Virtual reality may have long seemed like an out-of-reach fantasy, but the spark ignited by Oculus Rift means completely immersive (virtual) worlds are now on a fast track to actualization. VR is going mainstream, and it’s going to have a major impact on videographers.
We spoke with VR entrepreneur and NYC Virtual Reality Meetup organizer Eric Greenbaum about what you need to know to prepare for virtual reality becoming a household thing. Greenbaum shared his thoughts on how you can learn more about VR, what content you should create for the new medium, and how everything you know about video might be about to become obsolete.
VR Will Force You to Learn How to Shoot Video All Over Again
The ways in which virtual reality will show worlds in 360 environments means videographers are facing mostly uncharted territory: how to shoot for the new medium. “There’s going to be an entire rethinking and recreation of the standard videography and filming techniques for this medium,” says Greenbaum. “The standard ways that videographers use camera cuts, switching the views, and zooming in and zooming out? What has become before is not going to work well for this platform.” That means those looking to work with VR are going to face the challenge of creating processes from scratch. “There’s no established workflow, there’s no dominant post-production software platform,” says Greenbaum. “You have to stitch it together.”
Content Will Still Need to Be King
“What we want out of VR is to put on our headset and be immersed in the virtual spaces,” says Greenbaum. “But without really compelling content, it’s just a tech demo.” That’s why he says there are very important questions developers are asking themselves right now. Questions like: “How is VR going to be used to tell stories and deliver a narrative to people? What are the unique aspects of the medium? What are the things that it’s particularly good at? How do we craft a VR experience to tell a story?” These are questions videographers should be asking themselves, too.
VR Will Be About More Than Just Entertainment
It may be exciting that VR will let us run track on the rings of Jupiter or hunt dinosaurs in ancient lands, but virtual reality isn’t going to be only about entertainment. “There are a bunch of companies that are focused on building platforms for VR education,” says Greenbaum. “There are people developing platforms to teach others how to do surgery, to show them from the point of view of a surgeon what’s happening.” He also imagines that, one day, students will learn about subjects like the Revolutionary War through virtual reality, not textbooks. That means videographers should start thinking about not only how they can create immersive entertaining experiences, but also educational ones. “Those things haven’t gotten a lot of attention yet,” says Greenbaum. “But they will. You’re going to start hearing more about that.”
The Possibility for Empathetic Storytelling
Evoking empathy and emotions is one of the most powerful things visual storytelling can do. Virtual reality will make that even more powerful. “People have referred to VR as an empathy machine,” says Greenbaum. “It puts you in the shoes of another person, and can change your context pretty drastically.” That’s not just a thrilling prospect for storytellers who want audiences to care about their characters. It’s a game-changing prospect for those looking to promote social causes, charities, and more.
The Sooner You Prepare for VR, The Better
So, what should videographers do to prepare for the coming VR revolution? “There are a lot of online groups and local meetups where there are people doing this who are the real sources of knowledge you should reach out to,” says Greenbaum. But seeking out the pioneers of VR isn’t just about drawing from their thoughts. They also have the equipment needed for hands-on experience. “There isn’t even a (professional-level) off-the-shelf VR camera you can buy yet. Everything is a lot of DIY.” That means you, too, have to learn to do it yourself.
Our Virtual Reality Future Is Coming Sooner Than You Think
If you’re wondering how soon you should start preparing for VR to become common, the answer is: now. “Technologically, we’re there. We’re there to the point of it being good enough that people are going to want to have this in their house. Initially, most of the people are going to be gamers. That’s going to happen in 2016 or 2017. Then, I think you’re going to see a pretty rapid adoption and spread from there.” So, how soon will VR go mainstream? “I would say in three to five years,” says Greenbaum. In other words, if you want to be an expert VR videographer before that happens, it’s time to get started.
Have thoughts on the future of VR and its challenges for videographers? Let us know in the comments below!