Live-streaming 360-degree video can bring your brand to life — but only if you do it right.
James Gunn, director of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” was in a feisty mood.
“Hello, everybody! I am here with Chris Pratt — yay! Zoe Saldana — yay! Michael Rooker — boo! Boooo!”
The stars were gathered in a Los Angeles hotel room to promote the release of the latest trailer for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” But instead of staring into a standard two-dimensional video camera, they were shooting it in Periscope 360, which allowed all the stars to be on screen simultaneously.
As he spoke, Gunn held a larger-than-life mockup of his own emoji, created by Twitter specifically for the movie, and read off comments and questions from viewers as they appeared on screen.
“They’re saying ‘hi!’ And ‘hi’! And ‘Oh my god hi James’! And ‘boo’! They’re all booing Rooker because he’s awful. Hey listen, Rooker is very good in the movie. He’s a good actor. But he’s a terrible human being.”
Gunn was poking fun at the veteran character actor who plays Yondu Udonta in the film. But it was clear they were all having a blast — and so were more than 900,000 fans who tuned in to watch.
Breaking new ground
Walt Disney Studios was the first Hollywood studio to use Periscope 360 to promote a film and went live from the set to promote “A Wrinkle in Time” with director Ava DuVernay (@ava) and the cast, including Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah), Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon), and Storm Reid (@stormreid).
For the studio’s most recent Periscope 360 activation, it brought together the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” director James Gunn (@JamesGunn) and cast members Chris Pratt (@prattprattpratt) and Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) to give fans a rare opportunity to be “in the room.” This also gave the actors a chance to show their less-inhibited side when answering fan questions. The broadcast demonstrated just how engaging 360 live streams can be for audiences to help drive conversation and awareness.
But shooting in 360 video adds a new dimension to branding — literally.
Nowhere to hide
One of the key differences with 360 streams is that the camera operator doesn't need to pan, zoom, or move in any of the other ways we've come to expect from traditional video. Instead, viewers can explore the environment on their own by moving their phones around or by navigating using their mouse or fingers.
Another difference is that, with Periscope 360, the live stream host is always visible on camera, adding an extra element of personality to each shoot. And because you can't control what viewers are looking at, you need to be acutely aware of everything in your surroundings, says Patrick Webster (@underwaterpat), who has shot a series of Periscope 360 videos for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“You need to remember that everything you can see is what everyone else can see, right down to the shoes you're wearing,” says Webster, social media content creator for the aquarium. “That's more exciting, but it also puts more pressure on your branding and the quality of your location. You want to make sure there's no trash lying around, and also that you're wearing pants.”
Shooting a Periscope 360 video puts extra pressure on the host to be an engaging tour guide, says Maude Garrett (@maudegarrett), who hosted Acura’s “Mood Roads” 360 video at the Sundance Film Festival last January.
In the video, host Garrett takes viewers on an interactive tour of the festival's sprawling Acura pavilion. Along the way, she climbs behind the wheel of an Acura NSX supercar, enters a motion simulator packed with biometric sensors, and goes on a mood-driven quasi-psychedelic journey.
To help viewers understand how live 360 streams work — and because new people are constantly joining the stream midway — you must frequently remind them what they're watching and how to navigate through it, Garrett says.
"So you say, 'On your left you'll see this, on your right you'll see that, just navigate this way’,” she says. “Every three to five minutes you need to tell people in a non-boring way why you're there, what you're doing, what a 360 video is, and how to navigate through it on a phone or a desktop."
And while the host is doing all of that, he or she also needs to remember to interact with viewers, who are typing comments and questions that are visible to everyone.
"That's a really big reason for people to tune in: to have their questions answered and be acknowledged," she says. "So you try to conduct a bit of a showcase and hit your copy points while looking for appropriate comments where you can have some audience interaction. "
As a result, shooting live 360 video puts more pressure on the host, who must be personable, quick on their feet, and highly adept at multitasking.
"Yeah," agrees Garrett, laughing. "That's why they asked a woman to do it."
Bandwidth on the run
On the technical side, getting up to speed is as simple as sliding a 360-degree camera onto a smartphone and launching the Periscope app. Here, though, a reliable high-speed internet connection is absolutely essential.
“The biggest and most important technical consideration is bandwidth,” says Andrew Leyden (@PenguinSix), an attorney living in Hong Kong who uploads walking tours of the city to Periscope several times a day. “It takes a massive amount of bandwidth to shoot in 360, beyond the capabilities of a ‘simple’ data plan. If doing this from an office, you want to make sure other people aren't streaming media or doing mega backups. If you're in a mobile setting, try to ensure you don’t have too much network congestion.”
And nothing kills the excitement of a 360 livecast faster than a dropped connection, adds Garrett.
“We tried to use the fastest Internet possible, but even then it was still a little patchy,” Garrett says. “We found a few dead zones during rehearsal, so I had to avoid those, because if the stream drops out, you're done. You really can't pick up where you left off — you want to make it from start to finish in one go.”
Mark Mitchell (@mark3mitchell), managing director for Lively, a UK-based creative agency that shot early Periscope 360 videos in the Moab Desert and on a London rooftop, says consumers should be fine with a 4G LTE connection most of the time. But professionals will want more reliable connectivity options, which is why Lively relies on satellite uplinks or bonded cellular networks when doing live streams from remote locations.
But probably the biggest questions to answer are, why shoot in 360? When should you use it? What's it good for?
Many brands are deploying 360 video simply because they're hoping it will generate buzz with consumers, says Mitchell. But that's the wrong approach.
“It's not enough to build a strategy around the latest technology for brand recognition,” he says. “You need to do it in a way that creates an engaging experience. If you've got the wow of new technology married to an incredible experience, that's wicked.”
In other words, pick a story that can't be told another way or gives viewers a perspective they would otherwise never get — like, say, clinging to a rock face hundreds of feet above the Moab Desert or strapped inside the cockpit of a $200,000 sports car.
“Live-streaming a 360 video is a great way to give people the authentic experience of being on the ground and seeing it happen as if they were standing there,” says Chris Hand (@ChrisRobertHand), assistant manager for Honda and Acura social media marketing.
And once you've gotten hooked on 360 video, warns Mitchell, you may not want to go back to 2-D.
“Honestly after about a day of messing around with 360 videos, I clicked on a regular Periscope, and the first thing I did was wiggle my hand around to see what else was going on,” he says. “It's amazing how disappointing it is when you find out you can't look around.”
Periscope 360 tips, tricks, and best practices
- Attach the camera to the top of the phone and hold it about ¾ arm length in front of you, slightly below head height.
- Fight the urge to move the camera. You want to keep it still, so viewers can explore on their own. If you do move it, do it slowly to avoid disorienting viewers.
- Bring a spare camera, phone, and battery; 360 cameras can suck a lot of juice quickly.
- Be aware of lighting conditions; some 360 cameras don’t work well in mixed lighting.
- Take note of your surroundings, remembering that everything you can see is also visible to your viewers.
- Bandwidth is essential. Make sure you’ve got adequate connectivity, and have a backup plan for outages.
- Periodically remind viewers who you are and what you’re doing, as well as how to navigate inside the 360 environment.
- Encourage participation via questions and be sure to interact with viewers.
- Remember that you (or your talent) are always on camera.
Alessandro Sabatelli, Director of AR/VR at Twitter, also contributed to this article.