Production Tips

Virtual reality and the future of video production

There is no doubt that 2016 is the year of virtual reality with all of the main players in this burgeoning technology releasing headsets this year. Facebook owned Oculus released the Rift in Spring 2016, the HTC Vive started taking pre-orders in February and Sony’s Playstation VR is open for pre-order with the first deliveries arriving in October 2016. On top of that, most new smartphones can be turned into makeshift VR headsets with the use of Google Cardboard or Samsung’s Gear VR. So, there’s a lot of new technology kicking around but what does it all mean and is it the future for video?

What is the point of virtual reality videos?

It’s no surprise that most of the VR headsets have been shown off using video games and simulators. Games such as Adr1ft and Eve: Valkyrie put you into the action and give you a fully immersive experience whether that’s floating around a derelict space station or piloting an aircraft whilst battling oncoming foes. However, virtual reality videos can offer a similar if not fully interactive experience. Obvious examples would be things like high octane sports to give you the experience of hang gliding or snowboarding from the comfort of your own room. Or what if you missed out on getting those incredibly sought after tickets to see Adele? A VR video would give you access to the best seats in the house without the need to battle the crowds.

We’re also starting to see virtual reality used for more than just entertainment. Medical Realities use VR and AR (augmented reality) to help train medical practitioners and in April they streamed the very first live VR operation where audiences could watch a live surgery. And, as you can see below, you don’t need a headset to experience 360 degree video with YouTube and other websites offering 360 degree and VR support.

Is VR just a gimmick?

Needless to say that whenever a new technology comes along it’s very easy to get swept up in it. Do you remember the hype surrounding 3D a few years ago? Almost every technology company got behind building 3D TVs, glasses, cameras etc only for it to be all but forgotten just a couple of years later (something that we at Echo Video predicted).

However, I don’t feel that VR is in the same category as 3D, simply because it is offering a completely new experience not just a slightly enhanced one (although the use of the word “enhanced” for 3D is debatable). It will offer an experience that you can’t get any other way and as long as consumers see it that way, producers will continue to make new, exciting content.

Will VR put an end to traditional video and film making?

With all of this in mind VR has one major problem – the headset. If people were loath to put on 3D glasses to watch films are they really going to strap on a headset that completely fills there vision and closes them off to all outside influences? The answer is of course yes, some people will for the right experience. But when it comes to quickly accessing video content, nothing will beat the traditional approach for quickly informing, educating and entertaining as nearly everyone has a smartphone or computer that will immediately allow them to watch a video.

However, as the technology progresses and evolves the prices will drop, the gear will improve and maybe in a few years time everyone will be walking around with a pair of goggles strapped to their face. But, as with all new technologies, whatever happens, things won’t change over night.

We’re really excited about virtual reality and how it impacts our industry. We’re hoping to have a couple of VR projects completed in the next couple of months so keep an eye on echovideo.co.uk and if you want to have a chat about producing a VR or 360 video then get in touch with Will or Andy.

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