Oculus VR, which was bought by Facebook in early 2014 for $2 billion, is due to launch its first consumer headset at the start of 2016. Most significantly, the former start-up has acted as a catalyst to leading names in the sector, which have rushed to offer their own VR (Virtual Reality) headset solutions, including Samsung, Sony, HTC and Canon, as well as Google, which is now offering a very reasonably priced solution made from cardboard which users assemble themselves.
The world of video-gaming is likely to provide the first market for this new technology.
“Game developers know how to get people immersed in graphical simulations better than anybody, so it is natural to think they will be first in line to create content,” says Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner.
The demonstrations presented in June 2015 at E3, the largest video gaming expo in the world, will lead to the first product launches in 2016.
A new video production standard
After 4K and 3D, the video production industry is preparing for a new revolution. With manufacturers and broadcasters already involved, the world of content production is beginning to catch up and focus more closely on this new standard. Youtube has made its player compatible, as well as launching a channel dedicated to 360° videos at the start of 2015.
The immersion effect, when the user becomes immersed in a VR video sequence, is an intense experience difficult to imagine for those who haven’t yet tried VR.
“When you look in the air, you see what was filmed in the air. When you look down you see what was filmed below… You are plunged into a real but virtual world. With VR, there are those who have tried it and everyone else. You need to see the astonished expression on the face of someone who takes off their head-set after watching their first movie to understand the power of this new media,” explains Pierre Lapeyrade, one of the French pioneers of VR and head of the VR division at Be Contents.
For now, VR remains more complicated to produce than a traditional movie. Special equipment is needed to shoot the images, including a circular rig holding six to 12 GoPro cameras to capture everything happening in the scene. Once filmed, the images need to be “stitched together”, meaning the various feeds are divided up and reassembled to create a perfect and seamless sphere. This painstaking, technical and time-consuming work currently presents a production obstacle. However, the emergence of cameras which carry out the stitching live, such as the Theta S from Ricoh, should soon resolve this issue and facilitate content production.
In terms of content, the VR format appears particularly well-suited to short videos and images of sporting events, concerts, tourism, nature and architecture. Content is initially likely to be broadcast via the internet, on Youtube or other dedicated video platforms. With TF1, Europe’s largest television station, having already experimented internally with live broadcasting of a soccer match in VR, it is certain that the major networks will follow.