Google’s VR division and YouTube have developed a new immersive-video format called VR180 — basically, a spherical video environment where only the front half of the sphere is recorded and played back.

The idea, Google said, is to make the creation of immersive video less onerous by only worrying about the pixels in front of the viewer. That makes production easier by making it possible to hide the crew behind the camera, instead of trying to keep them out of site entirely. It also makes more sense for streaming, especially live streams and/or stereoscopic 3D, as the loss of the rear view means more bandwidth can be dedicated to shoring up the quality of the front view.

VR 180 camera concept

VR 180 camera concept

Google is partnering with camera makers including Lenovo, LG and YI Technology to make cameras designed for shooting VR 180 video that it says will be available “this winter” — likely meaning Q1 2018. Google seems to be positioning these as prosumer cameras, touting them for content creators as well as home videographers. “They will be as easy to use as point-and-shoot cameras, for around the same price,” said Product Manager Frank Rodriguez in a statement posted at Google’s official YouTube blog. Rodriguez also said Google is starting a VR180 certification program, with Z Cam as one of its first partners. GoPro, an early leader in the 360 video space, was not mentioned.

“For creators, you’ll be able to set up and film your videos the way you normally would with any other camera,” Rodriguez said. “And, soon, you’ll be able to edit using familiar tools like Adobe Premiere Pro.”

Interested? Check out this playlist of VR180 demos to see how the format plays on your headset. It’s a fairly effective compromise, though if you turn your head from side to side you’re likely to notice the black boundaries of the image. Google’s official VR180 page has a sign-up form for those wanting more information on the format.

Google VR180: