Video Production: The Reality of Virtual Reality

Posted by Alex Hinojosa on 8/31/18 2:50 PM

Creating a video or marketing piece in virtual reality or 360 is getting easier, cheaper and more en vogue.

Virtual reality, or VR, is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image that can be interacted with in a seemingly real way, by a person using special equipment.

360 video, while similar to VR, is primarily directional. The viewer can look all around, having an experience in a virtual reality, but not necessarily interacting with that reality directly. The terms are extremely close, and use the same headgear--but the subtle differences are worth noting. 

Until you’re involved in a VR or 360 project, it can be difficult to imagine its challenges, and the special considerations that come with the creation of a virtual reality for your viewers. It’s so exciting, and the ideas often so strong, that it can be easy to let creativity take too hard a hold, allowing practicality and plausibility to take the back seat.

Fortunately for you, 4media group has some experience, and we’re here to tell you what to think about before you get too carried away with what could be.

To App, or Not to App: That is the [First] Question

Before you shoot a single frame of your VR project, you need to ask an extremely important question: How do I want to host this, and what do I want that to be like for my audience? 

This may be one of the most important questions you can ask, because it is going to impact the entire experience in terms of video quality, ease of playback and more.

There are tons of apps that host VR experiences, and they range from completely free to fairly expensive. That price has everything to do with what you want to get.

At the root of this question is how much work you think people should have to do to view your video. The reality is this: Most hosting platforms require that you download an application, so that the video can viewed on mobile and then inserted into something like a Google Cardboard, a Samsung Gear VR, or whatever goggles are being used.

(High-level VR experiences like the Oculus Rift are a different story, because they run through dedicated PC's. Read about it here.)

If downloading an application isn’t an issue for the consumers of your end product, then you have a world of options available to you.  Household names like YouTube and Vimeo can host VR content, and other dedicated apps and platforms, like Visbit, are also excellent options, though typically more expensive.

Alone on the other end of the spectrum is Omnivert, the only platform (so far) that can host a VR video natively on a webpage, meaning you don’t have to worry about applications.

To Tell a Tale, Or Offer an Experience?

After establishing an ideal hosting experience, it’s finally time to get a bit creative. At the most macro level, you can do two things with VR: Tell a story in a fully narrative form, or offer an experience to users.

Which of these you choose to do should depend on your aim. Both will educate, and both will engage, but the final assessment needs to take a realistic look at your very end goal. Are you sharing an experience in the hopes of bringing others into the fold, or are you trying to provide people with options to tailor their own experience as it relates to your product or service?

Here’s the difference:

If you want people to understand what it’s like to dive a shipwreck, that’s a narrative you want to be mostly in control of. So you use a narrative form of video, and tell that story in perhaps the most dynamic way available. Visually rich, worth looking around, but reliant on a narrative nonetheless.

Alternatively, if you’re selling a home, you probably want to provide people with the opportunity to choose their own adventure. If 95% of your viewers first look left to see the kitchen instead of the dining room, there’s an insight. Pro tip: The more expensive, feature-rich platforms often offer heat mapping—which is just a cool way of saying “you, the marketer, can view the video and see where viewing hotspots are, then tailor your pitch to that information.” It’s kind of amazing.

How About Hardware?

Hosting software and creative considerations out of the way, it’s time for another huge decision: How to shoot the video.

Ask your shooter about his or her hardware, and pay serious attention to the answer you get. While not the Wild West, VR equipment varies pretty widely, and a cheap camera can drive even the best idea with the coolest platform straight into the ground.

Here’s a list of some of the best cameras, ranging in price from completely affordable to cinema quality. Study it before you dive in.   And while you're at it, here's a list of some headgear... 

In our experience, one question is paramount in camera AND platform choice. How fast is all this gonna be moving? Cheaper cameras with fewer frames per second are going to struggle at speed—which means you’re going to need to be prepared to spend more for a video of a race track than you are a walkthrough of a supermarket.

Those are the top considerations you need to take into the creation of a VR experience. Want to talk more about making virtual reality a reality for your brand? Reach out.

As SVP of Digital Marketing & Media, Alex strives to develop and deliver shareable media impressions. "Cut through the clutter and create memorable content with the potential to go viral!" That was his mantra during his nearly two decades as a broadcaster for CBS Radio, iHeartMedia and ESPN Radio in major markets including Washington DC, Atlanta and Tampa, Florida. Alex has been featured in the New York Post, PR Daily and numerous other publications. He was WFLA (NBC) News Channel 8’s on-air social media expert in Tampa Bay on afternoon and evening newscasts. The Dallas native graduated from Texas Tech University and lives in Bentonville, AR with his wife Jeni and their two children.