If you’ve spent time searching YouTube for videos that will teach you how to produce 360 video, you’re bound to have run across CreatorUp. Here, you’ll find dozens of 360 camera tests, comparisons and tutorials under the heading “Mastering 360.” The videos are hosted by Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Hugh Hou, who stays busy running several educational websites and acting as cinematographer on a variety of immersive video projects. He recently was on a panel discussion of 360 video at AdobeMax.
Hugh taught himself 360 video production
Hugh didn’t begin with a background in video production but in software development. He first became interested in creating 360 when he got a “crazy idea” five years ago while attending a music festival. He thought he would try to capture the event in 360 but had no real experience. “I had like 6 GoPros and I stuck them together started filming. It was a disaster!” He says the cameras weren’t aligned and he couldn’t find any software to properly stitch the images together.
His interest led him to the internet to learn more. He says that while searching, “I realized that there was not enough information online for me to learn how to create VR, especially on the post side — how to edit the video, how to stitch them, color grade them, and how to make it look good.” Hugh began to teach himself, often by trial and error, and upload videos first to Facebook, then to YouTube. His channel started to gain followers. It seemed like other people wanted to know more as well. The CreatorUp content has grown and now the channel has over 24,000 subscribers. Hugh says that the goal was never to make money with the channel but “I’m making these videos just to impact the community, so other professionals from the 2D world can learn 360 and VR.”
This YouTube experience demonstrated that Hugh was something of an expert in 360 capture, so he started getting hired on as a Director of Photography for other projects. “The biggest project I’m working on right now is the Special Olympics for next year in Abu Dhabi. We’re going to do a live stream in VR so people around the world can watch.”
360 video is becoming more consumer-friendly
Having a YouTube channel that is so popular also helps Hugh get his hands on the latest gear. He is excited about what has happened in the last few years, but says that he’s seen a shift especially on the professional side. “I know a lot of brands have actually shut down they’re VR department and are focused back to the 2D world, which is kind of sad. That is what happened this year.” He points to Nokia specifically, which shuttered the OZO camera operation. He thinks for some companies, it didn’t make financial sense to invest in 360 productions.
The good news is that camera and software companies are starting to focus on consumer tools. “There is more content on YouTube and Facebook360, and because headsets like Oculus have become more affordable, consumers now are demanding more content. I think the direction is more in the consumer part of the industry.” This means less expensive cameras and software. He points to Insta360 for cameras that are affordable and have good quality imaging.
Hugh sees encouraging trends in immersive imaging
One exciting trend Hugh is seeing is VR180. “Google is putting in a ton of budget into it.” Hugh says, “I think VR180 breaks that barrier of 360 because with 360 there is always a stitching issue. So for a live sporting events or music concerts, this is really a different level of immersion. You really feel like you are there.”
VR 180 is not simply cutting a 360 camera image in half, but using twin 180 cameras for a stereoscopic wrap-around image. The video can be viewed with headsets and requires no stitching software. The new Vuze XR is one camera that takes advantage of this format.
Hugh is also encouraged to see camera resolution getting better. “One of the biggest complaints from viewers is, if they watch a 360 video, it looks like watching something on VHS. Its so low res and so pixelated.” He says the problem is that, although a camera shoots in 4K, that resolution it’s spread across the image and, after the stitching process, the image quality is reduced. Then when the image is delivered over the internet, it is further degraded. Hugh says better delivery is on the horizon, “With 5G, you might have the chance to stream 6K or even 8K. That will mean the camera capture can be higher resolution so you will see more clearly.”