I like for things to be the best they can, especially before they are published. When starting this Virtual Reality storytelling class, one of my initial questions was “Are we going to have to upload all these videos just to test them and see if they worked?” The answer is no, thankfully. This post looks at an app that allows you to view your 360 video (and regular media) within a virtual player for free.
The application is called “Mobile VR Station” for iOS by Michael Fuller. The app is free with in-app purchases available, but they are not required. Basically, it allows you to view media (in your photos app) within this kind of virtual world. When first opened, it is very crude and has a decent learning curve, but if you sit down and devote 5-10 minutes going through the settings, you will get the hang of it.
You can choose your media to play from the home screen or within the VR environment, whichever you prefer. I usually like to select my video with my hands before putting my headset on. When you play a video, a bar across the top/bottom (customizable) appears. You look at the button you want to select for a certain period of time and then its function is activated. So when you look at the play button for 3 seconds, the video starts playing. You can visually see how long you have to look at the button because there is a loading graphic that play over top of the button. You can also change how you are viewing the media. For example, sometimes the player will default to a 2D screen. You can go into the settings (with the headset on) and change it to be 360 degrees.
Straight forward; it does exactly what you tell it to. You can have a video playing in under 20 seconds if it is on your phone.
Reliable; I haven’t had to force restart this app once yet.
Customizable; Any and every detail of this app experience is customizable. Timing, phone orientation, visual aesthetics, you name it.
Free; For everything I use it for (testing VR videos before uploading them), I had to pay zero dollars.
Rough; It is kind of ugly and needs some fine tuning. It could be more user friendly, but it gets the job done. There is definitely a learning curve. It takes some getting used to.
No DRM; This app can only display personal media. Anything that is protected by DRM (iTunes movies, etc.) cannot be displayed. Not a big deal if you are just using to testing out your own content.
5 Minute Limit; You can only play videos up to five minutes long (without an in-app purchase of $2.99 or an Ultimate Edition purchase of $5.99). You can buy the ability to watch longer videos, but in my experience five minutes of VR is pushing people’s attention span. Most of the videos I have watched/made have been closer to 2.5/3 minutes, which feels more appropriate.
So what is the purpose of this app? Why do you need it? Truthfully, you don’t. If editing in Premiere Pro, there is a VR viewer built in. You can upload it to YouTube and watch it as soon as your done editing if you want. I just like being able to see what users will experience when they put the headset on before putting it out in the public. Plus, it’s free. I know it is very confusing to read about an app like this, so below is a video demonstrating how to watch a 360 video using the app.
But the best way to learn is to try it yourself. You can download the app yourself by clicking HERE. Thanks for reading!