360 degree apps – the most important tools for editing VR content
In this article I explain how you can take and edit VR pictures and videos with your smartphone. Whether it is an iPhone or a device with an Android operating system. In another part of this series I explain how to tell stories in 360 degrees.
360-degree videos are becoming increasingly popular. Since Facebook and YouTube have activated the display of VR-content, the production and consumption of virtual realities (VR) has been booming. Thanks to cheaper hardware, the VR world is now also reaching the mass market. This makes it easier and easier to take pictures. However, if you were dissatisfied with the raw material or wanted to edit it a bit more, you were always dependent on your desktop computer to edit 360-degree videos and photos. Apart from small corrections, of course, which were also possible with the respective apps of the camera manufacturers. But that is about to change dramatically.
First of all, my equipment. I own an iPhone and bought the reasonably affordable Insta360 nano camera (for Android users, the Insta360 Air is an even cheaper device). She delivers quite good quality. However, the scope of functions of the included app is very limited. Large machining operations are therefore not possible. It’s a good thing that there are other suppliers on the market. Here is an overview of the apps and their functions.
- Insta360 Nano-For shooting 360-degree image/video (iOS, free. I have not tested the free Android version for the Insta360 Air. But it looks similar). The app is well suited to control the camera directly. If you want to use the camera without iPhone to record pictures and videos, you can change the settings via the app. To use the app, the iPhone must be turned upside down. This is useful if there is actually an Insta360 nano in the Lightning connector, but not if you want to edit some pictures or videos on the go. The processing possibilities are very limited anyway. For images, you can only add a few filters, choosing between three “image enhancement modes” (but no real image enhancements are to be expected). If you like, you can cover the camera tripod with a small picture (“sticker”), take a screenshot (and thus make a normal photo from an image section) and change the display form. You can choose between fisheye, perspective (which comes closest to our viewing habits) or planet. That’s about it. The editing functions are similarly limited for videos: Only individual clips can be trimmed, filters and “image enhancements” can be placed over the video and then selected as the display format Panorama or Planet. That’s about it.
- The THETA+ (iOS/Android editing app works differently than its name suggests, even with images taken with other cameras. It allows several 360-degree photos of the same scenery to be combined into a time-lapse shot. Image processing is also strong. It allows you to add text to the 360 degree panorama. Seven different fonts and the text color can be selected. The font size is determined by manual scaling with the fingers. The text can then be freely placed on the recording and rotates with it. This is wonderful when you want to describe individual objects. Small pictures (“stamps”) can also be placed on the images. Unlike the Insta app, however, they are not limited. If you like, you can stamp your picture completely. The image correction functions are also much more sophisticated than with the Insta app. Exposure, contrast, color temperature, depths and bright areas, saturation and brightness can be adjusted via the app. And of course, the Theta app also provides the mandatory filter
- For videos, Theta offers its own editing app: THETA+ Video (iOS/Android free). It also works fine with videos recorded with other devices. Similar to the Insta app, the clips can be trimmed and filtered. In addition, you can increase the playback speed via the app (a maximum of ten times the speed is possible) and turn a recording into a time-lapse video. In the last step you can switch the original sound of the video on or off and a background music (the app provides eight titles, others can be added from the phone’s media library). Unfortunately, only single clips can be edited with the app. It would be nice if in the future it would be possible to edit entire videos consisting of several clips.
- Pie – make and watch 360 videos (iOS, free) is actually a social network for the 360-degree community. However, videos can also be edited with the corresponding app. As with the apps already introduced, these can also be shortened (trimmed) and equipped with filters. You can also give your clip a title, which is always displayed above the video. Very nice is the function to change the starting perspective. This is very practical when you put the “wrong” side of your camera on the action like I do every now and then. I also wanted a function in Pie that would allow me to turn several 360° clips into one video.
- Collect (Android, free) is well on its way to closing a big gap. With the app, smartphone users can save themselves the detour via the computer and edit panorama videos directly on their phone. When starting the app, you can select several clips from which you want to cut your video. You can change the order later on in the app and of course you can add more clips to the project. Background music can be selected for the entire film. Each clip can be trimmed individually, with color filters and a new start perspective. In addition, the playback speed can be set for each clip. However, the selection is limited to normal, slow-motion and time-lapse without the latter two being largely controllable. The finished video can then be stored on the device or shared on social networks such as YouTube and Facebook. Collect even supports videos with resolutions up to 4K and there is no maximum video length. The announced iPhone version is unfortunately a long time coming. I hope she will come soon.
- The app V360 – 360 video editor is currently only available for Android devices. It can also be used to edit several clips and combine them into a video. The editing functions are limited to changing the order of playback, trimming the clips and deleting, adding and duplicating individual clips. Once everything has been cut, background music can also be selected via the V360 app. Unfortunately, functions to change the start perspective and to add text are missing. But since the app is still only available in a beta version, I hope for the future, in which an iPhone version will probably also come. V360 seems much tidier than Collect and editing functions seem much more intuitive.
Update (March 2018): The App VeeR Editor for iOS and Android is now available. And I was really excited about it. So much so that I named her App of the Month March 2018. Why I am so enthusiastic you can read in this article.