Can 360-degree video have all angles covered?

Dan Simmons discovers how broadcasters are using new technology to offer a bigger picture.

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Filming from all angles was first the preserve of Keanu Reeves and Hollywood in the Matrix but it has since moved quickly to be available to everyone from mainstream broadcasters right through to people using a smartphone.

Most people do not want to miss a thing. And in terms of photography, that can be by taking in everything around you in a single shot of all 360 degrees.

What this means is every bit of a scene is captured and can played back as a single wide image or in a more conventional size that can be scrolled around by the viewer while the video plays.

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The technology has been available for a long time, just it was not accessible to the mainstream consumers”

End Quote Amey Kanade GoPano

Recently, video apps and specialised camera lenses have added to the immersive look and now TV and film companies are starting to take the tech more seriously.

Lindsey Suter, of the BBC Blue Room - the broadcaster's consumer technology lab - said: "You could be telling three different stories within one bit of footage, which personally I find really exciting. I think that's the amazing thing about 360 is the narrative, the story and the journey that you go on.

"You are choosing it as the viewer, you're in control of that story which I think is immense and a massive change for broadcasts. For the director I think it is going to be a nightmare."

If this is true, then it seems like cameras really do now see everything.

The military have been using 360 devices for a number of years but they soon could not be the only ones.

Police forces across the UK - from Buckinghamshire right through to Jersey - are trying out equipping officers with more conventional video cameras, to be worn on the outfits.

Many forces already use vehicles with cameras with 360-degree movement but some suggestions have been made that full 360-degree video footage should be used and has already been trialled in the US.

This would make sure that no piece of evidence is missing in a case and officers really cannot be snuck up upon from behind without the record of it being there.

360-iPhoneography?

Yet the usage by professionals is now no longer the end of the story. Even the smartphone is trying to get in on the game.

Apps have sprung up to "stitch" together panoramas but specialist lenses, selling for about 600 euros (£520; $786), allow people without expensive equipment to experiment in 360 degrees.

"We have been selling some of our products to the military for close to a decade," says Amey Kanade, product manager of 360-degree video company GoPano.

"The technology has been available for a long time, just it was not accessible to the mainstream consumers.

"Google spent many millions of dollars capturing 360-degree images for their Streetview but now anyone with a phone and a [360-capable] camera can shoot a 360 video.

"We launched it a little more than a year ago and we already have more than 30,000 user-generated videos on this platform," says Mr Kanade.

But, with this sort of camera still adding more than £10 to the cost, these devices are still out of reach of the casual "iPhone" or "Android-ographer". Is it still just a bit of a gimmick?

"We want to change the way people view of shoot a video," says Mr Kanade.

"Then we want the viewer to interact with the video. It's a first step towards a grand vision,"

If that's the case, it seems like everyone will be able to make video in 360 degrees before long.

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