Maybe you’ve seen them. Scrolling through Facebook and all of a sudden there’s a video that starts to wobble in a weird way and then you realize that it’s moving based on the movement of your phone. You end up holding the phone out in front of you and start looking around you in this video –and it’s pretty cool. Until you eventually realize that you’re in a cafe and everyone is staring at you like you’re a nut.
360 videos and photos are something slowly getting picked up along side VR. To clarify really quickly, 360 isn’t VR necessarily it’s footage shot on a camera that can take video or photos around it in 360 degrees. VR however, at least by most experts’ standards, would need to also be in 3D. Regardless of what you call it though, 360 content is a really cool way to give people at least a slight glimpse of what it would be like to be standing next to you while you are experiencing something.
There are a decent amount of these cameras coming out now and the one that has gotten a lot of attention is the Samsung Gear 360.
This camera is getting attention for a couple of reasons. One is that it hooks up with any newer Samsung phone for a live view of whatever it is you are shooting, but the other big factor for the buzz around it is the fact it can shoot this 360 content in 4K and costs only $350.
Read More: Check out my Unboxing Video of the Gear 360.
It does this using two super wide-angle 15MP cameras each facing the opposite direction who’s field of view overlaps one another. Essentially this provides two videos or photos that look like this:
Then you can take that footage from the Gear via the Gear 360 Companion App if you have a compatible phone or via an SD reader to manually drag and drop it from the MicroSD card it records to. If you choose to use the companion app, it’ll actually stitch these two recordings together for you magically, removing what are called the stitch lines as best as it can.
If you used the MicroSD method then you’ll need to use the included Gear 360 Action Director program to have it do that for you. Unfortunately though this program only works for Windows so if you have a Mac and no compatible Galaxy phone, you’ll have to search for a different, third-party, most likely paid program to help.
After you have the photo or video all stitched-up though, you can just pop it into your photo or video editor and edit it like you normally would. Once you are ready to share the content, you’ll need to just make sure it is in the format and has the proper meta tags for YouTube or Facebook (the two major platforms that can recognize and support 360 content) to recognize it as 360 content and display it appropriately.
I used a program called Spatial Media Metadata Injector once I was done editing the footage, selected options that pertained to my video, and pushed Inject and it spits out a new video that can then just be uploaded and is ready to go.
So now, of course, it’s a lot easier to use and share the content through the Gear 360 Companion App and a compatible phone, but if you don’t have one (or just want to do some proper desktop editing or color correcting), the workflow from capture to share isn’t too horrible.
Shooting with the Gear 360 is actually pretty easy. There are only a handful of settings and shooting modes available to mess around with. In the settings, you can just adjust what size you want the videos or photos to be, the auto-shut off timer and recording timer (which is handy since it records you in the shot every time thanks to it being in 360 so this gives you some time to set it down or just at least get your hand out of the photo).
Other than that you can also adjust if you want to shoot out of both lenses or just one (which, of course, would lose the 360 and be pretty pointless).
The shooting modes allow you to choose between video, photo, time lapse video (where it’ll shoot one frame every specified amount of time), or video looping (which allows it to automatically create a video that will restart after getting to the end).
To navigate the menus and shooting modes you use the menu button on the side of the Gear 360 and the record button at the top to select. The only other button on the Gear 360, allows you to select back and is also the power button if held down.
The Gear 360 also has a small handle you can hold while shooting that can be spread into small “feet” for setting it down on something, but that can be unscrewed to reveal a normal camera mount should you want to use some other grip setup.
Since these type of cameras are still relatively new, there aren’t that many competitors out there and when talking about 4K capable 360 video, that list gets even shorter.
The closest competitors to the Gear 360 that can shoot in 4K all work in a similar way, have similar companion apps, similar form factors, etc. But where they can’t really compete, as I mentioned before, is the price. The Kodak PixPro SP360 is $500 on Amazon, the Insta360 is $550, and the closest priced camera I could find with similarly good reviews was the 360Fly which is still $420.
Now, again, to get the live preview feature though, you must have one of the Galaxy phones Samsung allows you to use with the device. So if you need to see what you are shooting in real time, whether you have one of these phones or not is a big factor in whether you get this camera or another one with a universal app instead.
But, if you’re like me and used to shooting with GoPro’s for this type of footage, you’ll realize you don’t necessarily need to see the footage and can just wait until you are ready to edit.
That means that if you have one of the compatible phones, then based on the price and features of this little camera, it’s sort of a no brainer as the one to buy and if you don’t then you simply need to decide if you need a live preview mode or not, and what the cost is for a stitching program should you not have a PC to use the Action Director program with.
All in all, it’s definitely worth taking a look at. The biggest issue you’ll have is the same with any 360 camera –trying to figure out something creative to shoot with it.
What do you guys think of the Gear 360 camera? Do you care if you have live preview or not or is it just me that doesn’t mind not having it?