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VR/360 Video at Streaming Media West

By: Mich Donovan

While attending the Streaming Media West conference this year, I had the opportunity to check out a panel on the state of 360 video and VR. The panel featured representatives from different parts of the video production industry: journalism, education, marketing, etc. What stood out to me most was the diverse application and varied amount of use cases they shared, and how those applications worked around some of the common challenges native to the platform.

Raj Moorjani, Product Manager at Disney-ABC, discussed how they’ve been using 360 video in their news department as a way to bring viewers deeper into a story. While it’s not fit for all the content they produce, Moorjani found that sometimes it was most effective to simply share the almost raw or unedited video; to simply give viewers the sense of really being where the story was happening. The quick turnaround helped them keep up with the fast pace of the news.

For more highly produced content, it can be difficult to justify the effort and cost while VR headsets are still not widely adopted. Scott Squires, Creative Director and Co-Founder of production studio Pixvana, pointed out that there was a growing market for enterprise training, where you have more control over the end user having the hardware. Having produced training videos in 360 for waiters on a cruise ship, Squires found that the retention rate for the material was much better than with traditional video. He noted Wal-Mart is even deploying 17,000 headsets to its stores for employee training.

In the consumer space, there’s been a slow adoption of the technology, but the panelists see that speeding up with recent improvements to the hardware. The Oculus Go, a standalone VR headset released this year, received praise for its accessibility and value. The previously arduous stitching and editing workflows have largely been smoothed out as well. However, even with technical advancements, there is still a lack of compelling content for most consumers. Squires predicts that as the tools become even easier to use, that amateur production and home movies could be a huge selling point.

Having only experimented with 360 video over the past year here at Duke, I found it validating that even those who are producing it professionally were grappling with the same challenges Though we’re still a far from widespread adoption, I’ve found there’s a growing enthusiasm for its potential as we learn more about how to best work with this technology. For more, check out the full panel here.

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