Virtual Reality and 360-degree video: What impact will they have on the Professional Acquisition Market?

Ahead of this year’s VR & AR World event, Futuresource Consulting’s Adam Cox gives his view on the potential impact VR and 360 Video will have on the professional acquisition market.

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Strictly speaking, 360 video isn’t virtual reality (which tends to be computer rendered), but virtual reality and 360 video have become one and the same thing in popular parlance as they often (but not always) use the same headsets to view content.

The ability to watch 360 video on YouTube and Facebook without the need for headsets is a key differentiator between the two technologies as it immediately gives video creators popular platforms on which to publish their videos that doesn’t need additional investment from consumers. Essentially, 360 video is currently far more accessible than “true” VR.

Many of the production challenges that exist for VR are the same for 360 video, but the unique and rather obvious difference is that 360 video requires a camera, or more specifically, cameras.

The principles of 360 video are well understood – multiple cameras are required to provide 360 degree coverage, the images of which are stitched together to produce a coherent video – but there is a wide degree of variation in the way this is achieved.

Many productions are using multiple cameras mounted on a rig, which at the low end (the GoPro Odyssey and Facebook Surround 360 rigs for example) is an affordable solution, but at the high end, cinema quality images are traded off against extremely high cost and unfavourable physical characteristics – imagine the size, weight and cost of a 16 camera Arri Alexa rig for example! Another issue is that however accurately engineered the rig is, inaccuracies produced when mounting the cameras will result in greater issues when stitching the content and so many productions favour integrated cameras to minimise this.

At IBC this year there was an array of cameras claiming to be professional, but most could optimistically be described as “prosumer” at best. Still, these cameras can and are being used by professionals to experiment in the art of 360 productions and in many and varied professional applications where the 360 element adds a new dimension. One example that has been given is consumer 360 cameras being used by forensic teams to give greater context to the high quality photographs taken at crime scenes.

At the high end of the integrated 360 camera spectrum there are only a small number of models on the market. The Nokia Ozo and Jaunt One being the two main contenders, although high prices and limited availability means that sales are currently limited. Futuresource expects sales will remain low, especially as once the initial early adopters have purchased, the industry is likely to rely on a rental model due to the experimental stage at which 360 video is currently at. Unless 360 video is the bread and butter of a production company, renting makes a lot more sense than investing in a $60K camera – a trend seen across the camera markets.

Professional 360 cameras will remain niche in the short to mid-term. In Europe, the market will be around 10% the size of the European digital cinema market in 2016, but longer term they will play an increasingly important role in the acquisition market overall.

Futuresource Consulting’s Virtual Reality: Niche or Mass Market? report forms part of its Virtually Reality Tracking Service – a quarterly service offering regular market evaluation and industry assessment reports. Futuresource will be discussing this at VR & AR World conference in October. If you’d like more information about Futuresource Consulting reports in the VR and AR digital entertainment space please do get in touch here.

About the author: Adam Cox

Adam joined Futuresource Consulting in a research and consulting capacity in 2006, and currently heads up Futuresource’s Broadcast Equipment Team. Adam has expertise covering the full broadcast production chain from acquisition to content delivery, following both market and technology trends, and is heavily involved in work looking at end users such as broadcasters, service providers and videographers as well as the corporate and education markets and in addition to work examining the broadcast equipment sales channel.


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VR & AR World, ExCeL London, 19-20 October 2016

If you’d like to meet other VR and AR professionals and find out more about how both virtual and augmented reality are being used across a wide range of industries, and how companies plan to use them in the future, visit the VR & AR World event website.

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