Cylindrical 360º videos are something of a controversial subject within the Virtual Reality community. Most would say that cylindrical videos have no place in the world of 360 degree content. In cylindrical videos, you can move the video around fully in 360º horizontally, but the top and bottom area of the video are usually covered in black. The diagram below, done by Redditor UniversalChairs, shows the difference.
Until recently, I was part of the same camp that hated the very existence of these cylindrical 360º videos, but I have finally found a category of YouTube videos that benefit hugely from this format – the YouTube Let’s Plays.
A Let’s Play is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You watch a gamer as he/she plays through either a complete single player game, or a match in a competitive multiplayer game. This genre of video really benefits when you bring Let’s Plays with multiple players, as shown in the video above. In the traditional YouTube let’s play video of this type, you would normally be looking at your screen separated into multiple small boxes showing each player’s point of view. Thanks to 360º video, you can rotate your head slightly left or right, while wearing an Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Google Cardboard etc. type headset and have a full movie theater sized view of every player’s screen.
Left for Dead 2 is the game that is in the featured video in this article. It’s a deathmatch style online First Person Shooter game, which, as you can see in the video, is quite insane. You can use custom avatars of pretty much anything you can design yourself. I was in hysterical laughter throughout most of the video (which has graphic language just a heads up). A few minutes in, one of the players accidently closes his game and you can watch on the left screen as he tries to get back in the game as everyone else is still playing. In another scene, Slenderman drags a player through the door. This video was made by channel creator Z.A.N.J. Gaming.
These kind of videos seem to work best when the creators use a maximum of three screens. Unless you have a Google Cardboard, Gear VR, or similar non-tethered headset, turning to look behind you can be quite a pain to do.
While this video is of multiple people playing an online multiplayer game, the possibilities are endless as to how Let’s Plays can evolve with 360º cylindrical videos. There could be 1 player going through a single player game with the game on one screen, a video of him on another, and perhaps slow motion replay/game map/inventory on another screen. There also exists the possibility for MMO (massive multiplayer online game) raid groups with endless amounts of screens taking up the sphere of each players view point.
Hopefully this cylindrical format takes off with Let’s Plays, as it allows gamers without a 360 degree camera to still create content in 360º, albeit cylindrical. You can check out Z.A.N.J. Gaming’s YouTube channel here, as they have a few more videos like the Left for Dead 2 one that they have already released.