360-degree videos have disrupted the content creation industry, and the new format is here to stay. Seeing outstanding response rates from the viewers, more and more brands of all verticals discover new ways to utilize immersive videos in their marketing strategy. But most importantly, from being the medium accessible to a comparatively limited audience, 360 videos are now becoming a mainstream trend an average user can participate in.
What is the current state of immersive video usage and how is it likely to evolve in 2019? To answer this question, let’s overview the key changes throughout the past couple of years.
Big brands – 360 video early adopters
As predicted, travel-related businesses were among the first and the most active adopters of immersive videos. However, seeing the potential benefits, more brands including retail, sports, and IT companies are incorporating this type of content in their marketing campaigns.
Some of the biggest brands first to use 360 videos were Marriott Hotels, IBM, Microsoft, and Honda. Today, the list has significantly grown. For instance, Volvo used 360 videos to allow for virtual test driving their new XC90 SUV. NASA has been using 360 videos to cover Mars exploration. National Geographic actively expands its content strategy with 360 and VR videos to effectively reach generation Z and draw attention to the problems of the planet, meanwhile artists use 360 live streaming to broadcast their performances and reach a wider audience. And there is more: this year, ABC News chose the 360 video format to show the Election Day behind-the-scenes rehearsal.
Yet, do brands choose to invest into 360-degree videos just to keep up with the trend? Most likely not. Advrtas reports 90% of viewers believe that video content is better in 360 than the traditional format, plus immersive videos have the potential to generate longer viewing times. Thus, Hong Kong Airlines reported to have found their 360 video ads were 35 times more effective than the traditional ones, as they received an impressive 57% voluntary replay rate.
But there is more reasoning beyond the numbers. Immersive videos create an entirely new layer of emotional experience and a deeper level of connection with the audience. Viewers get the illusion of watching a real-time event, and because there is so much less control in shooting and editing, 360 videos are believed to establish a higher level of trust for the brand.
Immersive content production becomes more democratized
Knowing how effective 360 videos may be, it is especially exciting to watch how they become more accessible for both – content creators and the viewers.
It all started at the end of 2016 when YouTube announced that 360 videos could now be watched in a browser or on a smartphone without any additional equipment and a headset. Today not only have the number of platforms supporting 360 videos has expanded by a factor of 6, but the cost of producing such content has also dropped drastically.
The selection of cameras and mobile device accessories that allow for recording 360 videos – with some of them available at less than $100 – makes their production affordable for aspiring YouTubers and average users. Even free video editing software developers have started implementing the capability of 360 footage processing. The selection is not wide yet but given the trend, we can expect it as a must-have feature by the end of 2019.
VSDC Video Editor is among the first free programs to enable the demanded functionality. According to the team, user requests for the 360 video editor have been increasing since the second quarter of 2017, and most people willing to use it are just technology enthusiasts shooting for their friends and family – not for the larger audiences. From the technical standpoint, processing a video recorded in 360 degrees requires a lot of PC resources – such video files are significantly larger than regular videos, so they are often harder to process for low-end computers. But in terms of the editing experience, 360-degree videos are not more complicated to deal with. The most frequently performed tasks are the most basic ones: cutting and merging video fragments, audio editing, and text overlaying.
The market response to the growing 360 video trend
As the usage of 360 footage grows, we see a higher demand for the complementary products and services filling the evolving niche. Numerous manufacturers have been able to enter the market in the past year with custom cases, grips, monopods, chargers and other accessories for different 360 camera models. One of the biggest technological breakthroughs of the year 2018 was the announcement of an ambisonic microphone by Zoom designed to provide the viewers with a 360 sound effect.
The B2B sector experiences the same level of growth as we witness video production agencies offering a new range of services for small and medium businesses in the niches such as real estate, retail, event venues, sport brands, construction companies, and even farms.
Challenges and perspectives
Despite the most creators’ enthusiasm, 360 videos receive enough criticism – mostly related to the complexity of the concept itself. For example, Stephen Spielberg himself suggested that immersive videos can be dangerous for film-making because they allow viewers to decide where to look and take the control of the picture. Likewise, other critics point out that many 360 videos fail because creators struggle to find the right storytelling approach and guide the viewers.
Nevertheless, the future looks bright for 360 video content as it is predicted to grow in its popularity during the upcoming decade. According to Marketing Tech News, the technology of 360° will become even more affordable and wide-spread. More creators worldwide will be able to streamline their experiences, and more of us will be able to discover places we would never have visited otherwise. Clearly, 360 videos bring endless possibilities for educational projects as well.
The marketing perspectives will continue to expand too. Some experts predict that immersive videos will soon become bigger than TV and enter new niches – such as ecommerce where buyers will be able to have a closer look at the items before making a purchase.
We should also expect more companies broadcasting live entertainment via 360°, immersive movies, and TV shows – as according to the research conducted by Advrtas, these are the types of content people want to see in the format of 360 degrees.