I think I invented the 360Cast here in Phnom Penh. Its a big world with plenty of smart people, so someone else might have implemented this thought-form before me. I haven’t seen another one and I don’t really care, because the interesting part isn’t originating the form — it’s learning about it and figuring out to make 360Casts useful and engaging.
I’m in Cambodia now to make 360 VR Video, or more accurately, to help people here make them. That’s why I’m not using expensive stereoscopic cameras and sound equipment. It makes more sense working with folks here to use relatively low-cost cameras they can order from Amazon and control with the smart phones they already have. And as I talked about this new medium and showed examples, the idea came to me that I could interview people in 360 degrees, so anyone could take in the whole scene — interviewer, subject, and place.
Next I realized that if I added an introduction before the interview and a few concluding thoughts at the end, I’d have something more than an interview, something more like a program, and if I made a lot of them, each one would be an episode.
I love Podcasts. I produced my first one back in 2005 with my friend and colleague Bil Owen. Now I listen regularly to a short list of favorites (yay, for ‘Reply All’!) because they’re engaging, the hosts start to feel something like friends, and most of all — they fit so well into life. I can listen to a Podcast while I fold laundry, take a walk, workout, or have a long car ride.
Video doesn’t work that way. It demands much more attention. Driving a car and watching a video doesn’t work, and it won’t until we have our driver-less vehicles. I suspect that’s a big reason why lengthy Videocasts are not as popular as Podcasts. Video is much more difficult to accommodate.
I wanted my 360 video interviews to be part of the personal -casting tradition I have enjoyed as both a producer and a consumer. I called my second one a 360Cast. It’s not exactly an elegant term but then neither is ‘Podcast.’ Due to the nature of video, especially 360 video, I knew that 360Casts would have to be brief or very few people would give them a try. I’ve been making what I call “Less Than One Minute” Videos for several years. I want people to come across one and say, ‘what the heck, I guess I’ve got less than a minute to watch this thing.’
360Casts that consist of an interview need to be More Than One Minute, but not too much more. I’m still trying to find the balance between some amount of depth and the amount of time people are willing to allocate easily. Right now, I’m trying to keep them to about four to six minutes.
For the moment, I’m uploading my finished 360Casts to Facebook. I’m not totally comfortable relying on Facebook, but at least a lot of my Friends will see them and I can see what they Like. Of course I have no idea what the Facebook algorithm does with my 360Casts, how many Friend’s streams they actually appear in. In addition, most people will just push the video around on-screen with their mouse, so they will not get the fully immersive effect that they would using the Facebook, YouTube, or Vimeo app in a headset. But it’s a start.
I’ve produced eight of them so far. I decided that when I’ve completed ten 360Casts, I’ll stop, catch my creative-breath, and reflect on what I’ve done so far. What is the best length? Should I mix other kinds of material in with the interviews? Should I do much longer interviews and produce them as multiple 360Cast episodes? Where should I publish other than Facebook?
This article is not that reflection piece. It’s more like an introduction to a reflection piece. You can still see the 360Casts I put on Facebook — I don’t restrict access. They all take place in Phnom Penh, mostly featuring young Cambodians who are part of the exciting process of building a new society. The people I have spoken with inspire me and I hope the 360Casts are inspiring to the small audience that has found them.
Any feedback I receive will inform my up-coming reflections. Thank you in advance. I don’t need to be the guy who invented 360Casts. I’d rather be the guy who helps figure out how to make great ones, and where to put them so we can all enjoy more intimate glimpses into the lives of people we will probably never meet.
Most of all, I want people to experience my 360Casts in a way that adds a little more life to their life, that expands their sense of human possibilities, and helps them feel just a little more hopeful that our species has what it takes to face our difficulties and emerge from them stronger and more human than ever.