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Seriously powerful

A peek into how NextVR captures football games for VR

NextVR has figured out how to work fast in VR without sacrificing quality, and it's incredible.
Russell Holly

The folks at NextVR have been assembling quality videos for VR audiences longer than most, but what sets this team apart from the rest is the ability to deliver sports. These events typically make you feel like you've got a seat ringside or courtside for live Boxing or Basketball experiences, but the work they do with the NFL takes a slightly different shape. These shows are more like post-game analysis with a killer VR highlight reel, complete with show hosts to walk you through all the best plays of the game.

These shows are typically live in the NextVR app within an hour or two of the game ending, which is incredibly impressive when you consider all the work that goes into creating one of these events.

Assembling the show

NextVR captures everything with their own special 180-degree cameras, which have been regularly improved over time with new tech. The current versions, which I'm told is the third revision, is built on the RED platform and features a pair of big round lenses side-by-side on the front. This capture method doesn't require any stitching, so the video can go from the camera to the editing bay to the app without a lot of extra processing time for correcting spatial distortions and things like that.

These cameras are placed in a few key positions on the field. One sits wrapped around each of the goal posts, and a pair of cameras sit on either side of the field and are moved back and forth depending on where the action is. These cameras are never moved when a play is happening, because forcing rapid movement in a VR video is a recipe for nausea. This means if a play spans the length of the field you're more likely to see a switch in camera positions to see the whole play take place. And remember, these shots are viewed as though you are sitting on the sidelines.

Once the game has ended, NextVR takes to the field for a postgame show. This season, that show has been hosted by Reggie Bush and Elika Sadeghi. They give a rundown of the killer plays, interview players, and show you a new way to enjoy the game. The best plays of the game are assembled with this coverage, creating this unique post-game experience. When it's all said and done, close to 40 hours of video have been captured and sent to the mobile editing bay truck NextVR has parked next to the stadium. From there, the show is assembled and uploaded to the NextVR app for everyone to enjoy.

Just getting started

Going from capturing 40 hours of video to a highly edited postgame show within two hours of a game ending is incredibly impressive, and the NextVR team have made it clear this is just the beginning. This season NextVR covered six of the many games that took place around the US, and next year there's hope this show will be even bigger.

As impressive as the live streams of major sporting events are, these more edited shows are a sign of something more than just capturing the feeling of being at the game. This is a show, a proper television-style show you can only really enjoy in VR. It's not quite the same as creating unique VR videos, although NextVR also has plenty of that in its library as well. This is an experience someone will want to put a headset on to check out with purpose, instead of specifically because it's live or because the viewer is just browsing. And best of all, NextVR is already doing it really well.

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