Consumers are leaning into virtual reality (VR), which unlocks the opportunity to create 360° VR video content and distribute it, along with your existing 2D video content, to VR headsets. As consumer uptake of VR headsets grows from the low millions today to the hundreds of millions that analysts are predicting by 2025, the opportunity will only get bigger.
We’re already seeing early indicators that video viewing will be a killer app on mobile VR headsets. For instance, Road to VR reports that 7 out of 10 of the most used apps on Gear VR are video-based. According to Oculus about 80% of Gear VR’s active user base of over 1 million consumers are using VR video apps.
If you’re in the business of creating and distributing content, the momentum behind video viewing in mobile VR headsets may inspire you to ask questions like, “What are the hurdles to creating 360° VR video content and distributing all my video content to VR headsets? And, what are the best ways to get over the hurdles?”
We answer these questions here by sharing 6 of the hurdles that media and entertainment companies face and how to overcome them.
Hurdle 1: Capturing high-quality, spherical video
To use the full capabilities of VR headsets, you’ll want to create and distribute 180° and 360° VR video. Of course, you can also repurpose existing 2D video assets in virtual cinema applications. However, adding some unique 180° and 360° VR video to your 2D library of existing assets can help attract audiences to your VR app over others. For this, you’ll need camera gear that’s capable of capturing high-quality, spherical video.
Recommendation: Adobe Primetime recommends choosing one of the following three leading options for capturing high-quality, spherical video. You can use Nokia Ozo to capture high-resolution stereoscopic 360° video. It’s one device with eight video sensors rather than a multi-camera rig, which gets multiple cameras working together. Alternatively, you can also use one of two recommended multi-camera platforms.
If you take the multi-camera platform route, you can choose between Google’s multi-camera platform specification, Google Jump, or Facebook’s multi-camera platform specification, Facebook Surround. With Google Jump, companies like GoPro are making it easy to assemble a compatible multi-camera rig. For instance, GoPro Odyssey is a multi-camera rig that leverages Google Jump to get 16 HERO4 camera modules working together as one. With Facebook Surround, Facebook says that assembly of a compatible multi-camera rig will be possible by this summer with off-the-shelf components.
Hurdle 2: Stitching high-quality, spherical video into 2D or 3D 360° VR video files
It’s not enough to just capture high-quality, spherical video with multiple video sensors or multiple cameras. The footage that is captured needs to be stitched together. For 2D 360° VR video, the footage needs to be stitched and mapped onto a sphere. For 3D 360° VR video, the footage needs to be stitched and mapped onto two spheres, one for each eye that looks into the VR headset.
Recommendation: If you follow the recommendation for capturing high-quality, spherical video, stitching will be relatively easy because each of the recommended cameras has dedicated software for stitching that’s optimized for the specific camera platform.
Hurdle 3: Choosing what formats and 3D geometry to use for archival and distribution
Standards are still evolving in 360° VR video, which can complicate your choice of file types for things like archival and distribution. Beyond video formats and codecs, there are important choices to make like the geometry of 360° VR video. Do you choose equirectangular projections? Pyramidal projections? Cubemaps?
Recommendation: For archival, we recommend storing the highest possible resolution, equirectangular projection in a mezzanine video format. With all your 360° VR videos in this archival format, you can convert them at the time of distribution to whatever geometry and whatever file types makes the most sense. For example, if you’re uploading to Facebook, they will accept a high resolution equirectangular projection and convert it on their end to their preferred format and geometry.
Hurdle 4: Developing apps on Android, Windows, and PlayStation
A lot of companies are trying to be “The Netflix of VR.” However, Adobe understands that top-tier media and entertainment companies want to be able to control the experience end-to-end, and that means creating your own VR-enabled app capable of reaching the widest number of VR headsets. This means you have to overcome the hurdle of multi-platform development and make an Android, Windows, and PlayStation app as well as follow the new paradigms inherent to 3D development.
Recommendation: Game engines, either Unity or Unreal Engine, are ideal tools for developing a multi-platform app for VR video viewing. For smaller development teams of five people or less, we recommend Unity because it’s easy to use and it abstracts the complexity of dealing with different VR headsets. Larger development teams may wish to consider the Unreal Engine because it can better integrate into existing source control systems and because it provides source code. Both options have extremely attractive pricing.
Hurdle 5: Protecting content and enabling business models
There are two reasons to provide content protection in VR apps. First of all, content protection capabilities in VR apps can enable business models such as rental content or subscription content. Second of all, when delivering licensed content to any app, including VR apps, the TV and movie studios tend to have very strict content protection requirements that must be honored. If your VR app includes content protection, you can honor these requirements.
Recommendation: At the moment, virtual cinema apps need content protection to both enable business models and meet the content protection requirements of studios. In contrast, 360° VR video apps may only need content protection to enable business models because content owners’ requirements for protecting 360° VR video tend to be less restrictive. For both virtual cinema and 360° VR video apps, Adobe Primetime’s multi-DRM solution called Adobe Primetime DRM, powered by ExpressPlay, will stay current with the native DRM systems that each VR headset chooses to adopt.
Overcoming all five hurdles
There’s clearly a learning curve to creating 360° VR video content and distributing it, along with your existing 2D video content, to VR headsets. It involves becoming good at:
- Capturing high-quality, spherical video
- Stitching high-quality, spherical video into 2D or 3D 360° VR video files
- Choosing what formats and 3D geometry to use for archival and distribution
- Developing apps on Android, Windows, and PlayStation
- Protecting content and enabling business models
Once you’ve overcome these five hurdles, you’ll find it easier to explore the new frontier VR content creation and distribution. Now that you know what’s involved with creating and delivering VR video content, are you ready to reach viewers in VR environments? In our white paper titled “Capitalizing on Viewer’s Hunger for Virtual and Augmented Reality” we share six different ways to engage users with immersive viewing experience and help readers chart out a VR strategy.