VR 360 Video – Is it a gimmick?
I’ve been producing video content for over 25 years now and I have to admit, when Oculus first introduced the DK1 headset a few years ago I was skeptical as to how effective this new VR 360 platform could be from a storytelling perspective. After all, isn’t it typically a director’s job to tell the story and manage the pacing and shot selection maximizing the impact of each scene? This is the way visual storytelling has worked since the very first moving picture was released, right? So how would it work then, if the viewer puts on a headset and decides for themselves where to look? How can you tell a story when the audience chooses what they want to see at any given time within a scene? Hmmm….I was about to find out.
It’s as close as it gets to actually being there.
My first experience watching 360 content was SNL’s 40th Anniversary show hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. I eagerly strapped on the headset, plugged in the headphones and pressed play.
What came next changed the way I’ll think of video content forever.
I really wasn’t prepared for just how immersive the experience would be. From being able to watch the guy holding the cue cards below me (the VR camera was positioned over the main host camera) to Keith Richards slouched in his chair like a moving cadaver behind me, to Larry David heckling Seinfeld from the audience – there was so much going on all at once. It really felt like I was there, but invisible. Like I’d crashed the party, but no one could see me. It was exhilarating.
To my right was the stage the guest bands play on. To my left, the celebrity-studded audience. Down below was the floor director and tech crew. Look up and there’s Jerry delivering his monologue. Very, very cool. And I couldn’t help myself – I just kept going back to steal glances at Keith Richards…
I must have watched the monologue six or seven times and each time was a different experience. I began to understand the power of this new technology and the control it gives to the viewer. I was hooked.
Early days, but have faith.
VR content in a headset, whether it be the Samsung Gear VR, or the HTC Vive, the Oculus, or even Google Cardboard, is a completely immersive experience that is hard to explain. You have to try it for yourself. Technology is moving quickly and content producers are discovering different ways of telling stories through this new medium. As a director, there’s lot’s of trial and error, trusting your instincts and flying by the seat of your pants. VR 360 is pretty good now and soon it’s going to be great. Then it’s going to get even better. And it’s happening fast.
So does it work for brands?
Remember when I said I watched the SNL 40 video six or seven times? Well, I’m not alone in this. Studies show that an audience engages nearly four times longer with VR 360 video than a regular video. That’s good news for brands using this technology. And there are lots of them. From the NFL and NBA, Mercedes and Audi, U2 and Maroon 5, The North Face and Columbia Sportswear to Jose Cuervo tequila, brands are creating experiences that leave lasting impressions and are positioning themselves as forward-thinking, cutting-edge companies.
Facebook recently bought Oculus, and now supports 360 video. They’re diving in deep and even coming out with their own camera system. This is not going away folks. But even if you don’t have a headset there are other ways to watch it. VR 360 works well on your desktop, using your mouse or trackpad to control video movement and it works really well on mobile too.
All you early adopters out there are probably already watching this stuff and the rest of world will be joining you shortly. You can find lots of great VR 360 content through a variety of channels like Facebook, Youtube 360, Vimeo 360, Littlstar, VRSE and many others.
VR 360 video is no longer a thing of the future. It’s happening right now. And if you think your competitors are already developing VR 360 experiences for their next campaigns you’re probably right.
Next time I’ll write about my own experiences creating VR 360 video in India for G-Adventures and National Geographic.
About Mike Wetmore:
Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com