VidCon, the largest conference for online video creators, took place this week, and YouTube celebrated by announcing a new VR format.
YouTube has supported VR and 360-degree video for some time, but the format is really hard to do right. The camera rigs are really expensive, and for any kind of clarity, 4K resolution isn't good enough—you need at least an 8K video feed for each eye, which is really hard to record, store, and stream to viewers. 360 video is great for virtually teleporting someone to a location, but it's not an appropriate format for more traditional, structured content with a stage, lighting, and a place you're supposed to be looking at.
To help pull traditional content creators into the VR space, YouTube is launching a new "VR180" format, which is exactly what it sounds like: stereoscopic video, but only in 180 degrees. This cuts the data requirements in half—4K for each eye looks great—and the format should map a lot easier to the existing content most content creators produce, where they can just set up a camera, aim it at a (slightly wider than normal) staged area, and start filming. The new format even supports live streaming.
Viewers can strap into Google Cardboard, any Daydream-compatible viewer, or PSVR to watch the content. If you happen to look beyond the 180-degree field of view, you'll find the video trails off into a black void. If you're on a desktop, you can still view the video, just as a stationary 16:9 video.
YouTube has a playlist of VR180 content from beta testers here.
To help the ecosystem along, Google is partnering with Lenovo, LG, and YI Technology to create VR180-compatible cameras. The cameras all have dual lenses on the front, and YouTube tells creators to "set up and film your videos the way you normally would with any other camera." Google is also starting a "VR180 certification program" for other manufacturers and will be lending out VR180 cameras at YouTube Spaces locations.