Virtual Reality

Virtual reality and video production

reality-media-Alice-matrix-loMany of the applications of video production such as marketing and training are likely to find a use for VR and related technologies in the coming years. This is an exciting time to be involved in media production. We have been exploring ways that our clients can benefit from virtual reality in both 360 video and computer generated VR. These are early days though forward-looking companies might be interested in exploring ways that this technology could benefit them and put them ahead of the game.

What is virtual reality?

The term ‘virtual reality’ was coined in the 1980s though the idea and technology has been around since the 50s. An attempt at consumer VR began in the 90s aimed at the gaming industry though it never developed much momentum. This time round, the technology has advanced substantially and leading companies such as Facebook and Sony are investing billions into it. Virtual reality refers to an immersive multimedia experience where the viewer is able to interact with the virtual environment. This was originally conceived as a computer simulated environment though recent developments in 360 spherical video technology have created a branch of VR using just video.

What is the difference between computer generated virtual reality and 360 VR video?

Computer generated VR allows interactivity within the virtual environment. The user can move around within the virtual space either with controllers or with their own body via position tracking. 360 spherical video is a live video recording using multiple camera lenses to produce a 360° video environment that can be viewed from a VR headset. The user can choose to look around the virtual environment from any direction though the interactivity is limited compared to computer-generated VR. It does however, produce a high degree of realism and immersiveness and can recreate a wide range of real-world experiences. Over the coming years, with technologies such as light field rendering we will likely see CG and video merge.

How might companies and brands use virtual reality?

Although virtual reality is at present driven by the games industry we believe there are many potential practical applications for corporate VR production. The military have been using VR for training over the last few years with great success. When the mind believes something to be real a much greater impact is made and retention levels are greatly increased. This idea has been used for a long time with hypnosis. The unconscious mind is fundamentally unable to tell the difference between what is imagined what is real. We can change human behaviour simply by visualisation if we can suspend disbelief sufficiently. This is why virtual reality may have such a big influence in training, education and therapy.

Marketing is another area where some forward-looking brands are testing the water with considerable success. On Youtube, the VR versions of promotional videos are at present, often greatly outperforming the 2-D videos. Storytelling within the VR environment is quite different to traditional filmmaking though the level of engagement is potentially much higher. Successful campaigns are creating branded experiences rather than traditional promotional videos. Branding within VR can also be more impactful as the viewer in a headset is giving their full attention.

Pre-visualisation using VR in architecture and the construction industry is already being successfully used and some of the 3-D modelling software is already incorporating plug-ins for virtual reality headsets. Virtual tours, showrooms and product demonstrations are also being used in real estate and tourism giving potential customers a convincing experience of properties and destinations.