As the world moves online and travel plans are delayed, creating virtual experiences has never been more important. Capturing and sharing virtual experiences for your audience doesn’t have to be complicated. There are simple options available that still create impact and add value for viewers, whether it’s an interactive Instagram Story, a guided tour or a fully immersive virtual-reality experience.
Instagram Stories and IGTV
One billion people use Instagram every month, according to Hootsuite, and 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day. There’s great potential for audience connection within the app, and it can all be done from your mobile phone. Instagram’s primary focus is photo and video, and it isn’t meant for full virtual-reality experiences, but there are tools available within the app to create a guided photo or video tour or experience. If you’re new to the virtual world, consider purchasing a selfie stick or smartphone gimbal to help stabilize your footage and create an engaging experience through Instagram Stories or IGTV.
Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, and each story slide can only be 15 seconds long, but there’s an intimacy and do-it-yourself aesthetic to Instagram Stories that can be perfect for guided video walkthroughs. It’s beneficial to plan your story out ahead of time so you know what will be on each slide. Keep the pace quick and be sure to use Instagram Story features like polls and questions to encourage more engagement with your audience. If you’d like to keep your story on your profile for longer than 24 hours, it can be saved as a Story Highlight.
If you’re creating a longer video, consider using IGTV. The platform supports videos up to 10 minutes long, and the first minute can be posted on your Instagram feed with a prompt to view the full video on IGTV. It’s best to film videos vertically so they fill the entire screen.
Simple video tours can also be created for Facebook or YouTube. These platforms don’t have the tight time restrictions Instagram does, but it’s a good idea to set a quick pace for your video on these platforms to grab the viewer’s attention quickly. If you’re new to video editing, easy-to-use programs like Apple’s iMovie, Quik by GoPro or Videolicious are good places to start. If you need some help getting started, or want to advance your skills, many public libraries offer free access to learning programs such as Lynda.com, which often have high-quality courses for video editing.
Virtual Reality and 360 Video
When it comes to true virtual experiences, there are a range of options. At the most basic level, 360 photos and videos allow users to see all around them, most often by rotating their phone or using their mouse to click around the video. At the most advanced level, users don a VR headset, such as an Oculus Rift, and get a full 3-D audio and video experience.
For most creators of virtual experiences, simpler 360 videos should suffice. Here are some simple ways to create 360 videos:
Google Cardboard is an affordable way to create and view VR photos and videos. The Cardboard Camera app enables you to create 360 videos of your own that you can share to YouTube and Facebook (Instagram does not currently enable 360 content).
Once you’ve created the content, people can then choose to view the content in a Google Cardboard viewer for a more immersive experience. These simple viewers (yes, they are usually made of cardboard) range from approximately $8 to $92, depending on the design, and they allow users to view 360-degree photos and videos captured using the Google Cardboard app.
A slightly more advanced – yet still relatively simple – way to take tours online is through Tour Creator. The Tour Creator website allows you to create immersive virtual tours using your computer and then easily share them with a link. Tours can incorporate your own 360 photos or use Google Streetview, and points of interest can be highlighted for users to explore. Once the link is shared, users can view your tour on their smartphone, tablet, computer or through Google Cardboard. Or take your tours one step further with Google Expeditions. The app allows you to upload content made in Tour Creator and guide small groups through the tour.
If you’re interested in investing in 360 video beyond smartphone apps, there are a number of user-friendly 360 cameras on the market. The video captured using these cameras is ideal for Facebook or YouTube, since they have the capabilities to support the content. GoPro is a recognizable name in 360 cameras, and the GoPro Max is an easy-to-use option. There are several other companies that sell relatively affordable 360 cameras, such as the Insta360 One X.
360 Camera example:
Airbnb Online Experiences
Airbnb has moved its experience feature online to bring the world together in a whole new way. Previously, guests could sign up to take part in real-life experiences while visiting the destination of their choice. For the time being, Airbnb is offering interactive experiences online from around the globe, whether it’s a cooking class, a workout led by an Olympian or hanging out with animals in different countries.
Airbnb looks for knowledgeable experience hosts who allow guests to participate hands-on or be immersed in the activity. The company, which reviews all submissions before they’re added to the roster, also looks for intimate experiences that tell a story from the host’s unique perspective and give guests access that isn’t otherwise available online. Airbnb walks prospective hosts through a step-by-step submission form, which outlines the target audience, languages the experience is offered in, the frequency of the experience and so on before being sent for review.
Travel Alberta is here for you with Connections LIVE, a weekly webinar series to help you navigate the issues resulting from COVID-19. Join us for the session on creating virtual experiences, April 30 at 10 a.m.
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