This article was published on September 14, 2016

Oculus and the NBA just made the best VR footage I’ve seen

It’s pretty obvious at this point that VR is going to be a huge part of the future of storytelling, but few live-action pieces have given me that “this is so much better than TV” feeling.
Then I had the opportunity to watch ‘Follow My Lead: The Story of the 2016 NBA Finals,’ a 25-minute documentary by Oculus and the NBA, and everything changed.
Created by production company m ss ng p eces, the documentary focuses on the most recent NBA championships – a historic series that saw the first ever finals recovery from a 3-1 deficit.
Innate sports drama aside, there are a few details about the documentary that make it a cut above almost everything else I’ve seen.
First up, the video quality is just really good. The feature is one of very few so far shot using Nokia’s Ozo and Facebook’s Surround 360 cameras, which both cost tens of thousands of dollars. The quality is on another level; the best way to put it is that it makes me realize how much room the average VR video has to improve. The difference is akin to watching a 360p video shot on someone’s cellphone vs a cinema production in proper HD.
The 3D effect effect was particularly convincing – I felt like I could really feel how far the stadium seating reached, helped by the video being a good deal sharper than what I’m used to (most live action VR content is a blurry mess). In fact, m ss ng p eces tells me that in this case they were limited by the resolution of current VR headsets more than the recording technology.
The other part of it was creative cinematography to compensate for some of VR’s shortcomings. Tracking shots are particularly hard to do in VR, so the documentary compensates with faster cuts from multiple vantage points than most VR films (6-8 seconds instead of the usual 10+), helping you follow the action where needed.
Unfortunately, it’s only available for the Gear VR at the moment. I’d love to see the documentary hit other platforms because it might just be the best showcase for VR I’ve seen outside of games. But if you have a Gear VR – and even if you don’t care about sport – do yourself a favor and head on over to the Oculus Store to give it a try.
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