videos. They would ideally be able to detect and blur faces, so most of your editing acumen goes towards maximizing engagement.

Other elements that you can add in the editing phase include text and graphics. Many 360-degree videos include location titles and anecdotes as text additions. These are usually the final additions, after which only the final stage remains: uploading.

Step 6 - Publish The Video

The final stage of creating 360-degree content is publishing. For those distributing 360-degree videos on YouTube or Facebook, this step is as simple as uploading a video file. There are no industry guidelines around 360 content specifically, but you have to be respectful of the community guidelines of whichever platform you choose for your distribution.

It is also a great practice to inform your viewers about the 360-degree nature of your video. Because most videos on YouTube and Facebook are traditional ones, people might mistakenly assume that your 360 video has a limited frame.

Including the words "360-degree video" in your content title works as a signpost for the type of video as well as an SEO boost for people looking for 360 content.


Final Thoughts: Beyond 360-degree

What if you don't have a 360 filming rig and want to convert your standard content to the 360 format? Fortunately, there are dozens of 360-degree video converters that can help you turn normal videos into 360-degree ones.

360-degree repurposing might not be applicable to all your content, but the long-form to short-form conversion is most likely to work for almost any content you shoot. So make sure to check out ContentFries, the content multiplying platform.