Learn from the Great: VR Masterclass with 360 Rumors
If you're any familiar with the 360/VR community at all, there's one name you cannot have missed: Michael Ty. He's the founder of 360 Rumors, the biggest 360 product review website, where he's published 1,700 news, reviews, and tutorials about 360 cameras and VR. With this interview, we hope to offer you an insider look into how Michael's 360 photography/review career took off and evolved over time.
What did you do before becoming a tech reviewer? How has that experience influenced you in getting into the VR/360 industry?
Prior to 360Rumors.com, I had been an avid photographer with conventional cameras since 2007, and had been blogging about photography since 2009. I liked shooting candids, events, street photos, and abstracts based on street subjects.
My experience as a photographer has helped me in several ways:
First, I learned about fundamental techniques of photography, such as exposure and lighting.
Second, I developed a passion for shooting with ultrawide and fisheye lenses, and 3D cameras. The compositional skills for these types of lenses share many things in common with the composition for 360 photos and videos, both 2D and 3D.
Third, writing about photography helped me hone my research, writing, and analytical skills, particularly for reviewing cameras and accessories.
When I learned about the Ricoh Theta, I thought it was an interesting concept and could be useful for candid and street photos. I got one and, as with my other cameras and lenses, I liked to shoot exclusively with a lens for 1 or 2 months in order to learn how to compose with that lens and be able to pre-visualize the result.
At the end of two months, I felt that I had barely scratched the surface of the artistic possibilities of a 360 camera. Even ordinary subjects could look extraordinary.
It was then that I decided to focus exclusively on 360 cameras, and so I’ve been shooting 360 almost exclusively since May 2015. I started with tiny planet photos and videos, and then I became more interested in spherical photos and videos, and later, 3D 360 photos and videos.
After gaining experience in shooting with 360, I began writing about 360 cameras in February 2016. Since then, as of October 2017, I have written over 1,700 news, reviews, and tutorials about 360 cameras and VR on 360rumors.com.
What motivated you to start your own website and Facebook communities?
Ever since I began learning about photography back in 2007, one of my favorite resources had been Digital Photography Review, especially with their detailed camera reviews. When I became interested in 360 cameras, I was expecting that DPReview would begin reviewing them. However, it seemed they had no plans of doing serious reviews of 360 cameras. At most, there were only news articles announcing 360 cameras but not a single review with the same depth that DPR is known for.
I therefore decided to create a website that would review 360 cameras, which culminated in the 360 Camera Comparison page on 360Rumors.com, which I hope will be a useful tool for the 360 community.
Besides DP Review, I also liked news sites such as Petapixel, Micro 4/3 Rumors, Mirrorless Rumors, and other similar sites. And, as with DPReview, it seemed they were not particularly interested in 360 cameras, so I also decided to cover news about 360 cameras in my website as well.
As for the Facebook communities, such as the 360 Cameras Group, I wanted to create a community for readers of 360 Rumors so that the readers can help each other. At first, I thought of creating a forum within 360Rumors.com. However, I later decided to use Facebook groups to function as a forum, and so far it seems to be working.
I think keeping up with 360 camera news is challenging because the 360 camera industry evolves so rapidly compared to the conventional digital camera industry. One of the ways I keep up with the news is because I have created a community of 360 camera enthusiasts, and they often provide me with information for articles.
As for competition, in some ways it is competitive and in other ways it is not. Now that 360 cameras are becoming more popular, general tech-related websites are attempting to review 360 cameras. On one hand, it is not competitive because 360 cameras are quite different from conventional cameras, therefore I have far more accurate and useful information than they do. On the other hand, because those general tech websites have been around longer, and have much larger traffic, their search results frequently float to the top. So my challenge is to let people know about 360 Rumors so that they can judge for themselves who has the best quality information.
What is the hardest about keeping up with tech trends, to keep your website as informative as it is? Is the competition you face fierce?
What are some questions you get asked by people in the 360 community that annoy you the most? What are some that delight you the most?
I don’t usually get annoyed by questions because I know that 360 is so new that for many people, it is still mysterious, so they have a lot of questions. The questions that I find most delightful are questions about creative and interesting ideas.
The 360 camera that I use most often right now is probably the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere (now Madventure). There are many things I like about it, such as its excellent photo quality, and very good video quality. I have to admit I feel a little bit of an attachment to the Xiaomi as well because I was one of the first, if not the first, to discover its image stabilization and how it could be used to create an invisible flying camera effect.
For sharing photos and videos, I like to share to Facebook, YouTube and VeeR.
What I like about VeeR is that it is exclusively 360 and it is run by people who are passionate about 360. I also like VeeR’s support for both photos and videos (including 3D 360 videos), and soon 3D 360 photos as well, which means it will be so far the only site with complete support for all types of 360 media - photos and videos, 2D and 3D.