Not every friend or relative can make it to that special day.
Imagine if you could create a video experience that literally put them in the middle of the action so that wherever they turned their head, they saw everything a personat the event would actually see. They look straight ahead to see the couple exchanging vows. They look up, and see sky. They look to their left or right and see the hushed attendees as they take in the scene.
Welcome to the world of virtual reality.
The NAB show just wrapped and while the show was awash in traditional filmmaking and cinematography gear (which we'll be covering in the June issue of Rangefinder), there were several companies offering solutions for creating immersive, virtual reality experiences.
One that caught our eye was Freedom 360. The company sells a specialized pole and mounting solution that lets you configure six GoPros (you supply those) in an array to capture perfectly spherical video. The company also sells the software you'll need to stitch the six individual video clips together into a single, 360 x 180 degree rectilinear video.
The software isn't cheap, ranging from $500 to over $1,000, depending on your needs, and the learning curve is rather steep. However, once you've rendered the video, it can be played on just about any virtual reality headset.
So what about those headsets? That's where VR becomes an interesting proposition, because while those headsets (like the Oculus Rift pictured above) used to be expensive and require high-powered gaming PCs to render out the video, that's no longer the case. Thanks to Google's Cardboard initiative, you can have a cheap VR player that uses your mobile phone and a cardboard headset (seriously, check them out). VR still costs a fair amount of up-front investment to produce, but it's no longer all the expensive to distribute.
There are about half a dozen mobile-based VR viewers and headsets on, or coming to market this year and an equal number of higher-powered viewers like the Oculus Rift here or on their way.
We can't say definitively if VR is going to catch on in a big way. After all, 3D TV was supposed to be the next big thing and that fizzled out pretty quickly. VR has some of the same challenges--it can make people sick if done incorrectly, it requires specialized hardware to view and the post production workflow is challenging.
Still, having spent a portion of NAB with my head in a variety of VR players (while praying they swabbed them down with alcohol first), I think it's way more impressive than 3D. For the intrepid videographer interested in bleeding edge video delivery, a VR video file and a few Google Cardboards could be an interesting sell.