Facebook now supports 360 pictures through an interactive viewer [ HOW TO Infographic & best tips]

UNDERSTAND FACEBOOK 360 FEATURE

  • Captivating 360 pictures began appearing on News Feeds
  • What does this mean to the average Facebook user?
  • How does Facebook know you uploaded a 360 picture?
  • Cameras & Apps that will give you Best Results to create Facebook 360 photos
  • Have your home-stitched and edited 360 Panorama detected and processed accordingly by Facebook
  • We at E reviews have tested these solutions

The Facebook 360 pictures feature is designed for 360 apps for phones, and then some.

We have to hand it to Facebook when it comes to innovation where social media and VR content meet. Launching the 360 videos early this year, it’s now followed up by the launching of  Facebook 360 pictures which rolled out across multiple platforms on June 9, 2016. This new feature allows users to share their 360 photos and let the viewers experience them in true panoramic viewing. Users simply have to take the right type of photos (panorama phone pics, 360 photo apps, and special cameras) and upload them. Facebook then automatically recognizes and process these types of photos, therefore presents them in an interactive viewer accessible from your news feed.

As Mark Zuckerberg has announced that day:

Today we’re starting to roll out 360 photos worldwide across Facebook. These are similar to 360 videos — you can tilt your phone and feel like you’re actually there. You can also check them out in virtual reality for a fully immersive experience. The big difference with 360 photos is you can take them with your phone. Just take a panorama or use a 360 camera app, then post it to Facebook and we’ll take care of the rest.

This got some of the users really curious and some went gaga over this news. Zuckerberg’s announcement went viral and got almost 1 million likes and was shared 249,608 times by Facebook users in just five days. 

[Virtual reality was also one of the hot topics that people wanted Mark Zuckerberg to discuss on  the First ever Live Q&A on Facebook, and he did gave an interesting vision on it around the 24th minute of the live session – another stunning innovation. You might want to check that !]

Facebook360-How-to- infographic-Ereviews

Captivating 360 pictures began appearing on News Feeds

NASA and New York Times were already poised to use the Facebook 360 pictures feature just like when the 360 video was launched. This type of content is a definite plus for brands who want to stand out amidst the heap. TechCrunch identifies movie studios and tourist destinations, among others, would greatly benefit in using this technology.  Remember the 360 video footage of Star Wars? That is the kind of impact we expect from this innovation.

The Facebook 360 page has started curating the best 360 pictures to date in social media. Here is a short list :

  • Get high with a panoramic photograph from the top of One World Trade Center, which was shot for the Times magazine using a camera attached to an aluminum arm – a long selfie stick let’s say – that measures 13 feet long projecting from the spire at 1,776 feet above the ground.
  • ‘Explore’ the mystical magic shop of the movie #‎NowYouSeeMe2  in a 360° behind-the-scenes visit with director Jon M. Chu!
  • Ever been to visit the Supreme Court in Washington? Tilt the 360° pictures of the nation’s highest courtroom taken by The New York Times. Note that Television coverage is still banned there.
  • Go Gravity Free in the International Space Station 360-degrees! The laboratory is orbiting at 17.500 mph, 250 miles above and has been continuously occupied for the past 15 years and the first 360 picture of it was posted on 10 June, 00:52 ·
  •  Dive with The Ocean Agency  with their “half a million virtual dives to share from all over the world ” starting with an incredible 360 picture of the world’s best shark dives (Beqa in Fiji)

These are just some of the breathtaking, professional 360 panoramas of places we’d likely not to be able to visit anytime soon.

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What does this mean to the average Facebook user?

Users can now generate their own  virtual reality content using the 360 photo feature that would eventually expand this really engaging content across Facebook. These features, including the 360 video launched early this year, is what sets Facebook apart from other social media platforms when it is about to further its user-generated content capabilities.

Now, just like with anything new, there’s a bit of struggle involved in using this new Facebook feature. It’s evident in the comments section of 360 related posts where many questions are raised and spurred lots of tutorials on this amazing new feature.

The passionate ones have been developing 360 pictures and virtual tours for many years and you could just imagine the daily challenges they had to deal with in making awesome panoramas and it is not as easy as it seems, until now at least. Now that Facebook has made this more accessible to everyone, you’d still need some patience in mastering its use and a little background on how things work is discussed here further.

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How does Facebook know you uploaded a 360 picture?

As explained by the Head of Immersive Imaging for Facebook, Eric Cheng, Facebook recognizes 360 pictures by reading camera-specific metadata. This information is embedded in photo’s Exif (Exchangeable image file format) tags and/or XMP.

When you share 360 photos or equirectangular panoramas straight from your smartphone or camera, Facebook will automatically know the format of the picture and post it for you, no sweat. Simply upload it like you would a normal picture and share them. Facebook will post it on an interactive viewer.

Your smartphone with default panorama capture support can be used to present simple 180 panoramas. Of course, you will not see a 360 view of it.

Metadata. Wait, what? Digital photography and accompanying Data systems Innovation will always be present and we all have to do some catching up on the technical jargons that come with the advancement of technology. EXIF, Camera-specific metadata, Equirectangular projection and 360-ready cameras are just some of the terms we must familiarize ourselves with if we are to embrace this new feature.

EXIF File

EXIF is short for Exchangeable Image File, and where the camera-specific metadata tags are stored in a RAW file. Some SLR manufacturers put their own extension on the RAW file  -Canon uses .CRW, Nikon it’s .NEF – and these contain EXIF data together with the exposure. If you haven’t seen the contents of this file yet, you’ll be surprised at the details contained therein. It records the exact time and date you pressed the shutter and other technical information such as aperture setting, focal length, ISO speed and many more.

So how do you find the EXIF file in your photo? It’s simple for most OS platforms and editors, just right click on the image and select properties and the EXIF file shows up.

The format : Equirectangular projection please!

When viewed as a typical picture, 360 photos would look like the header picture above, which is by the way, a Courtesy of Djahill Z. who took this wonderful shot during her last photography vacations  at the Village above the clouds , Munduk – BALI.

If you look at it good, the image seems to be distorted somehow because it uses 2:1 picture format rather than the typical 1:1 ratio for regular pictures.

Here are the important XMP / Exif tags you want to know about

In order to trigger Facebook’s 360 processing, your photos that have 360 content should be tagged with this widely recognized Google Photo Sphere XMP metadata. This will then be processed by Facebook as a full 360 or a partial 360 photo.

The make and model of you camera (in Exif) will also trigger Facebook 360 processing. This “Make” and “Model” recognition acts as a secondary trigger if the images would lose their XMP metadata during editing. The LG 360 CAM and Ricoh Theta S are popular 360 ready cameras that would contain all of the needed Exif information of 360 photos.

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Cameras & Apps that will give you Best Results to create Facebook 360 photos

360 ready cameras and smartphones, VR made easy !

Professional photography teams are urged to arm your staff with 360 enabled cameras. From the Facebook guide, these cameras will work best with this new feature:ALLie Camera, Samsung Gear 360, Ricoh Theta S, Giroptic 360 Cam, and the 360Fly. If you’re not a user of formal cameras, smartphones like Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy will work just fine.

How are stitched 360 pictures and 360-ready camera any different?

Stitched 360 pictures involve manually editing your captured photos using programs such as Adobe Photoshop, to produce 360 photos, which has its drawbacks and will be discussed later on.

For 360-ready cameras, it’s all about convenience. It’s almost as easy as point and shoot, then the camera automatically stitches these captured images and when you pull them from your file, they’re already in 360-format.

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Have your home-stitched and edited 360 Panorama detected and processed accordingly by Facebook

Good to know that :

Not all Panorama stitching software save the metadata of a picture

Editing 360 Photos in Software like Photoshop can empty your picture’s metadata

So you’ve taken a 360 photo using your camera and decide to do a bit of editing through Adobe Photoshop or iPhoto.  When you open this image, it would be in equirectangular projection with 2:1 landscape aspect ratio. Do your usual edits on content and color like you would on a regular picture and save them on jpg format.

Here’s where it gets sticky, when you do share your edited 360 photo and Facebook fails to recognize them as such, you can blame your image editor for this mess up. Some editors strip out the image’s metadata and the identifiers that trigger the Facebook 360 feature are no longer present.

If one of the former had happened, simply put in the metadata back into the edited file.

Simply re-tag your images with the original values for the “Make” and “Model” so that the Facebook feature can recognize it as a 360 image. You can view these values of the Exif data on the original, unedited file of the photo taken with your 360 camera.

You can edit Exif Tags with a Web-based Exif editor

No need to download any app, simply upload your 360 photo to this site, the eXif.er, and you can view and edit your image. eXif.er also allows you to upload, view, edit and save metadata, and of course download your edited image.

If you made your own 360 photo or you’re not aware of the “Make” and “Model” of the camera that was used to shoot the photo, just use a known brand camera values to use as your trigger.

The recommended values are :

  • For the “Make” of the camera, use “RICOH”

  • For the “Model”, put in RICOH THETA S”.

This will be detected by the Facebook 360 feature and your photo will be processed and ready for 360 viewing. Be sure that the aspect ratio of the image is 2:1.

If you’re savvy enough on this field of photo editing, you can actually re-create or copy over Google Photo Sphere XMP metadata. It may be a preferred method for some but it’s also a more confusing one.

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We at E reviews have tested these solutions

This simple yet complete information are what we like here in our office. We found some 360 pictures in our files from last year, stitched them using Autopano / Panotour and tested the solutions above, and, yep, they sure worked like a charm. If you wish to fact check our first Facebook 360 pictures, check out our Facebook page and follow us!

EDITOR’s note: We had so much fun watching this technology running from our desktop and enjoyed looking at our post using the iPhone 6. The quality is superb and the responsiveness is amazing. The format was no doubt user-friendly.

Some of the smartphones in the office did not have the same results and we suspect that it was due to the Facebook app in these phones not being updated. If you want to experience it in full, we recommend an update of the app.

Author: Djahill ZOUAOUI / Emily Humphreys , is a former production engineer and current traveler that decided to travel the world at the start of her career. She discovered her passion towards photography during a trip to Brazil & ensured she learned as much as possible about it. That’s how she came across virtual reality and 360 pictures. Emily then began to create beautiful immersive views of Bali’s best spots. Moreover, Emily started to write reviews concerning the tech she was using, posting them on eReviews.co.uk. She thought people might appreciate receiving unbiased guidance & information that would give them the chance to ease their decision-making process during purchase.
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