How businesses can make their own VR content

In this series we’ve looked at the many ways that virtual reality can be used by different lines of business, and as we’ve seen, VR is very much something that you need to get to grips with now. Whether you’re in HR, sales and marketing, advertising or retail, VR can do a great job of engaging your customers and inspiring your employees.

How businesses can make their own VR content

That’s why now is the time to start making your own content. Although you might be able to buy off-the-shelf training packages for some uses in HR, an estate agents, for example, would need a different solution to create individual virtual tours for the properties they are selling.

How difficult is it to create content that’s tailored to your business? Can you do it yourself or must you always use a third-party supplier? In this article, we’ll look at creating your own content, and hopefully steer you in the right direction.

What kinds of VR content can you make?

Before you start to think about costs it’s a good idea to understand the scope of the project you’re looking at. That means, first and foremost, understanding the different kinds of content you can create in VR.

No matter what your line of business, there will be different creative options you can consider, but to bring this to life let’s look at the example of training. The most simple form of training video is a static or video 360 degree image. This allows users to look around them and get a sense of the “place” they’re immersed in.

Optionally you can add a level of interaction, too, for example allowing you to move from room to room in a building, but there’s no animation and no video playback. This makes it ideal for simple training tasks which might involve familiarising someone with an environment – for example, a new office building – or product.

The same principles apply to using video without any kind of interaction, where you’re simply presented with what amounts to a 360 degree movie which you’re walked through. This adds an extra layer of complexity upon the production, but also gives you more immersiveness and allows you to tell a more complex story. For example, if your training programme involves human-led teaching sessions, this kind of immersive video work is an excellent option.

However, for training and for many other options, adding interaction turns an immersive experience into a truly revolutionary one. Interaction can take many forms, from simple menu-driven options – for example, clickable areas in a video or still-based 360 degree experience – through to more sophisticated models which allow you to change your perspective, size, and much more.

To give a hypothetical example, imagine a training experience for apprentice engineers which allows users to not only explode a car to its constituent parts, but which allows users to remove parts, examine them – all modelled in 3D – or to shrink themselves down to a small size and actually “walk through” the engine of the car as it’s working. Obviously, this is going to be an expensive option unless you’re an expert in 3D modelling, but it illustrates the potential power of VR.

Before you start production

It’s this ability for VR to create experience which go beyond what’s possible in the real world which makes it so important to plan out what your aims and objectives are before you start production.

Before a single frame is shot or modelled, you need to be clear not only about the kind of content you’re making, but also how it should be shot. Even for a simple project like a 360 degree tour of a house, capable of being created using your own equipment, knowing what you’re going to shoot before you start is essential.

Assuming that you know what kind of production you want to create – static or video, interactive or not, filmed or 3D modelled – you can start to work out whether to do it yourself or use a professional VR creative studio.

We’re now at the point where cost-effective hardware and software (such as Samsung’s Gear 360) can let you create your own content. The software which comes with Gear 360 lets you stitch together 360 degree stills or video and you can then host your content on services like Flickr (for stills), Google Street View (for panoramas of places) or YouTube (for video).

Doing it yourself obviously reduces the cost, but what kind of projects can you realistically achieve on your own? Unless you have a lot of experience in content creation, you’re likely to be limited to creating content which has only limited levels of interaction. For example, if you publish VR content to a Facebook page, you can create interactive panoramas which let you have either a fully-guided, automatic experience or let users move between points of interest in their own time.

However, for very complex projects involving shifting point of view or interactive narratives you may wish to consider using a professional agency. There are many agencies around now which can create VR content for you, with packages starting at around £10,000.

The choice is yours

Ultimately, creating your own content gives you a lot of flexibility, but unless you’re a content creation expert it limits you at present to creating relatively simple projects. Using an agency, on the other hand, means many more creative options but much higher cost.

So which is the best option? It all comes back to thinking about what you want to achieve, and what kind of “good days” you’re trying to deliver for customers or employees. Creating VR elements for a training or employee orientation programme is now within the capabilities of most HR departments – if you can create a video, you can do the same but in VR video. Creating your own content is also an empowering things for employees as they can achieve exactly the goal they want in a way which is much more engaging for them and for other employees. On the other hand, if you want to create a piece of large scale stand-out advertising then an agency is your best option, just as it is with video, online or print ads.

One great place to start could be with your most important asset – your employees. With some VR cameras in-house you could let loose their creativity and see what ideas they come up with. Creating VR content for the first time is often an inspiring and exciting experience and you’ll get some great ideas which work really well for your business.  Another option is looking to partner with local colleges who have video making courses. Many of these courses are now including VR content creation, and they could potentially help you by creating content for your business as part of their coursework.

Using this approach also means you can start getting everyone in your business excited about the incredible prospects for VR right now. With the creativity of all your team behind you, you can ensure you’re on the front foot, creating brilliant experiences for your customers and employees. You’re also going to ahead of your competition, bringing a real advantage to your business.  

Either way, as we’ve seen throughout this series, virtual reality is capable of bringing more good days to your employees and customers. And we’re only at the start of the journey with VR – the future looks bright, and the time to start making that future for your business is now.

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