Every week I watch Click, a technology programme on the BBC. I think the show does a great job of providing up to date tech news. I also really like the presenters, in particular Spencer Kelly and Kate Russell.
On 11th March 2016 the programme was released with two versions, the standard and a 360° version. This was the first programme to be entirely 360°, so given this landmark and the fact it was Click, I decided to check it out.
I thought this special episode was spectacular. I was very impressed with the choice of locations: the opening shot is of an office with Spencer explaining what it is about happen helps to prepare the viewer for:
“Travel by helicopter to the desolate face of a glacier in the Swiss alps, go 100m underground inside the world’s largest physics experiment CERN with never-before-seen footage of the complex, witness world firsts: the 360 degree magic trick and a preview of computer game SUPERHOT”
I’m sure the majority of people will really enjoy this type of interactivity. Unlike in a normal episode were the editor has already determined what the focus of each shot would be, in a 360° episode the user will be changing the display focus a lot. This is often the case when a change of scene occurs, or maybe when a different person is talking. Add to this novelty of looking at everything, thus I regularly found myself rewinding parts of the video, so I could watch the video time-frame again, but each viewing I focused on a different part of the scene.
As somebody with RSI in my wrists, this level of constant interaction is an issue, due to needing to limit my interaction with keyboard/mouse. My normal method of navigating my system is via the speech recognition. Besides the problem of any audio playing making the software less likely to be effective, the speech navigation process wouldn’t work effectively with the current program. This is due to the amount of speech commands that would be required and how fast the images are changing. I took regular breaks whilst the video, so it took quite a while to watch it all. Crucially I enjoyed the experience, I thought the episode used the technology well, and it was not just a gimmick. Unfortunately I now know that watching a 360° video, whilst constantly updating the focus, is something that I should avoid, or carefully make use of.
Currently there is not much 360° media to consume, so I am not missing out on much. However, over the coming years this is likely to change, in particular when one considers the examples being shown with the new generation of virtual reality headsets. The Click video had comments by people stating that they watched the episode using a VR headset, and that they found the experience incredibly immersive. Of course I would like to try that, but currently I have chronic pain on the left side of my upper body due to shoulder swelling, which affects my neck, so the idea of adding even a small amount of weight to my head by using a headset is horrifying.
The BBC also have a special report about how the 360° episode. Whilst in the show they do explain the process well, the written report adds a bit more information, and I would recommend reading it as well.
I look forward to being able to play SUPERHOT, particular with a VR headset, although that will have to wait. It seems a sure thing that VR headset will become a major part of gaming. This will be great for most people, as well as helping some disabled or temporarily injured people, whilst being an issue for others. As this technology develops, the ever continuing problem of speculating what could happen next will continue on.
I am not sure about the viability of the majority of videos media becoming 360°. I think with factors like the effects upon on the creation process, such as such as having to hide the crew and equipment, as well as cost increase, there is unlikely to be a rapid change. Never mind the issue of whether making a video 360° provides much bonus.
There will surely be exceptions that utilise the technology well, such as a film plot about the nature of perception, or an animation that does not have the issue of camera placement and green screening the majority of a scene. Maybe other technology, like a cybernetic headset on each actor and even multiple inanimate objects, will take the whole process to the next level!