360 has arrived at Vimeo, and Vimeans are super excited! Admittedly, 360 video is still a relatively new animal for filmmakers to wrangle, as they bend the rules of storytelling and push it new directions. But even in its infancy, several film genres are leading the pack in being perfectly suited to this new medium. And that’s for a reason: the genres below make use of the inherent strengths built into 360 video. But first, let’s explore what those strengths are to get a solid foundation.

Immersive experiences

360 video rigs often make use of several cameras, each of which has a wide angle lens. As a result, you get the natural characteristics of a wide angle lens: field of view and distortion. In plain English, objects in your scene that are really close to the lens or near the edge of the frame (for each of the lenses) are heavily distorted, and objects that aren’t close to the lens look super far away. Not great for close-ups of people’s faces, but absolutely perfect for providing an expansive sense of your place within the environment. While you can use software to reduce distortion, you’re still left with the look of a wide angle lens.

In addition to several cameras being used in a single 360 video rig, so too are multiple microphones. Enter binaural sound, where two microphones are used ‘” usually the same distance apart as a human head. Not only are viewers now hearing sound, it’s also possible to experience sound as it wraps around them.

And lastly, 360 video is active. Whether you’re using a mouse to control the camera angle as you watch the video on Vimeo or making use of a headset, as a viewer, you’re no longer passively engaging with the video. You’re interacting with it and exerting your own control. Ultimately this creates a completely unique-to-you experience.

So taken together, what types of stories work best for 360? We turned to 360 video (and VR / Augmented Reality) producer Devon Lyon about these strengths, and three genres of films that can benefit from this new type of film experience.

Genres that lend themselves to 360 videos

Documentaries

Think back to the last documentary you watched. Where did the story take place? Chances are that it’s easy to recall the location, and for good reason: many documentaries rely on place as a key character.

Now, imagine what it would be like if you could truly experience that location — to be in the same room as the characters of the film are in, and to hear the sounds that make the location come alive — just as you would if you were physically there. The heightened emotional impact for the viewer is astounding.

Now let’s add in the ability to control where you’re looking, reducing the inherent subjectivity of filmmaking. That’s the power that 360 videos can add to a documentary film.

Travel

Wanderlust is powerful. It’s why travel films are among the most popular on Vimeo (and regularly Staff Picked). As much as we’d all like to hop on a plane and travel to far off places on a whim, it’s rarely possible (thanks work!).

That doesn’t mean, however, that just because you can’t physically go to a location, you’re unable to experience it. 360 video provides an opportunity to “visit” far off places and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds.

And with the wide field of view, expansive vistas of nature’s most incredible moments — from starry nights to flowing lava — are sure to bring out the awe in everyone (and maybe calm down those feelings of wanderlust) when it’s shown in 360.

Stories from brands and organizations

The best brands and organizations often have the best stories. They’re also good at telling them, and telling them frequently. As new technology becomes available, they’re often the early adopters — in search of new and exciting ways to share their story and build their audience. With 360 videos, you are no longer a passive viewer. Instead, you can now be an active part of their mission — a participant in their brand story and their success.

As Jamie from charity:water shares in her interview with Vimeo, 360 video allows her to share the organization’s story and mission in a new way, furthering the brand’s philanthropic message.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten your bearings on what makes 360 videos so special for creators, and what specific film genres can really benefit from it. Of course, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind. All creative decisions you make for each project will either help or detract from the final film — 360 video is no different. Used incorrectly and it will take you out of a story instantly. Used correctly and it’s a magical storytelling tool. Now create and upload away!

Huge thanks to Devon Lyon, from VR Northwest / Lyon Films for helping out with this post. To dive even further into the world of immersive storytelling, check out his Ted-X talk on Augmented Reality Storytelling.