I learned about the Oculus Rift last year. My son is an avid gamer and currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas studying to be a game designer. He was telling me about Oculus, and it piqued my interest. Could it be used with video?
After digging a bit deeper, I now believe that video is a very viable application for a Virtual Reality (VR) Headset with lots of amazing potential. There are numerous applications and ways to enjoy visuals stories in the Rift.
Two Different Types of VR Video
There are two very distinct ways to playback video in the VR Headset:
- Immersive 3D with Head Tracking
- Flat 3D Movie Playback
Immersive 3D Video
This kind of video allows viewers to look around and see the video from whatever perspective they choose. You can look up, down, in front, behind, whatever, and the video plays all around you. Head tracking is required so that you can look around, and the video playback matches your head movement.
The folks at ConditionOne created an Immersive 3D short film called ZeroPoint. And, it’s a good example of immersive 3D. There are a few scenes in the short film that are pseudo immersive, but still demonstrates the concept.
Creating this type of Immersive 3D experience is not easy. Here’s why:
- Capturing 360 degree video requires a lot of cameras.
- Capturing 360 degree video in 3D requires a lot of cameras times 2.
- Each of those cameras have to be stitched together to form the 360 degree viewing area.
- All the cameras require lots of memory, so you will have GBs of video to edit and work with.
- Another aspect is camera movement. You have to significantly limit your camera movement with immersive 3D.
I’ve been looking into what it would take to capture 360 degrees of video. One way would be use something like this: 360 Hero 3D holder. Using this holder with 14 GoPro Hero 3 cameras, you can capture 360 degrees of 3D video. But, it’s expensive. First, you have to buy 14 GoPro Hero 3’s ($4,200), then the holder ($1,000) and then the stitching software ($1,000). Add to that the memory cards for the cameras and some hard disk space to hold on the footage. It’s an expensive solution.
The folks at Jaunt have created a one-piece 3D camera specifically designed to capture this kind of video as well. Here’s a longer article about what they are planning to do with this camera. It’s unclear whether or not they plan to sell their camera or just produce the content.
Flat 3D Movie Playback
This kind of video is more similar to what we have today. A VR Headset simply shows one image to the left eye and another image to the right eye. This is the nature of 3D imaging. For flat movie playback, you simply show the 3D video in VR headset. Looking around has no effect, so head tracking is not required.
Some folks have created a type of hybrid VR video viewing, where you are sitting in a theater and a movie is up on a screen in front of you. Through head tracking, you can look around the theater, but in my opinion, that just seems like a waste of space and technology.
Another reason I believe this flat 3D movie playback will emerge as the dominant VR video type is that we can easily adapt existing 3D movies to simply playback in a VR headset. The medium already exists today.
I wanted to see if I could, from start to finish, create a 3D video to playback in my Oculus Rift DK2. Yesterday, I succeeded. Here’s what I did:
First, I needed a way to capture 3D video. I have lots of camera gear since I own a video production company. But, I didn’t have two cameras that were exactly the same. After some quick research, I found that GoPro made a 3D holder specifically designed to capture 3D video. Perfect!
I only had one GoPro Hero 3+ and needed a second. So, I ordered my second GoPro, and then I ordered the GoPro Dual Hero. The setup is actually really solid. It’s more than just a holder. There is a special cable system that allows you to sync the cameras. It manages the files cleanly, and gives an easy way to start and stop recording.
Afterwards, I brought them into GoPro’s editing software and was able to create a simple 3D movie using the side-by-side export option.
Next, I needed a way to view the video in the Rift. I did a quick search to find out if there were any video players that played 3D video in the Rift, and there were a few that I found:
- VR Player (I couldn’t get this to work on my DK2)
- Whirligig (Haven’t tried this one yet)
- Stereoscopic Player (This one worked)
There are probably some more, but I was able to get the Stereoscopic Player to work. And it was amazing! The 3D was quite impressive.
The GoPro 3D setup was very fast to get up and running, all the way from setup, capture, editing to render. Well done, GoPro.
Most of my clients are high-end Fortune 500 companies, so quality is paramount in my productions. While GoPro is good and fast, I really want to up the production value with better cameras. My next step is to get a second Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera with matching lenses, and build a 3D rig for it. The video quality will be far better with some nice shallow depth of field and better color rendering, but it will require a bit more manual editing and mastering.
Overall, I’m impressed with how well this first attempted went. I can see a lot of potential with this type of video.