The great thing about the emergence of virtual reality and 360 video is that, along with the completely new content, already present content creators can hop on and give their followers an additional layer of coverage and media. This is exactly what Discovery Channel and MythBusters do in their 360 videos on a shark experiment.
The two videos I watched and am going to review compliment each other in that they follow an experiment through the reconnaissance of the producers to the execution of the actual experiment. Both videos are narrated by the show’s host Adam Savage and he does great to guide viewers while also providing great information about what they are seeing and how it’s all involved in the experiment.
While the two videos are two parts of a whole, I thought it was interesting that the producers tried different things in both to make each capable of being a standalone content item. The biggest difference in the two videos is the placement of the camera. In the first, the camera is held by a diver as he swims past two shipwrecks that have a bunch of sharks swimming around them. The camerawork is really well done and the ride along is really smooth. The second video takes place on the haul of one of the shipwrecks where the experiment is taken place. The stationary placement allows for a nice contrast and a more engulfing view of the sharks swarming around you.
One of the things that seemed a bit new to me in a VR experience like this was how cognitive and upfront with this being a VR experience. Savage pointed out pretty quickly in the first video that he wouldn’t be in this video and at times hyped up the features of 360 videos a little much. This could simply be for promotional purposes, especially in the second video where he talks about how viewers can’t get this immersive environment in any other way, but I wasn’t too bothered by them because it was a really cool experience being so close to underwater shipwreck and a crazy amount of sharks. To me, this seems like the perfect use for 360 videos and while it’s not completely narrative driven, it serves as a really nice complimentary piece to the show.
The blatant statements about this being a 360 video also work because of the many ways they take advantage of it. Savage specifically tells the viewer where to look at certain points to great effect and there is also so helpful and informative labels that pop up throughout the video like in the screencap below. The type of VR experience leads to the viewer wanting to look around without any necessary nudge from the producers, but Discovery and MythBusters does a good job of making fun like in the second video they talk in-depth about a shark that lost half of its jaw in a fishing accident and then Savage lets you know that that shark is currently in the shot so you can try to find him.
This type of content is something that Discovery is no stranger to at this point, as they have a whole VR page on YouTube. And it’s pretty clear that shark content is a great match for this medium as four of their top 10 most popular videos feature sharks in some way. The shipwreck video is actually the page’s number one video sitting at over 15 million views, so I think that is pretty telling in itself.
Overall, it’s hard not to be entertained when Adam Savage and MythBusters is involved. These particular 360 videos add a great extra layer to the experiment and are fun to experience.