What Are 360 Cameras?
How to View 360 Media
However, one of the biggest boons for 360 fans was the recent announcement from both Facebook and YouTube that 360 degree videos are now supported on the world's largest video sharing platforms. You may have seen some of these already, but did you know there are two different viewing experiences? If you view a 360 video on a laptop or desktop computer you will be able to navigate the scene by clicking and dragging around the video, or by using the directional arrows that are overlaid in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
However, it you view a 360 video on your mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android) you will be able to pan your device up, down and all around the video like you would with a virtual reality headset or Google Cardboard. Take a look at the example below from the BBC. Try viewing it on a laptop as well as on a mobile device to get a feel for how each one works. Once you are done, check out the 360 Video channel on YouTube for more examples.
Educational Uses for 360 Media
- Virtual field trips: This is perhaps the most obvious example and in many ways it may be one of the most powerful. Take one of these cameras on the field trip with you and think of the conversations you could have when you get back in the classroom. It could also be useful as an accessibility tool for students who may not be able to attend field trips because they were absent or because they had some kind of physical disability that prevented them from attending.
- School Events: Concerts, sports, theater performances, pep rallies and more take on a decidedly different form when the whole event can be viewed in 360 degrees. Imagine putting one of these center stage while students were performing scenes from a play. They could watch back their performances in a way that was never previously possible and learn more about
- Parental involvement: I used to teach in an elementary classroom, and every so often we would have these projects that we did in class that I wished I could share with parents to let them see the hard work their children had put into their learning. I could absolutely take photos or a video, but as a parent you don't always see your child very well or for very long. With a 360 degree camera, parents can pan the camera around and watch their child for the entire time if they wanted to. Think of how that opens up the walls of your classroom and shares the learning.
- Coaching conversations: I have attended a number of Jim Knight coaching workshops recently. The last one was around the power of video and how instructional coaches and teachers can use it as a reflective tool to help analyze their performances in the classroom. The Swivl is a great tool for this, but 360 cameras could also be useful in this scenario due to the flexibility of being able to choose what to look at during any given point of a lesson.
- School pride: Did you just build a brand new media center? Have you recently added a makerspace? Has your auditorium got a makeover? With a 360 camera you can share the good things that are happening around the district and show those tax dollars at work! :)
Are There Any Downsides to 360 Media?
- File sizes - A 360 video is often two videos stitched together so that often makes file sizes a lot larger than a standard video. This makes uploading to YouTube (or other services) a little lengthier than you might expect. As a result, a few short videos may be better than one long video.
- Quality - The quality of 360 images is often better than the quality you get from 360 videos, at least in consumer grade cameras. The BBC video of the Hadron Collider above was actually made with six GoPro cameras placed back to back in a cubic formation and the footage from each camera was stitched together later. Truth be told, the quality will likely vary from camera to camera so if you can, try some out, watch some sample videos on YouTube, or talk to those that are using them to see some of their sample media.
- Cost - This one goes hand in hand with the previous comments in many ways, but 360 cameras are not cheap. At least, not yet. The prices will no doubt come down as the technology matures, but a decent 360 camera is going to cost you more than you might think. Many also require or recommend that you link them with a mobile device. If you have one, great. If you don't, that could be an additional cost.
- Audio - The built-in microphones on these cameras are decent, but they are not going to give you broadcast quality sound and the range is a little limiting. Some may have audio out ports for external microphones, so look out for that. Audio may not always be important to what you capture, but if it is you might want to try placing the camera as close to the sound source as you can, or see if you can add a soundtrack or voiceover in post production.
A Brave New World?
~Jonathan Wylie, Technology Consultant, Grant Wood AEA (@jonathanwylie)
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