So far, there are only a few good ways to share 360° videos taken with a Ricoh Theta S spherical camera. The three big ones are Youtube, Facebook, and Ricoh’s own theta360.com service. (For now, at least, Vimeo doesn’t support 360° video.)
In this guide I’m going to focus on how to share 360° videos on Facebook. While it’s pretty straightforward, there are a few extra things that have to be done compared with uploading regular video.
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Facebook is betting heavily on 360° video and VR technology. They’ve even put together their own special portal for Facebook 360° videos. And in many ways, it’s support for 360° videos is the most polished and sophisticated of the current online sharing options.
Uploading a Video Straight out of the Camera
The Ricoh Theta S video generates video files with the common mp4 container. But not all mp4 files are the same.
If you take the video straight out of the camera and try to upload it to Facebook, it’s not going to work. Or, rather, it will work, but you’ll end up with a stereoscopic image–an odd-looking video of side-by-side circles, each showing the hemisphere captured by one of the two Ricoh Theta S lenses. It’ll look something like this:
So first, there’s some prep work to do to convert the image from stereoscopic view to an equirectangular one. That will combine the two hemispheres into a wide view with dimensions where the width is exactly double the height (otherwise known as a 2:1 aspect ratio). And the tops and bottoms of the frames will look strange and stretched. But when used in a specialized 360° player those stretched parts of the frame will fill out when you look up or down.
Open the Ricoh Theta S App
The easiest way to convert the stereoscopic video to an equirectangular view is to use Ricoh’s own, free app. It’s called Ricoh Theta, appropriately enough, and it’s available from the theta360.com website (in the Basic App section).
Once you install and run that, you get a drop panel that you simply drag and drop your stereoscopic video onto.
You’ll then get a popup asking you for filenames and location where you want to save the converted file. This is for saving a converted copy alongside the original.
Once the conversion is complete, the new file will be saved wherever you selected (by default with “_er” appended to the filename, for equirectangular) and the new file will be displayed in the app’s window. You can then play it and interact with it.
Uploading to Facebook
Now that you have the newly created equirectangular version, that’s the one you want to upload to Facebook. You can, if you want, edit that file first, using standard video editing apps like Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere, but I’ll cover that in detail separately. To keep things simple for now, we’ll just proceed with uploading the unedited footage as shot.
To start with, you upload it the same way you would any other video file. On your timeline’s post section at the top, click on the Photo/Video link and choose “Upload Photos/Video.” You’ll then get the Upload Video popup where you can add things like titles, captions, and tags.
If you haven’t edited the file since converting it with the Ricoh Theta app or otherwise messed with the file’s metadata, Facebook should automatically pick up that it’s a 360° video and add a “360 Controls” tab.
If it hasn’t, click on the Advanced tab and check the box next to “This video was recorded in 360° format.”
The 360 Controls tab lets you choose the initial video that users see when the video starts by controlling the Pitch, Yaw, and Field of View. You can, if you’re so inclined, input numbers manually, but a much easier option is to simply drag the image with the cursor to the spot you want it to start with and choose the zoom level.
Once you’re happy with the initial view and have added a title, tags, and caption, along with any other post text you want, you simply hit the Publish button at bottom right. Facebook will then prepare the video for public viewing, and it goes into your video library and onto your timeline.
Viewing the 360° Video
Visitors looking at it on a desktop with a web browser will see something like this:
To distinguish it from a regular non-interactive video, users are shown the hint to click and drag, and when the video is stopped there’s a special 360 icon overlaying the center of the frame. Clicking on the video makes it larger, and they can navigate around the 360 degrees by dragging the cursor.
Visitors using the Facebook phone app get an even better deal because they can actually navigate through the frame by turning their phone as a kind of window into the image. It’s a neat trick–a kind of VR-lite experience. And for an even better VR experience, you can use one of the VR headsets that are coming onto the market now. You can find examples here.
And yet visitors can share the video just like any other Facebook post, so you can leverage the social aspect of Facebook and get more people to see your video.
Embedding the Facebook 360° Video on Another Site
Embedding a Facebook 360° video on another site isn’t as self-evident as it could be. Facebook prefers to keep its content and users inside the Facebook universe, after all. But it’s pretty easy once you know where to look. Your site doesn’t need to be running any special plugins or scripts–all the heavy lifting is handled on Facebook’s end.
In the post on the timeline, you want to click on the small arrow at the top right.
Then you want to access yet another submenu by click on the “See more options” drop-down menu.
Then you want to choose “Embed.”
That will then generate a basic iframe code that you can paste into your website.
Here’s an example:
<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcherryblossomwatch%2Fvideos%2F857729554352939%2F&show_text=0&width=678" width="678" height="381" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe>
If you want to change the display size, it’s easy enough to manually modify the width and height settings. It’s also possible to customize more than that, but that’s a bit more involved. You can find more information on how to generate more customized embedding code here.
Here’s an example of the end result using the basic code:
Facebook has been an early adopter of 360° video, which makes sense given their massive investment in Occulus Rift and related VR technologies. And it makes for a very good place to share the 360° videos you’ve shot with a Ricoh Theta S. While I generally prefer Youtube or even theta360.com if I’m simply looking for somewhere to host a file that I’m then only going to embed on my website. But if you want eyeballs seeing your video, Facebook can be an excellent option because it is so deeply embedded in the sharing and social experience. And while its embedding options aren’t as intuitive as they could be, I’ve found them to work well and reliably.