360 degree video is an emerging format that’s going to take a number of years to develop into a high quality medium that everyone has access to. We’re at the point now where digital photography was in 1998 as the first 2 megapixel cameras entered the market. The images were terrible and pushed the limits of storage and display technology. 360 videos are exactly the same. A 2K video today is going to look terrible in 5 years when 16K video is the norm for 360 imaging. Data rates of around 0.5 Gbps can be expected and if you want to stream it you’ll need a huge connection. 100 Mbps for sure. Storage technology will need to advance too but there’s one thing we’re sure of…technology won’t be a problem, and that’s why we’re testing today. We’ve had a 360 camera for over a year and have produced hundreds of photographs for Google Maps where view rates have been surprisingly high. We’ve worked with high-end 360 cameras and DSLR’s too and now we’re starting to test video.

Bonn 360 Critical Mass

Bonn 360 with Critical Mass

Remember YouTube in 2007? In 2007 it was possible to reach a huge new audience at relatively low-cost. Today the cost of reaching 10000 people on YouTube are ten times what it cost in 2007 (based on our own stats – @Chippy has been producing for YouTube since then!)  360 imaging and video is the same. We’re reaching a huge number of people on Google Maps because it’s a fresh new platform. If you don’t upload 360 images, somebody else will and if it’s a bad 360 image of your business location you might regret not getting your own images up there earlier. The same is true for 360 videos. YouTube and Facebook are great platforms but we also see additional value. Hundreds of usable images can be extracted and processed from 360-degree videos. We expect Google to introduce more features for 360-degree videos too, perhaps with their Google Maps, Street View and My Business products first. Or maybe with their Daydream VR platform. Who knows!

Here’s an example of a dynamic and fast-paced video we produced from a Critical Mass cycling event in Bonn. 550 images taken every 8 seconds have been combined into a 4K time-lapse video and then post-processed with image correction, graphics and music. The resulting video is 50 Mbps of data and you’ll need both a fast internet connection and  powerful computer or smartphone to watch it. We’ve uploaded it to YouTube where you can subscribe to see more of our experiments in and around Bonn.

We’ve also experimented with live streaming but even with a low-quality 1080p stream our LTE connection wasn’t able to keep up. For entry-level consumer quality we’re looking at 4K and 10 Mbps streaming rate.