When I got my first 360 camera two years ago, I was fascinated by its seemingly limitless artistic possibilities, particularly with tiny planets, rabbit holes, and their variations. Even grocery runs became hunts for interesting tiny planet images.
As for spherical 360 photos and videos -- the kind you view with a headset or by swiping on your phone screen -- I also found them interesting, but did not have as much appeal for me for a few reasons: first, it was much harder to be creative with them. I could not play with the composition in postprocessing the way I could with tiny planets. Second, unlike tiny planets, spherical photos and videos were brutal with their honesty. If anything was out of place, it would stick out in a spherical 360 photo or video, whereas the same distraction could be hidden or even be used in a tiny planet photo. Third, I had used Google Cardboard viewers, and I found it impressive that a phone could be used for that, but I did not find it immersive, so I could not be bothered to use a Cardboard viewer.
But all that changed and here's how it happened.
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were released around March last year, and I was very curious about trying them out. I was finally able to find a demo of the Rift at a Best Buy. I had read the rave reviews from people who had experienced VR for the first time so I had somewhat high expectations. Nonetheless, when I donned the Oculus Rift, I was unprepared for the immediate presence that I felt. Instantly, I felt as though I was in the VR world, as my confused mind had to remind itself several times that I was only wearing a VR headset. It was a completely different feeling compared to Google Cardboard. Even in scenes that had only stylized graphics, it felt as though the objects I was looking at truly had an existence of their own. At the end of the demo, as I removed the headset, the sales representative said, "Welcome back," and it felt oddly appropriate, because it really did feel as if I was coming back from a trip.
After that experience, I wanted to create for that medium. Tiny planets and rabbit holes seemed trivial in comparison and whereas I used to post almost daily to Instagram, my Instagram feed of tiny planets just stopped. I started to shoot spherical 360 photos and videos. Of course, 360 photos and videos are technically not VR, but they're the most accessible means of creating media for VR headsets such as the Rift, Vive, PSVR, Gear VR and Daydream. The challenges that I encountered before, such as the difficulty of composition, were still there. But now I was motivated to try to overcome them.
And having seen the difference in immersiveness between 2D 360 and 3D 360, I yearned to be able to shoot in 3D 360, as I waited patiently for the Vuze. Now that it's been released and I've had the chance to shoot with it, I'm encountering new challenges that make 2D 360 seem easy in comparison. But I know that if skillfully used, 3D 360 cameras such as the Vuze can create immersive experiences like the ones that enthralled me when I first tried VR.