So, you’ve painstakingly made a 360 video. The next logical step is to show it off. But where? Choosing where your latest masterpiece should live online isn’t always easy, and it’s made more difficult when the options constantly change.
Industry favorites like Vrideo die. Big players like YouTube and Facebook constantly add new features. Littlstar limits features to verified creators. More platforms, like Vimeo, become 360-compatible. Add custom apps, tools to create custom apps, and WebVR and you end up with lots of options, each with their own pros and cons.
In this post, I’m hoping to demystify which platforms work best for your latest 360 video project, based on length, video quality, target audience and your goals for a couple of the most accessible options.
- Max file size – 1.75GB
- Max resolution – 4K
- Spatial audio support
- 360 video live streaming
- User vision analytics
- Headsets supported: Oculus, Samsung Gear
If your main objective is exposure and engagement, then Facebook is the right fit for you. For starters, Facebook has the largest possible audience (2.07B monthly users) of any social media platform.
On top this, a study from StoryUp VR shows that 360 video on Facebook generates almost 29% more views that flat video and double the number of viewers watched the entire video.This plays extremely well into the “percent completion” piece of the Facebook algorithm, which determines the visibility of all video formats. Facebook has been upfront in saying it favors videos that are watched all the way through, and that these videos will see a higher level of exposure.
But with so many other posts to click on, how long can you expect someone to watch your 360 video on Facebook? One analysis of 100M Facebook videos found that 60 to 90 seconds is the sweet spot for all types video on Facebook, meaning that those in-depth 360 video documentaries won’t perform as well as quick news stories.
Although engagement and views might be the #1 goal for some, Facebook struggles when it comes to the file size and quality of the video users can post. Currently, you can’t post videos larger than 1.75GB, or longer than 30 minutes. For example, this 360 video I posted to Facebook was only 2.5 minutes long and was already 1.34GB in size. Uploading stereoscopic video could be another challenge as these file are naturally larger than the typical monoscopic 360 video files.This can force users to sacrifice the quality of their video for length or visa versa.
When it comes to quality, the max resolution Facebook allows is 4K. If your camera can only capture 4K video, then you have less to worry about. But, if you’re capturing higher resolutions, you’ll find Facebook’s 4K cap limiting.
However, Facebook also has a handful of other features such as 360 live streaming, which enables content creators to broadcast 360 video to a massive audience. Facebook’s support of spatial audio allows for a heightened level of immersion by including up to eight audio channels that adjust to a user’s point of view. And finally, Facebook’s analytics tools for 360 video gives content creators the ability to know what parts of the 360 scene attracted the most attention.
If you want to give audiences the ability to view content in a headset, it’s important to point out that 360 video on Facebook is limited to the Oculus and Samsung Gear headsets.
Bottom Line: We all know that attention spans on Facebook are extremely short, and 360 video is given no exception. If you’re not a stickler on quality ,have something quick to share, and want maximum reach and engagement, this is the platform for you.
- Max file size – 128GB
- Max resolution – 4K
- Spatial audio supported
- 360 video live streaming
- User vision analytics
- Headsets supported: Samsung Gear, Google Daydream, Google Cardboard, Playstation VR, Microsoft MR
Although Facebook has the largest audience and Vimeo has premium quality, YouTube offers the best of both worlds by engaging viewers across a wide variety of content while sustaining high-quality video. Currently, YouTube’s 1.5 billion monthly users are watching an average of an hour of video per day on the platform.
This means is that YouTube has a clear advantage over Facebook in that its users are willing to spend more time watching videos, and it beats out Vimeo in the number of people available to engage with video.
YouTube also allows its users to upload video files as large as 128GB. This is by far the largest file size among these free options.YouTube recently upgraded their quality of 360 video to support 5K and even 8K, matching Vimeo. This ability to upload large files gives users the freedom to keep the quality of their 360 video intact, no matter its length.
In addition, YouTube supports 360 video live streaming in 4K, the same as Facebook. Spatial audio is also supported on YouTube and we’ll have our fingers crossed that it soon utilizes Resonance Audio, Google’s latest audio SDK that can ‘spatialize hundreds of simultaneous 3-D sounds sources.’
On the analytics side, YouTube is on par with Facebook and Vimeo by tracking user vision through heat maps, highlighting the demographics of your viewers, and outlining the devices the content is viewed on.
Although YouTube excludes Oculus (owned by Facebook) from viewing 360 video on headsets, it still supports the widest range of headsets. These include the Samsung Gear, the Google Daydream and Cardboard, the Playstation VR and Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headset.
Bottom line: YouTube provides the most well-rounded free experience for 360 video sharing. The 128GB of upload space allows for a range of 360 videos to be shared with a massive audience that’s willing to spend more time on the platform. When you couple that with live-streaming, and spatial audio, it’s pretty tough to beat.
- Max file size – Depends on subscription package. Free account = 500MB per week
- Max resolution – 8K
- Spatial audio not supported
- 360 live streaming not supported
- Headsets supported: Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear
Although the main question may be Facebook or YouTube, there may be times when the best option might be Vimeo, which launched 360 video support March.
Where Facebook excels with short and sharable 360 video, Vimeo takes the opposite approach. Instead of restricting its users to 4K resolution and 1.75GB file sizes, Vimeo allows for 360 video to be viewed in 8K and doesn’t limit the files sizes you can upload to the platform. This paves the way to host and share both monoscopic and stereoscopic 360 video with much higher visual fidelity.
Perhaps the biggest differentiating factor is that Vimeo also enables users to download 360 video to watch on the go, or if they want to avoid buffering to ensure a smooth viewing experience. This feature is particularly important when you consider the user’s experience when watching higher-resolution videos.
This is a feature that isn’t provided by Facebook and is an exclusive feature for YouTube Red subscribers. This is especially important, given Vimeo’s higher maximum resolution, which most users won’t have the bandwidth to support streaming.
However, this all comes with a catch. The free version of Vimeo limits its users to only 500MB per week of storage. $7 per month will get you 5GB per week and the more you pay, the more space you get. Access to the platform’s analytics tools is also restricted to paying customers, however the features found here aren’t anything more than what Facebook or YouTube offer. And to add even more problems to the mix, Vimeo doesn’t support spatial audio and live streaming for 360 video.
Watching 360 videos hosted on Vimeo through a headset is also limited to Google cardboard and Samsung Gear. This is because access to Vimeo’s 360 content is restricted to mobile apps and isn’t currently supported by high-end headsets like the Oculus and HTC Vive.
Bottom line: Vimeo has always been about quality, and they’re continuing this approach in 360 video. If you want high resolution and download capabilities, you’ve got to pay for it.
Other platform options
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) November 18, 2017
Have you ever seen 360 video pop up on your Twitter feed and wondered how you could post it yourself? Unfortunately, the only way to directly post 360 video to Twitter is through an exclusive partnership with the platform. Right now, larger media organizations like the Associated Press, and Al Jazeera are the ones lucky enough to land those deals.The rest of us are stuck with linking 360 video to Twitter, or live-streaming through Periscope.
If you’re all about maximizing access to your 360 video, then Littlestar might be the best fit for you. Through the Littlestar platform and mobile app, users can view 360 video across all major VR headsets, on a mobile device or desktop and even on Apple and Android TV. Littlestar also allows for 8K resolution, has apps for Android and iOS for mobile VR, supports desktop watching (as do Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo), and supports the widest number of headsets: Google Daydream, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, PSVR, and more.
However, earlier this year, Littlstar made some changes to its platform so that only content from verified creators would be available for viewing on its platform. Unverified users are welcome to continue uploading content, but it would only be visible to that particular creator when they are logged into their account. Here’s more info on the changes and how to become a verified creator.
There are also more obscure options, including Veer for 360 videos and photos and RoundMe or Kuula for photos, and more specialized options, like white-labeled players across platforms from Liquid Cinema. Then, there’s webVR on the horizon. It’s a never-ending, ever-changing game, but it’s much better than the days of too few options.
Bottom line: Finding VR content–especially on a headset–isn’t particularly easy these days, with the market being as segmented as it is (though it’s getting better). Because of this, you might even want to post your 360 video to two, or even three or four, different platforms to maximize your reach and make your content easier for people across all platforms to discover.