What’s the difference between 360 video and video based VR? Have a look at the video above – and if possible, in a VR headset.

If you’re viewing it on a PC monitor or Ipad or phone screen, the points being made won’t apply… Why?

When viewing this video on a cell/laptop/ipad screen, our senses adapt – from years of watching flat video. We start taking ‘depth cues’ from motion, parallax and our known knowledge of the real world to quickly come to a conclusion about such things as:

  • We’re not really on Aladdin’s floating carpet, but on a boat.
  • At about 0:37, The boat will pass under the bridge.
  • The camera is (we are) at a certain height above the body of water below us…

Now, view the video in a VR headset (as all VR video should be) and you’ll have a hard time telling if the top of the boat will pass under the bridge, or if indeed you’re on a magic carpet, floating on water.


At a recent Content exchange conference: DiscopDubai, during one of the outdoor networking sessions, a few of us were debating the pros and cons or rather the fad-or-not status of Virtual Reality, from a video entertainment perspective. The discussion soon drew quite a large number of delegates around us. One point that needed to be settled was that of the growing number of Video productions claiming to be VR, when in fact they should be called 360 video (or, as in the 1990s: Panoramic video or Quick Time VR)

To explain a bit more, I jumped on one of the cute boats that wind their way lazily down the waterway of the Madinat Jumeirah resort, on whose banks the conference’s informal networking sessions were taking place.

The video was done impromptu, run-and-gun style. The fact that it could be done this way, lends a clue to why there is so much 360 video masquerading as “VR video”.

It’s relatively easier to produce than stereoscopic 360 video, which I believe rightfully can claim the title of ‘cinematic VR’.

Does all VR video then, need to be shot stereoscopically? Of course not. Our binocular or stereopsis range is limited. After a certain distance, other cues kick in: parallax, shape, shadows and our prior knowledge of the world.


when viewing “VR” video in a headset, we’re suddenly in the middle of a virtual world…

…thanks to the large field of view of the headsets, (at least the good ones,) and that’s when conflicts arise. Our brain expects to be fed stereoscopic cues by the eyes in this make believe world too. But… none exist, and so you can’t tell whether the boat will pass under the bridge etc.

The next time you see VR video in a headset try to look for stereoscopic 360 video. Compared to vanilla 360 video, the difference will be like night and day.

For further reading, here’s an older article with a sample mono and stereoscopic versions of the same scene: ‘Presence in Cinematic VR