Take a 360 photo for Face­book

Lewis Painter shows how to pro­duce VR-ready pho­tos

Android Advisor - - Contents -

With VR head­sets rang­ing from the bud­get Google Card­board all the way to the high-end HTC Vive all read­ily avail­able to buy in the UK, the 360 photo and video hype is gain­ing trac­tion – fast. This is mainly due to Face­book sup­port, of­fer­ing users the abil­ity to view 360-de­gree pho­tos and videos with­out the need for a VR head­set, di­rectly from iOS and An­droid de­vices. With the func­tion­al­ity now avail­able, how do you take 360 pho­tos for Face­book? Here’s where we show you how to cre­ate VR-ready pho­tos and videos on An­droid.

What is a 360 photo or video?

Be­fore we ex­plain how to take 360 pho­tos and videos for Face­book, let’s first ex­plain what a 360-de­gree photo is. Spurred for­ward by the VR hype train, Face­book is the first of the big so­cial me­dia plat­forms to of­fer sup­port for 360-de­gree pho­tos and videos, which of­fer a more im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence than a stan­dard photo or video. This al­lows users to ei­ther use the built-in gy­ro­scope on their smart­phone, or their fin­ger, to ‘look around’ a vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment, be it a static 360-de­gree photo or a more im­mer­sive 360-de­gree video.

Be­yond be­ing cool to look at on Face­book, users can take 360 pho­tos or videos to be viewed in VR. View­ing the pho­tos or videos on a vir­tual re­al­ity head­set can re­ally make you feel like you were there, a ben­e­fit both for those that recorded the video and want to re-live it, and for friends and fam­ily that couldn’t be there for what­ever rea­son. Giv­ing some­body the abil­ity to sit in­side a photo or video and phys­i­cally look around pro­vides a much more en­joy­able view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence than sim­ply scrolling through your Face­book News Feed ;look­ing at stan­dard pho­tos and videos.

In­sta360 Air

One of the cheap­est and eas­i­est ways to take and post 360 pho­tos and videos on Face­book is to use the In­sta360 Air.

It is one of the cheaper ways to cap­ture 360-de­gree con­tent at un­der £200 on Ama­zon, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that Ko­dak’s high­end Pix­pro 360-de­gree sys­tem will set you back a whop­ping £889. Fea­tur­ing an op­tional mi­croSD

card slot, the ac­ces­sory can also be used as a stand­alone 360 cam­era with users only need­ing to con­nect their hand­set to view saved pho­tos and videos, get a live pre­view of the photo/video and tweak cap­ture set­tings.

To take a photo or video, plug the In­sta360 Air into your smart­phone, launch the In­sta360 app and tap the shut­ter but­ton to cap­ture your photo or video. Be sure to hold the cam­era still for the best re­sults, as we’ve moved it mid-cap­ture a few times and the blur­ri­ness ru­ins the fin­ished prod­uct. Al­ter­na­tively, pop a mi­croSD card into the TF Card slot at the bot­tom of the de­vice, and press the

but­ton when the LED is green to cap­ture a photo.

Once you’ve cap­tured a 360 photo or video that you’d like to share with your Face­book friends, tap the Share icon in the top-right hand cor­ner. Now, in­stead of tap­ping on Face­book or Twit­ter, se­lect the op­tion to ex­port it as a panorama – this will all make sense soon. Once ex­ported, open up the Face­book app and tap the op­tion to up­load a photo or video. If all has gone to plan, your 360 photo/video should fea­ture a small cir­cu­lar icon in the bot­tom-right hand cor­ner – this shows that the file has 360 meta­data that Face­book can use to re­con­struct the 360 en­vi­ron­ment.

Se­lect the photo/video, give it a cap­tion and up­load it. It’s worth not­ing that it didn’t al­ways work the first time around for pho­tos, al­though delet­ing the draft and re-up­load­ing usu­ally fixes the prob­lem. With video it’s slightly dif­fer­ent, as you won’t get a 360-de­gree pre­view like you do with pho­tos, as Face­book has to man­u­ally ‘stitch’ it to­gether. It’ll take a big longer than a stan­dard video to up­load and process due to the ex­tra work in­volved, with a 20-se­cond 360 video clip tak­ing around five- to 10 min­utes to process via the Face­book app once up­loaded.

Once it’s pro­cessed, as with pho­tos, you’ll be able to use your fin­ger or your phone’s built-in gy­ro­scope to look around the vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment you’ve cre­ated. While the qual­ity pro­duced by In­sta360 Air’s 3K cam­era isn’t as great as the high­end sys­tems avail­able, it’s a great op­tion for those ex­per­i­ment­ing with the for­mat, pos­si­bly to cre­ate VR con­tent fur­ther down the line – or just to show off the amaz­ing places you get to visit.


But what about those who can’t af­ford to buy a ded­i­cated 360 cam­era? While the re­sults may not be as im­pres­sive as when us­ing a ded­i­cated cam­era, An­droid users can pro­duce 360-ish pho­tos for Face­book by up­load­ing panoramic pho­tos. While users won’t be able to look up and down when look­ing at your photo on Face­book, users should still be able to pan from left to right by ei­ther swip­ing across the dis­play or by ro­tat­ing their smart­phone, of­fer­ing a ba­sic level of im­mer­sion.

For An­droid users, it’s as sim­ple as open­ing the Cam­era app, se­lect­ing the Panorama shoot­ing mode and cap­tur­ing a panoramic photo – it may slightly vary be­tween An­droid de­vices, but most (if not all) fea­ture the func­tion­al­ity within the de­fault Cam­era app. It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that the pho­tos need to be a cer­tain width for Face­book to recog­nise them as be­ing 360-com­pat­i­ble. While it’s hard to mea­sure the width of a panoramic photo when tak­ing it, tak­ing a full-length panoramic shot via the Cam­era app should suf­fice.

Once you’ve cap­tured your panoramic photo, sim­ply open Face­book, tap Photo at the top of the page and se­lect your newly taken panorama. As you can see from the above screen­shot, any suit­able 360 pho­tos will be marked with a spher­i­cal icon in the bot­tom-left hand cor­ner of the thumb­nail. Se­lect the photo, tap Next and you should be pre­sented with a pre­view of your new al­most-360 Face­book photo. It doesn’t al­ways work, but delet­ing the draft post and start­ing again usu­ally kicks the panoramic-photo-analysing al­go­rithm into ac­tion.

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