Monday, July 11, 2016

Creating Video Content for VR

Video in virtual reality escapes the confines of static viewing in only two dimensions.  Why is that big for education?  360° and 3d video can allow for a heightened level of immersion that isn't possible with older technology.  Imagine an educational video that places students in the middle of the action.  When you turn your head, you actually see what is happening to the side and even behind you.  Imagine students returning to watch the video again and again in order to pick out more details or explore different perspectives.  Until very recently, creating video content for virtual reality has not been achievable for the amateur and required expensive equipment with lots of know-how.  Recent developments will make it easier than ever to create video for virtual reality experiences that can be brought into the classroom.

3D Video

This past year in my class, we wanted to get our feet wet with recording video that could be used in virtual reality.  Since we didn't have the equipment to achieve 360° video, we decided to go with simple stereoscopic video.  Stereoscopic video creates the same effect that most people have experienced when they go and see a 3D movie in the theater.  Simply put, you have two slightly different images, one for each eye, when you view the images side by side in a VR headset, it resembles what our eyes do naturally to create a perception of depth.  We already had a few GoPro video cameras in our lineup of equipment and the GoPro Studio software for PC and MAC.  Also, it just so happens that the GoPro Studio app has a fairly simple way to create 3D side by side video.
Some of the things we learned along the way:
  • The GoPro cameras work best when placed as closely together as possible.
  • It's important to get the left and right video perfectly synced.  I recommend the WiFi remote but have had good results from a steady two hands on the shutter buttons.
  • Piecing together the footage is relatively easy but adding any titles or transitions is a different story.
  • You'll probably need to go a DIY route to create a mount for a tripod if you have any of the newer GoPro cameras but I'm sure you could be successful with even some simple Velcro.
  • Filming in 3D is different than filming in 2D.  Camera zooms and pans must be slowed down and there is a "sweet spot" to the 3D effect.

360° Video

Consumer level 360° cameras are already on the market with several others being developed for release in the coming months or years.  Check out this article and video if you're interested in learning more about what is currently available.  Samsung will also soon release the Samsung Gear 360 camera in the United States and has received a number of glowing reviews for consumer grade cameras.  All of the consumer grade options currently run in the $350-$500 range.

What next?  

The holy grail of immersive VR video is stereoscopic 360° that not only allows 360° of viewing in all directions but provides depth to the experience.  Expect more to come.  In another post I will highlight some of the current sources of 360° video that are already available.

Additional Links

Guide to Stereoscopic Video on GoPro

Monoscopic vs. Stereoscopic 360° Video

YouTube 360° Video