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How to make a 360 interactive video

360 interactive video image

The Near-Life platform doesn’t just enable you to create interactive videos from normal videos files and graphics, it also lets you use 360-degree, 180-degree and VR footage. In this article, team member Ellie gives an overview of the different types of media and then a walk-through of making her own first 360 interactive video

What’s the difference between 360 video and VR?

You can create 360-degree videos, also known as immersive or spherical videos, using a special type of camera. The omnidirectional camera, or multiple cameras, record a view in every direction at the same time. This will leave you with a 360-degree video. You can then scroll through it to see the shot from any direction, using a compatible device or app to view it on.

Virtual reality, however, is different to 360-degree content. It takes the user into a digital or ‘virtual’ world, so the photography or virtual space is created digitally. The user can normally ‘walk around’ or explore the virtual world. With 360 video they are limited to the filmmaker’s movements or standpoint. 360-degree video is real film taken of the real world, so it is not the same as VR. 

An amazing way to take the immersion of 360-degree content even deeper is through interactive video. Not only are you engaging the user visually, but when they also are making choices or answering questions, you are engaging their brain too.

Here is an example of a 360-degree interactive video



What equipment is needed to make a 360 interactive video?

The equipment you’ll need to make your video will vary slightly depending on the type of 360 video you’re making. However, one key piece of equipment is a camera that can film in 360 degrees. I used an Insta 360 X2 which costs around £400 (or $500).

I decided to make a 360-degree video that’s essentially a tour of a building in Exeter – the Exeter Science Park. The user can select which places they want to view from a selection of buttons. This will take them to that place when they click the corresponding button. Once there, they can scroll around the screen to see a 360-degree view of the area. 

Because of this, the only equipment I needed was the camera and a tripod. I also installed the app Insta360 for the camera to connect to. However, you may choose to use a selfie stick if your plan is to be in the video too. Some cameras (like the Insta 360 range) can even remove the selfie stick from the footage. You may also wish to use a VR headset if you want to take your immersion to an even higher level.

Besides that, all you’ll need is any necessary software to edit your media before going into Near-Life to put your scenario together. We used Insta360 to connect to our 360-degree camera, however we pretty much used the footage as is – only trimming the beginning and end of each clip where necessary. 

What are the benefits of 360 interactive video?

360-degree interactive videos are pretty much the most impactful, engaging and effective way to teach or test viewers about how to handle real-life situations. 

The interactive aspect shows the direct consequences or benefits of their actions depending on the choices they’ve made. Paired with the deep immersion of 360 or VR, this makes the experience feel not only more engaging but more real too. When you really engage with a situation and it feels more real, you’re infinitely more likely to remember the information you’ve learned. 

Because of this, training for things like becoming a fireman or learning CPR are the kind of things that interactive 360-degree content can really support. It removes all risk from the situation. However, they keep the experience as realistic as it could feel without putting the viewer through any real trauma. 

Another valuable use is showing off places – like a venue, building, house, location and so on. This means people can experience them without actually being there. This has enormous potential for real-estate, holidays and so on. By using your footage within Near-Life, you can create a fully self-contained interactive experience. 

How can you make 360 content?

First, you’ll want to have a storyboard (plan) for your video. You need to have thought about the whole thing in as much depth as you can. Leave as little to chance as possible. Once you’ve decided the locations, angles, order of clips etc, you should get to grips with your camera and start recording the necessary media.

You or the person filming will likely not want to be in sight in the footage. In which case, it’s important you take into account the amount of time it will take you to remove yourself from the shot. If you record a 30-second video and it takes 10 seconds to leave the shot and 10 to return to the camera, you’ll only be left with 10 seconds of usable footage. You should also have the camera pointing in the direction you want the user to be facing when they first start viewing that clip. From there they can scroll around to get other views. 

After you’ve recorded your footage, you’ll need to trim it to your desired length. This can sometimes be done just using your phone and an app paired with the camera. Though you may wish to do it on a bigger screen. You should clip each different scene of your video. That way you can go into Near-Life and place each one in the right place.

One thing I learnt – don’t make your clips too short!

After making my 360-degree video, I realised that the user should have more time in each area. This would give them enough time to explore the 360-degree scope before having to choose the next place to go. However, because all of my media was around 15 seconds long, this wasn’t possible. Because of this, I recommend you start with recordings that are around a minute long. This will make sure your user will have enough time to look around. If this ends up being too long, you can always go back and trim the media to be shorter.

How do you choose the right settings on Near-Life?

Once your media is sorted, you can go onto Near-Life. Create and name your project and a new scenario. Decide the countdown you wish to have (how long each scene of your video will be on screen for) as well as whether you wish to give feedback at the end relating to the users’ choices. You can choose to have scoring and/or inventory if there will be right and wrong answers in your video. You can also decide the colour you want the buttons and the colour they’ll show when the user hovers over them. I chose for my buttons to be in a middle and centre alignment. This was to make sure they would show in the middle of the screen wherever the user is facing. You can alter most of the settings you decide here later while you’re making the video.

On the first node on your screen, you may wish to have a first title page. You should make sure this first title page is also set to a 360 format, to make sure your video can work fully with a VR headset.

How can you use Near-Life to make the 360 interactive video?

Upload your media and select the right clip for your first scene. For ‘video format’ in properties, you should select ‘360 mono’, assuming you recorded the footage using just one camera. For 360-degree and VR content you’ll want to use buttons provided by the Near-Life platform. So, click the ‘add button group’ option. This will put a button in the centre of the screen, which you can label, name and set to jump to a new node. You should then add another button.

However, it’s important not to add a whole new button group – you can just duplicate the first one. If you create a new button group for each button, they will appear on top of each other no matter how far apart you move them in your node. This is because NL automatically places the buttons in the optimal location for VR headset users, to facilitate button selection using gaze input.

So, add your other buttons and set them to jump to different nodes. Work through your map carefully, referring back to your plan to keep it in check. Be sure to preview it while you’re making it too. Creating the rest of your map should be pretty straightforward – it was way less complicated than I expected.

In summary – making my first 360-degree video

Before making this video, I had never even used a 360-degree camera and it all felt a little daunting. But it was much more straightforward than I imagined. 

Once I had the right footage, making the 360 interactive video on Near-Life was essentially the same core process I have used to create all my other videos, with the slight exception of different settings and the buttons working a bit differently.

I’m really looking forward to making more 360 interactive videos and encourage you to have a go too.

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