News & Views

Opinion / Virtual Intent

by Contagious Contributor
Sol Rogers, CEO/Founder of REWIND:VR takes us through what viewers can look forward to, thanks to Virtual Reality

VR has the ability to have a huge impact on numerous parts of our daily lives, none more so than TV. By feeling ‘present’ you can experience content like never before. VR can be used with people’s passion points – sport, music, celebrity etc – to bring them closer to their heroes and enable a new form of storytelling. TV broadcasters started experimenting with 360 degree video a few years ago, now we are seeing serious intent and commitment from them.

So what can viewers expect?

Sport / VR headsets can give the user a courtside seat view or the ability to view the action from 360 degrees. The opening game of this year’s NBA basketball championships was distributed live in VR to owners of NextVR compatible headsets.

The opportunity to place a VR rig in a ringside/courtside/pitchside seat and then sell it thousands of times over has inevitably piqued promoters’ interest. Plus VR sport is comparatively cheap to produce as you’re not creating new realities or new ways of shooting, you basically install a camera rig as appropriate. The main challenge at the moment is distribution, existing broadband networks struggle to stream flat 4k video, let alone live 4k VR which has a nine-fold pixel count increase.

Entertainment / 360 video is already being used in all forms of entertainment. REWIND:VR has shot both Strictly Come Dancing and Made in Chelsea (above) in 360 degrees, taking fans into the heart of the action and giving them a new way to engage with the format. Whilst this content was an add-on to the traditional TV format, we are already seeing whole series being created in 360 degrees e.g. the 360° Horror Series which is getting millions of views per episode.

News / Immersive journalism uses VR to put the public in the middle of a scene as news unfolds and could transform the way we witness events around the world. For example, Sky News, in collaboration with Jaunt, has used VR to take viewers to the front line of Europe’s migration crisis in Greece enabling them to see for themselves what is happening there. 360 degree video is a cheap way of putting the viewer into the heart of the story.

However, TV news often comes with the warning: ‘The following report contains scenes that some viewers may find upsetting but with VR there is no escaping, viewers are seeing the whole truth which is the beauty of this medium but also, in this case, could be seen as a downfall do people really want to be transported to traumatic events on a regular basis? On the other hand, being transported in 360 degrees to a red carpet and seeing A-list celebrities from all angles is a much easier sell.

360 video is an easy entry point for broadcasters, hence its early adoption. However, new formats of blended VR are emerging. For the Red Bull Air Race, which is broadcast around the world, REWIND: VR created an interactive flight experience using real telemetry data from the flights. The Oculus Rift experience was deployed at the race events, but it has the potential to be turned into an app that people can download and experience with their own headset at home. The VR headset will soon be as much a part of the furniture as the remote control as it literally adds a whole new dimension to the TV viewing experience.