Taking Immersive Video Entertainment to the Next Level

Taking Immersive Video Entertainment to the Next Level

“And they’re off…..” at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

But in this case, it’s not a few dozen thoroughbreds setting off for a few laps of the world famous racecourse. It’s actually the Club’s pioneering broadcast team who are experimenting with 360 degree live video streaming to their customers’ mobile devices.

Punters in the stands can enjoy a full immersive experience before deciding which nag to put their bets on. They can choose which horses to see in their stables and to focus on as they walk around the parade ring. However, I suspect attempts to follow other punters at the course who are on a winning streak may be doomed to failure. Also doomed to failure at the moment are attempts to mount 360 degree immersive cameras on the back of the horses whilst they are racing. The bouncing up and down of a sweaty galloping horse has defeated a comfortable viewing experience up to now. But imagine what the virtual experience will be like if the cameras can be stabilised. Punters could see the race from the back of their favourite horse, swivelling left to right, backwards and forwards to assess the rest of the field as well as their own chances of going home rich. Even the stewards’ enquiry at the end of a race might benefit from camera shots from the thick of the action.

But as Oonagh Chan from the HKJC conceded when speaking at Broadcast Asia in Singapore this week….watching horse racing is a largely communal experience and her customers would probably draw the line at having to wear VR goggles whilst at the races. Viewing at home alongside your online bet is a different matter. It seems certain to me that sport of all kinds will take over from gaming in taking immersive video entertainment to the next level, bringing it out of the bedroom and into the sitting room or even onto the terraces.

Sport has a great track record in this area. Every Olympics develops wonderful new ways to capture the action and deliver to viewing audiences in their millions. The sports moguls have deep pockets and are always looking for ways to build their fan-base. However, it’s currently hard to see how 360 degree cameras could really capture the interactive experience of being in the heart of highly physical team games like football, rugby, hockey or basketball without interrupting the game.

But if sport leads, then drama, entertainment and even journalism are almost certain to follow. Just think how storytelling techniques will need to change when the viewer can choose to move away from the main scene to focus on the bit-players. Pity the poor entertainment host when the viewer can move behind him to see his wig from the back. And what price the godlike authorial voice of the on-the-scene reporter when the camera can show all sides of a story from the middle of a battle scene, street riot or even a courtroom?

There are still many technical challenges to overcome but Mark Zuckerberg’s prediction that this will become part of our daily lives one day looks as prescient as ever. What’s really interesting though is that, once again, the new technology will demand new production and storytelling techniques and radically alter the way in which audiences will view the world via video.

As the HKJC would say, you can bet on that.

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Last modified on 01 June 2016
Andy Griffee

Advises on strategy, organisational structures & all aspects of change programmes.