the second image shown in this step is a 360 photo from a scenic overlook, of America's mountain Pikes Peak. This is the peak that provided inspiration for "America the Beautiful". You can see this photo in 360 format HERE.
I will cover the basics of set up and getting started using the built in features of the camera, as well as how to get the most out of the Gear 360 with the accompanying app and PC video editor Action Director. I will also show how I modified some inexpensive accessories, to make a portable kit including a monopod and tripod that when combined gives you an 8' tall stand that won't interfere with your 360 degree shots and breaks down to less than 15". Thanks to theinsidersnet.com for the early access to this amazing device.
Step 1: Getting Started
The Samsung Gear 360 camera comes in a compact case that conceals everything you'll need to start taking 360 photos and videos.
32 GB SD card
USB to micro USB charging cable
micro fiber lens cloth
Quick Start Guide and warranty
Actiondirector video editor activation code
cloth carrying case
The SD card can be installed directly into the camera behind the access cover. This is where the battery goes as well. Before you can start taking photos you need to fully charge the battery. To do that you need to install the battery in the camera and then use the cable provided to connect the camera to a power source like a phone charger or computer. While charging there will be a red LED on the side of the camera and once the camera battery is fully charged the LED will turn green. while you wait you should review the quick start guide. Once the battery is charged you're ready to get started.
Step 2: Taking Your First Photos and Videos
The Gear 360 can be used as a stand alone camera, using the built in three button interface and display. the buttons are labeled Back, Menu, & OK. the back button navigates back in the menus as you would expect, but it also serves as the power button. hold the back button down to turn the camera on/off. the menu button scrolls through the camera modes, which include photo, video and time-lapse. you can also select settings where you can change resolution, timer and toggle between dual camera or single front or back camera. The official manual is available HERE. When you power on the gear360 for the first time the display will light up with icons and numbers. The icons show you what mode the camera is in and the numbers tell you how much recording time or how many photos can be added depending on the current mode. The battery condition is also illustrated on the display. LEDs located next to each camera lens indicate if the camera is in dual, front or back camera mode. To capture your first image simply push the "okay" button on top of the camera. You will see a timer start from 2 and then your photo is captured. By default the timer is set to 2 seconds to give you time to get out of the way, but this setting can be adjusted by navigating the "menu" button and selecting the timer function using the "okay" button. the built in controls are limited, but still allow you to use the camera's photo, video and time-lapse features without a Samsung phone or the Android app.
PLAY VIDEO TUTORIAL
Step 3: the Gear 360 VR App
Add a remote and view finder with your android phone and the Gear 360 VR app. If you have a Samsung phone, S6, Note 5 or newer then I would highly recommend downloading the Gear360 app from Samsung. You can download the Samsung Gear 360 app from the Google Play store or from the Galaxy app store. If you turn on your NFC function on your phone and hold it next to the NFC antenna located next to the battery hatch, you will be automatically directed to the app in the Galaxy store. With the Gear360 app you can see a live 360 preview of the camera. You can view photos and video saved on the SD card in the Gear360 camera. You also have easy access to all the camera's settings. From the settings page you can access an online user's manual and you can update the firmware on the camera. And perhaps the best feature of all, you can stitch your 360 photos and videos together on the go, in the mobile app, and share directly to social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and YouTube. Those sites have added support for 360 content that allow you friends, family and followers to share your media the it was meant to be experienced, including through a VR headset.
To use the app, first make sure the camera is powered on then open the app and press the Gear360 tab. The app automatically turns on your device's bluetooth and wifi to pair with the camera. Once paired you will see any photos and videos listed with thumbnail images. To remote control the camera, press the camera icon on the bottom right side of the screen and you will see the live preview. The mode button will toggle between photo, video, video loop and time-lapse. There is also a lens button to toggle between dual, front and back cameras. At the bottom center of the screen is the shutter button and all you have to do is click to start recording or take a photo. along the top of the live preview screen are your resolution, white balance, and other image options. One notably absent feature, of the app, is the ability to sticth together 4K video. For this you will need to download Gear360 Actiondirector.
Step 4: Action Director
ActionDirector is a Windows based video editing program that let's you stitch together the two 180 degree videos into a full 360 degree video that can be uploaded to sites such as Facebook and YouTube, where they can be shared and viewed in full 360 format. You can download Action director HERE.
In the Gear360 packaging you will find a small slip of paper with a long activation code on it. This is your free access to the Cyberlink Gear360 ActionDirector software. If you lose the activation code you will have to pay to replace it. ActionDirector has too many features to name here, but in short it allows you to combine multiple videos and/or photos, add titles or other text, create slow or fast motion effects, dub sound or music and render video in the highest resolution possible with the Gear360 and much more. I made a short video tutorial to illustrate how easy it is to get started with the basic features.
For my first attempt I used 360 degree photos and compiled them together into a 360 degree video slide show.
Step 5: Accessories
If your serious about making great 360 content, you will need to get creative with ways to set up your camera to get the most immersive shots possible. The tripod that comes with the Gear 360 is a great compact and convenient stand, but to get the most out of the camera you will need some additional options to allow you to capture 360 video and photos with as little obstruction as possible. First, I needed to extend the height of the factory tripod, so that I could place the tripod on a table and have the camera be at head height with the people sitting at the table. For this, I found that the thread in the camera was a standard 1/4"-20 thread. This meant I could simply go to the hardware store and but a short length of threaded rod and a 1/4"-20 coupler, which would allow me to attach the threaded rod to the factory tripod and mount the camera 15" higher then I could before.
Next I wanted to be able to have my Gear360 standing on the floor, at eye level with standing people, without having a large tripod in each shot. I found a cheap Targus tripod at Walmart, that collapses to 15" , but has a stable base even when the legs are not extended. If I extend the legs then more of the tripod obstructs the shot, so I removed the plastic camera mount that came with the tripod. Then I bought a Monopod/Selfie Stick also from Walmart for about $5. I removed the rubber hand grip and found the the base of the monopod and the telescoping center pof th tripod were both 1/2" tubing. So all I had to do was couple the two pieces of 1/2" tubing together. I'm sure there are better ways to accomplish this task, but I did it by hammering a 3/8" threaded rod coupler into the 1/2" tubing, on both the tripod and the monopod. Now I have a hex shape socket in the tripod that fits the hex coupler I left in the monopod, giving me a stand that can extend to more than 8' but can still collapse to 15" for portability.
The next custom mount I made was for the passenger seat of my car. since I had some left over 1/4"-20 threaded rod, I took an old head rest from a junkyard vehicle and stripped it down the metal frame. All I had to do was drill a 1/4" hole and fasten the threaded rod in place. This gives me a passengers eye view for first person story telling or scenic tours.
I see a lot more custom mounts in my future. Kites, Drones, zip lines, a clamp for a bicycle or bicycle helmet. It's time to get creative and start making 360 content of our own.