If you’ve been following VR lately, you’ve likely been seeing an uptick in content being promised and a few new items being released on a regular basis. Some good, some not so much. Along with content, there are a few more devices being put out on the market in the last month or so and the market as a whole is heating up. Even if you aren’t specifically following VR, I’d guess that you likely have seen a few articles here and there more than in the recent past. Obviously as this is the “latest and greatest tech” at the moment, going from zero to something doesn’t take much. I say though that this is all due to the impending flood of marketing time and money that will be thrown at this in the next 6 months to a year.
I believe we are at the very forefront of the virtual reality boom of both technology and content. As people give it a try and play around, it’s quickly discovered that this newest medium to consume content and get interactive is going to very popular, in high demand and virtually explode. Of course it is completely dependent on being available to the masses in an affordable manner, but there is headway being made there too.
What I tend to research and play with is what we will use this technology for. Messing around with things now and awing people or making them sick maybe, has all been play time. What will VR be when it properly matures and how will people use it. There are so many areas that this technology can be used it’s crazy. From gaming, video consumption, education, social interaction and replacing your monitor for a virtual world around you to use your computer on. The ideas and possibility seem endless.
One thing that really interests me is how video content can be created for VR. There are a couple of options in this area, 180 and 360 degree. Recently there was an NBA game put on and it was lauded that there was only 180 degrees field of vision. You don’t really need any more than that anyways, unless you are just looking around at other people. It makes sense to not bother with the other 180 degrees as it will just strain bandwidth, resources and if it’s a recording then disk space too. The amount of information required to be broadcast to the system is more limited and theoretically should be inconsequential to the end user experience.
Take a wildlife documentary though, or a “day in the life” sort of reality TV show and we now have to think that 180 isn’t going to cut it. As a user, you’re no longer just needing to look ahead, you will likely want to see everything that is going on around you. It’s the user experience that matters still, even when the technology changes.
It doesn’t take a lot of searching to come up with videos and articles of people talking about how to tell stories through VR. Gaming sites area a great place to look for these articles as game creators have been telling stories for years now. There was one recently that I watched and read on the concept of giving the user the perceived idea that they can choose any direction to go, but in reality there was only one. A linear story provided in a non-linear format. This is what VR stories must be too.
These stories must be told very carefully, no longer will the story teller just be able to point a camera somewhere and force the viewer to watch what they show. 180 or 360 degree video will give choice, it will now be up to the creator to come up with logical and creative ways to have the viewer pay attention to the right part of the story.
To really prove and accentuate this point, I recently had a few friends try out the simple Welcome to Oculus app on the Rift DK2. Each person reacted differently to it. If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look here to get an idea or try it. The concept is simple: take people through a few areas that show off the capabilities and experiences of VR. From sitting in a textured 3D room, to moving through a movie theater, starry sky with a flashlight and falling from the top of a large room to the bottom. Each area evokes a different feeling and understanding. The thing is though, each person that tried it did something different.
When I tried it for the first time, I was curious. I looked around a lot, yet was captivated by the methods used to capture my attention. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time going through that I really experimented with looking around that I looked through the back wall of the apartment to see the starry sky I had just left behind. Watching others, the same thing. Some are stationary, you almost have to tell them they can look around. Some are more curious but the pattern was the same. The story was told to capture the attention of the person watching, and was effective. That takes creativity and thought to allow a lack of attention or request and coerce attention.
Gaming, virtual social experiences, watching static content (like pictures and videos) will all have their place, but I think it’s the consumption of live and highly advanced story telling that will really take off. It can apply to so many areas and be so diverse in it’s usage that it’s inevitable that this part of cinematography will be an industry all on it’s own. Very interesting times. More on VR to follow…