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Get Ready for the VR Revolution

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Virtual Reality represents the first real foray that science fiction has taken into science fact for consumers. We’ve all seen advances recently in the medical, educational, and even entertainment fields that blend futuristic visions into some sort of tangible reality. But virtual reality experiences will be the first time that you and I will be able to hold the future in our hands.

But what is virtual reality? And how does it differ from augmented reality (AR)?

Virtual reality is the ability to take an audio/visual experience and completely immerse a user in that experience. Whereas before you could take a user and have them watch a movie from various angles of a cinematic camera, now you’ll be able to let the user see the same angles form 360 degrees of immersion, meaning that not only will someone be able to see a dinosaur on screen, they will be able to walk around the dinosaur, pet the dinosaur, and feel the dinosaur.

Harbinger of greater things to come

A smaller segment of virtual reality is augmented reality, which lets a user see the real world and interact with it without a total immersion. For instance, Google Glass would be considered an augmented reality device. You see through the glass frames and view the real world, but images are overlaid on top of your field of view. So instead of interacting with a dinosaur, you would see a dinosaur skeleton in your local museum and overlaid on the dinosaur skeleton, callouts would pop up with additional facts, videos, or media relating to the dinosaur.

But virtual reality is the harbinger of greater things to come, and is being developed at a far more aggressive pace. Samsung is already well into the game with its Samsung Gear VR headset, which uses select Samsung phones to immerse the viewer in VR. Oculus made a splash this year at CES, showing off the Oculus Rift headset (which will be independent—meaning it won’t be attached to a certain subset of smartphones) to thousands of show attendees, and the experience was received very well. The Carl Zeiss company, well known for its work in camera and cine lenses, as well as vision care, has released the VR One line of headsets, which support a wide variety of smartphones. 

B&H jumps in

But not all VR content is made the same, and the experiences vary greatly—even the experiences of creating virtual reality content can differ. There are whole studios cropping up that are dedicated to making virtual reality movies, and that requires specialized equipment such as spherical cameras (cameras that record in 360 degrees, making it possible to capture almost every single angle for the immersive world of virtual reality), or camera mounts that allow you to place multiple cameras in a 360-degree frame—but cameras are only one part of the burgeoning VR filmmaking landscape. You also need stitching software, which is software required to piece together, or “stitch” the separate elements of film together for a seamless experience.

B&H Photo has jumped into the virtual reality game with a complete line of VR headsets to help assist in your immersion into the VR world. The aforementioned Zeiss One for select smartphones can be customized with individual trays for your phone (like the iPhone 6/6s), or you can now purchase the Samsung Gear VR headset for use with the Samsung S6/ S7 and Note 5 phones. LG also offers the LG 360 VR Smartphone headset for the LG G5 smartphone, but it also plays Google Cardboard content.

B&H also sells virtual reality equipment that will help you get a foothold in this brave new virtual world.  Besides single camera systems and kits from name brands like Ricoh, Kodak, Nikon, and Samsung, they also sell multi-camera solutions—most notably the GoPro 36-Heroes collection of cameras and mounting solutions.  Some of these, like the F360 Explorer Mount, can accept up to six GoPro cameras in standard housing, while others, like the 360Heros Pro10HD 360° can take 10 GoPro cameras. The more cameras you have, the more area you can capture, and when you stitch the pieces of footage from multiple cameras together, the more immersive your virtual reality experience will seem. There are also mounts that can accept 12 or 14 GoPro cameras, as well.

A wave worth riding

Included in the VR lineup are post-production items, such as stitching software, file-management tools, and books on virtual reality processes. These tools will definitely help you shape your vision as you march into the future with VR filmmaking and content.

For even more info, discover some of the hottest items and informative videos on the B&H Virtual Reality page, and also watch some of the pioneers in VR content production discuss the past, present, and future of VR in a recent panel discussion, hosted by B&H.

Virtual reality is here and it is definitely a wave worth riding into the future. With estimates predicting that it will become a $150-billion-dollar industry, far surpassing mobile by 2020 and selling an estimated 500 million headsets annually by 2025, virtual reality will take a firm foothold in our hearts, in our minds—and in our wallets.

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