Thursday, May 26, 2016

Six lessons from producing 360-degree videos

A recent post by Facebook media on 360-degree efforts by ABC News using many devices caught my attention:

"Interestingly, it was a $400 Ricoh Theta S that captured the most popular 360 video of 2016 so far"

For those of us producing 360 degree and virtual reality videos in the lower end of budgets, this is an encouraging sign. No, I'm not expecting to get 18 million views from Daily Freeman videos (or my own page, which I have, for some reason).

After all the early experiments and trials, some things are, in my view, becoming apparent when it comes to the production and delivery of 360-degree videos, especially if you have a lower quality (1920x960 for video) Theta S like we do:

* You're better off with Facebook video. Most of the audience there is in mobile, so people will see videos in 360 on a smaller screen. Processing is minimal and you have a built-in audience. YouTube or Vrideo will take longer and will display big, which will show the low quality (1920x960), not really good for true VR anyway. Furthermore, on mobile, for any of these to work, users have to inside the app (the Facebook video above won't play if you see this post in mobile). In terms of just to get this to work seamlessly, Facebook provides the best experience. YouTube just got iOS support,, but Facebook has the audience.

* Content is king: The ABC News video is from January and the 360 novelty might have worn off by now. The key here is to have a video that's attractive and that works best in 360. So it's important to choose the right stories or events. I think any weather-related event is an easy story idea. Rallies and festivals also work well.

* Videos on FB should be standalone posts. I have found that if you try to add links to the text in the post, the reach will dramatically decrease. I don't know if this is just us, but it makes sense in the larger Facebook algorithm sense (Facebook displaying stand-alone video more prominently). This presents a challenge when you have a written narrative or other elements other than a 360 video that you want to highlight on your website (lMOAR journalism!), but I have found that making another post for those elements doesn't hurt either one.

* For metrics, not all views are created equal. So your FB views should be separate from Youtube views or Vrideo views, because 3 seconds on autofeed counts as a view. Look at the metrics on Facebook Insights on your page to see how deep people saw your videos and how many dropped at 10 seconds or less.

* The first three seconds are crucial because that's going to be the preview of your video. Make it count.

* If your goal is to increase unique visitors, time on site or pageviews to your website, you're going to have a fun conversation with your bosses. I mean this in a good way. We're all new at this, and this is all still in the experimental, volatile stage. But remember that increasing views, reach and likes on FB will increase your potential audience for everything else.

Your feedback is welcome!