Once you got several 360-degree video clips are made and exported, as a creator now you want to preview them and make sure they matches what was originally expected and delivers a good watching experience to the viewers.
To watch a 360-degree video clips, one can use a laptop, a web browser, a mobile phone, or a VR headset. The ways to play a 360-degree video clip on them varies from one to other. We will introduce each of them in this article, so you can load your created work to a device and have a look from a viewer’s eye.
As stated in an earlier chapter, to watch a 360-degree video, there are three ways:
- On a desktop PC (locally, and online), the viewer can use the mouse to pan and look around;
- On a mobile device, the viewer can either use a finger to pan and look around or directly point the device to where the viewer wants to look;
- In a virtual reality (VR) headset, the viewer is virtually wrapped by the video and can simply look around as it is in real life, by moving their head.
We will introduce how to do so, each of them, on the devices you have around you. In the following order: (click on the items to jump to the section, if you already know which device you will be using)
- PC and Mac
- Web browser (youtube)
- Google Cardboard headsets and Samsung Gear VR
- Standalone VR headsets (Oculus Quest and Go)
Watch a 360-degree video footage on a desktop computer (PC and Mac)
The windows 10 default movie player can immediately play 360-degree videos and supports “look around” by drag the image with mouse. The default video player app is called the “Movies & TV”. It should come pre-installed on any Win 10 PC. In case if not, download it from the Microsoft App Store by searching for its name. You can play a 360-degree video footage (normally, mp4 format) by directly open in in windows. Once open, you will notice a compass-like gizmo on the upper right corner. It means you are now watching a 360-degree video, and you can look around by dragging the image with the mouse.
The default video player app installed on Win 10 PCs. It’s called the “Movies & TV”
Watching 360-degree video in the default media player app on Windows 10
Notice the gizmo icon on the upper right corner, it means you are now watching a 360-degree video,and you can look around by dragging the image with mouse.
The default media player (QuickTime player) on the Mac does not support 360-degree videos, so you will need a thrid-party player. We recommend the the VLC player mac version, and the Ricoh Theta Mac App. Both of them support simgle drag and drop to load the 360 video file, and supports mouse drag to look around.
The VLC media player (only v3.0 and up supports 360-degree video playback)
The Ricoh Theta Mac App
Watch a 360-degree video on YouTube (Web browser and phone app)
Instead of installing any software/apps, you can also upload the footage to YouTube for viewing and distribution.
YouTube supports 360-degree videos natively. Once uploaded, you can watch it with a desktop web browser, and use mouse drag to look around. If you are using a YouTube mobile app, then it supports “look around” by just tilting the phone around. It also supports VR headsets, which will be discussed in detail in the next section.
Watch a 360-degree video on a VR headset
VR headsets is recommended for get higher immersive experience, because one can look around by just turning or tilting the head, providing a more-natural way of interacting. The viewer also gets more immersed into the video content because the headset also blocks the viewer from real world images.
Various of VR headsets
Since the VR headsets out there on the market are divided into three categories, we will discuss them in the following order, from simple/cheap, to more complex devices.
Mobile phone based VR headsets (Google cardboard and Samsung Gear VR
Mobile phone VR headsets, such as the Google cardboard, always needs a phone as its core to operate (use as both display, and sensor of head motions). There are many types of Google cardboards, such as those literally made of a cardboard, or those made of soft foam-like material, such as the Merge VR headset.
Top: Google Cardboard; Bottom: the Merge VR headset made of foam plastic
The way to load and watch a 360-degree video with a cardboard like device, depends on the phone you plan to use. If you are using an iPhone, you can use the Skybox VR player to play a 360-degree video that has already been loaded to the phone. The app can be found in the App Store. To load a 360-degree video footage to an iPhone, please look at the instruction in the app, or refer to this post here: “Sync files from your Mac to iPhone or iPad – Apple Support“. Once the video starts playing, you can insert the phone into the cardboard headset and start watching. Use the button on the headset to interact with the controls on the screen.
The Skybox VR Player iOS app can be found in the App Store
If you are using an Android phone, you can use the VR media player app, which can be downloaded from the Google Play store. In the player app, you can navigate to the folder where you put 360-degree video footages on your phone. Most Android phones can be connected to PC as a USB drive, and access all the files and folders from there. Normally it is recommended to put the footages under the “Movies” folder.
The VR Media Player app can be found in the Google Play Store
Once the video starts playing, it will be in a “phone mode”. You can watch it locally, rotate around by dragging on the screen using your finger, or tap the “compass” icon on the upper right corner to enable auto-rotation so you can look around by tilting/turning the phone. Now more than that, if you tap the “VR” icon on the upper right, it will turn it into VR mode, as shown in the images below. Then you can insert the phone into the cardboard headset and start watching. Use the button on the headset to interact with the controls on the screen.
The mode control buttons in the VR Media Player app. Notice the “VR” button (2nd) and the “Compass” button (3rd)
It will show two parallel images after turned on the “VR” mode.
Now insert the phone into the VR headset to start watching in VR
If you are using a Samsung GearVR and a Samsung mobile phone, it is similar to the process of an Android phone as described above. The only difference is that you will be using the Skybox VR player app, which can be found in the GearVR App Store.
The Skybox VR Player covers the platforms including the iOS, Oculus, Vive, and GearVR
PC VR headsets (Oculsu Rift, HTC Vive, etc)
If you are using a tethered PC VR, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, you can install the Skybox VR Player app from the App Store of the platform you choose, and it will allow you to navigate to the folder where you stored the 360-degree video footage. And then you can just play and watch it from there. The app can be found on the Oculus VR store, and on Steam.
You can also watch a 360-degree video on a PC VR headset, such as the HTC Vive (left) and the Oculus Rift (right)
Standalone VR devices (Oculus Quest and Oculus Go)
To watch a 360-degree video footage on those standalone/all-in-one devices, you first transfer the footage file to the headset (normally it will shown as a USB drive when connect to your PC, please refer to the headset user manual for detailed instructions about connecting the device to a PC, or a Mac).
Two popular all-in-one vr headsets, the Oculus Quest (left) and the Oculus Go (right)
Then you watch the loaded video clips with a 360-degree video compatible player. The recommended video player on the oculus mobile platform is also the Skybox VR player, similar to the PC VR platform. It can be found correspondingly on the Oculus Quest app store, and the Oculus Go app store. You will need to put on your headset, and navigate to the app store and look for this app. Also, remember to connect your headset to a Wifi before downloading. Wifi is not needed when watching the 360-degree video thou.
Alternatively, you can also use the default “Oculus gallery” app in the headset to play 360-degree videos that have already been loaded into the headset. Once open, it will scan the internal storage of your headset and looking for video files, and then present them in a grid for you to choose and play.
A screenshot of the Oculus Gallery app from the view inside a Oculus Go