Ed Barton and Tom Hamilton of Hamilton+Kidd take you through their 360/immersive film project for Nissan, which is particularly exciting as we’re on the cusp of a virtual reality revolution at the moment.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

To some people, it means gaming. To some people, it means video. To some people, it means all of the above. To some people, it might mean healthcare or education.

But we see virtual reality as a platform. It’s a platform where you can have content in the same way that a television is a platform. You can have gaming on there. You can have immersive media. That can be 360 video. It can be CGI. It can be a combination. We have an interactive video which uses rendering engines like Unity to give some degree of interactivity to film making.

Virtual reality is providing a platform for these worlds to collide. It's the first time where gaming and film making really tightly integrated.

Virtual reality headsets

The major thing that’s spearheading virtual reality at the moment is head mounted displays.

Now, virtual reality isn't really a new concept. It was thought up almost as far back as computers themselves in the 1960s.

Then, in the ‘90s, it had a bit of resurgence.

So this is probably what you'd consider the third wave, but as far as we are concerned, this is the first time that virtual reality is actually viable because headsets aren’t cumbersome displays. They have really high pixel density, relatively speaking (you can't see between pixels) and processing power on computers and even phones is high enough to display some really impressive stuff—4K video or highly immersive gaming.

You're also getting this scenario where you’ve got low-end mobiles and you’ve got super high-end virtual reality headsets like the Rift and HTC Vive. There's like a huge spectrum for everybody to have - from your grandparents right up to the avid gamer.

The really exciting thing about head mounted displays is they're not even out yet. That is what will be happening in the next six to twelve months. That’s why this is really, really exciting at the moment.

360 videos have existed for a while but now is really the time that you're actually going to start getting these consumer headsets in the lounge and the bedroom.

This is just a quick breakdown of the landscape as we see at the moment.

Top end VR headsets

At the top end, you have the Oculus CV1, which they’ll be releasing in Q1 2016, and the Vive. These are the two really, really high-end VR headsets. They are going to be fairly expensive.

They're going to require a very expensive computer with a very expensive GPU, but they are very, very high quality [and they offer high-immersion and importantly in this kind of equation, they are positionally aware so they use cameras or LASERs to track where you are in the room so you’ve got a degree of movement.

Moving down the scale, we've got the Sony Morpheus which also offers positional tracking but as it's running on a PlayStation 4 engine, it doesn’t offer that kind of super high-end graphic but it’s going to be more affordable. I think that’s going to be really important into getting it into homes.

Mid-range VR headsets

Moving down the scale a bit further, you’ve got the Gear VR which uses a Note or S6. And top end Samsung phones which you might already have. If you do have them, it's quite accessible and retails at about £170 pounds. It doesn’t offer you the super high-end, end of the equation but it is a really, really interesting entry point, and the highest quality way as far as we're concerned to display 360 video.

Entry level VR headsets

Then at the very low end, you have Google Cardboard which is basically cardboard. I will show you what these are. This is a cardboard headset, this camera is very, very simple. Literally, it falls apart and lets you flat-pack it, send it. It could be in newspapers. This is the entry point for the home.

You basically just slot your phone right in the front and it converts whatever you’ve got on the screen to 360.

Very, very simple but it only costs £10, £15 so it’s very accessible.

Further down the scale, virtual reality is really great. It covers an entire spectrum. You can create legacy content through 360 video and 360 experiences. One of the big areas which we’re spearheading at the moment is YouTube 360.

Google, because they created Cardboard, are also do something called the Spotlight Series and these other apps like Vrse which you can download. Your mobile basically uses a gyroscope for motion. You can see around the sphere as you move it in any direction. That’s a really great accessible entry for 360 video.

Our first production was 360 video because we saw this as a way to reach mass exposure, to introduce people because most people haven't seen any form of virtual reality.

The fact that you can go on a desktop computer, on your laptop, on your mobile. Everybody’s got one of those. Ninety-nine percent of people got it so it's just highly accessible, but it's of course just an entry point. It's not a virtual experience. It's like an immersive experience. It’s just a video player at the end of the day.

So 360 video—this is why we're doing this webinar originally. This is our flagship piece in this space so far. The piece we did is on Nissan. It's basically YouTube’s flagship 360 piece.

It got 1.3 million views in a couple of months and a million of those for the first four weeks. It's the most popular video that channel has ever put out.

Shooting VR and the GoPro movement

People have been shooting 360 video for a long time, almost as long as film itself but, again, because of the headset experiences, because of YouTube 360, because cameras like GoPro are very accessible this is a time when it's experiencing a big resurgence.

There's a lot of people who are shooting content on it for better or for worse.

There are very interesting ways to use 360 video. It's the only way to see things that are alive. It's a way to teleport.

There's a huge range of GoPro solutions where you'd have 6 GoPros around a circle. You’ve got very high-ends. You’ve got Red Epic solutions, which are incredibly expensive. Then you’ve got really small cameras which are just 1-lens. They don’t necessarily cover the full 360 experience, maybe 240 degrees but for most, perhaps that’s enough.

Then there's also the consideration of stereoscopic, which we'll go onto a little bit later.

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