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In a Spin: PhotoBite Peek Into 360 & Virtual Reality

- 8 years ago

OK, so this isn’t necessarily a review and PhotoBite’s resident writers considered where best this overview should sit on the site. We decided that, whilst a little bloggy, this look at the explosion that is virtual reality, or VR as it’s widely being described as nowadays, is more of a review of this fascinating and relatively new image making technology than a blog piece.

Why not just post in both, I hear you say; well, you are right. You can expect to see this very same post in our blog section (perhaps with some alternative images littering the flow). So VR has primarily existed as the domain of the gaming community, with earlier, cruder applications promising to take the gamer to the centre of the battlefield, race car or wherever the game may lead them.

Project Beyond by Samsung – 360VR and 3D!

More recently though, we have been witnessing what can only be described as a silent VR revolution. For those of us who first saw modern-day VR on social media platforms, it was a strange and compelling experience, to be able look around someone’s picture or better still, their video was a liberal eye-opener and continues to offer great ideas for what might be possible with one of the many devices that are entering the market at a rapid rate. Footage from the cockpits of fighter jets, extreme sports aficionados and rock bands have since been taking the unsuspecting public into the brilliant world of virtual reality and without them asking.

Such has been the expansion of this technology, that corporations like the BBC now have dedicated divisions to explore the possibilities and the implications of delivering VR content to a consumer TV audience. With their requirement to deliver programming content that is entertaining, informative and/or educational to all, they currently house a crack team of film makers, testing and trialing projects, ranging from interactive sitcoms, to immersive screenplays.

On that subject, VR has been steadily making its mark with film audiences across a host of film festivals with Sundance, Cannes and the London Film Festival all hosting dedicated VR categories.

Ricoh’s Theta 360VR camera

  But it’s not only film & TV content that’s making waves and leading the medium to a broader audience. Many are predicting that it is poised for expansion into our work, social lives and education. Today, mobile VR offers the most accessible glimpse into that future with Google (and the many, even less expensive me-too products) having recently launching ‘Cardboard’, an entry-level viewer, made from… well, cardboard.

The term ‘experience’ gets banded around a lot when discussing VR and there are an increasing number of examples of work that demonstrate theis. Possibly none better than ‘Notes on Blindness’. It’s not quite a video, it’s not quite recreation, and it’s not conventionally academic. It is, however, well worth a look and suggests the kind of work that may be more commonplace in the not-too-distant future as it gives an incredible and emotive insight into a man as he experiences the loss of his sight in a way that standard 2D film could never achieve.

Notes on Blindness

Along with an abundance of educational content that is benefitting from being adapted to VR, offering a greater and immediate perception of size, spatial relationships and orientation, you may have heard about the emergence of some other VR films and documentaries. Tracking them down, though, can be tricky. 

Once such resource that puts a stack of well-curated pieces in one place, is ‘Within’. Within has partnered with many big names in news and entertainment, such as Vice Media, the New York Times and NBC to name just a handful, which keep the platform populated. There is already a fairly impressive collection, considering that it’s still quite a new platform. Within content would certainly improve with higher resolution and better technology, but it does seem to have an especially exuberant feel in these early stages.

Maybe that’s because many of VR’s early adopters, motivated by its storytelling potential, are indulging in creativity for creativity’s sake. On that point, and reflecting on the general, growing appetite for the content, we also seem to be experiencing a gear-change in the availability and diversity of these devices. This could well be a ‘knock on’ effect that‘s been born from the adoption of many an action camera over the years. People have seen what’s possible with 360 and VR cameras, with the platforms such as YouTube accommodating the content so readily, and with such simple and powerful software available, this kind of filmmaking is definitely not an exclusive club.

It’s certainly an area of fascination for the team here at PhotoBite and we fully intend to try a whole bunch of these cameras out and in time, we may even offer a few up for sale in our store. So let us know what you’d like us to test, let us know what kind of applications you’d like to see tested and we’ll do our very best to deliver.

About the author

Read In a Spin: PhotoBite Peek Into 360 & Virtual Reality

Simon Skinner

Co-founder // Editor

Having spent many years working in various pockets of the music industry, and always with a camera in hand, Simon has worked with organisations such as Warner/Chappell, Food Records and ultimately, co-founding the innovative independent record label, Izumi Records before moving fully into the world of publishing in 2007. Amongst numerous other projects in the last decade, he has been responsible for a number of specialist photo trade magazines and journals for the filmmaking and photography communities, along with a coffee table book entitled, "Great Britons of Photography' which he produced with Peter Dench and Leica. Now heading up PhotoBite, Simon and the team have set themselves a task of delivering informative and inspirational content for photographers of all levels, from the beginner, shooting with smartphones, to the seasoned photographer and filmmaker.