Red Bull F1 VR – Story Review

By Matt Wickstrom

Red Bull F1 VR is a 360-video experience produced by VIEMR, a specialist in virtual and augmented reality. The video, which directly appeals to race fans or anyone hoping to pursue thrill-seeking adventures, was posted on YouTube on Sept. 15, 2015 and has been a massive success, garnering over 271,000 views in the time since.

The video features Formula 1 star Sébastien Buemi making practice runs at TT Circuit Assen in The Netherlands during the Gamma Racing Day in front of over 80,000 spectators.

The story begins with Buemi’s car finishing up inspection at the circuit’s paddock before cautiously navigating the narrow path to the pit lane with the flashes of the cameras of eager fans clicking away. Once departed from the pit lane, Buemi’s time trial run begins, giving viewers a glimpse into the sense of speed and quick reaction times necessary for driving behind the wheel of one of the most fine-tuned machines in the world. Following the time trial run, the video ends with Buemi celebrating with burnouts on the course’s front straightaway, throwing up clouds of smoke before his crew runs out onto the track to embrace their driver and celebrate.

While the video is more of a 360 experience, it also features storytelling elements due to the different scenes played out over the video, including the car inspection, time trial, and celebration. This setup with scenes also lends to the story having a narrative structure.

The video only contains natural audio, which in this case consists primarily of car engine noise. While it may have added more context and immersion laying over audio from Buemi or someone else on his team describing the weekend, car, etc., I am more than satisfied with the video only containing natural audio. As an avid race fan, nothing excites me more than hearing the sound and power of a race car’s engine.

I believe this story is appropriate for virtual reality because it places the viewer in a situation and environment that most people only get the chance to live out in their dreams or through video games and other simulators. The perspective of the camera in the video makes you feel as though it were actually you speeding around the race course in an F1 car, and the lack of outside or laid over audio allows for the user to focus even more on the experience they’re partaking in.

However, laid over audio during the beginning inspection scene could’ve added even more immersion by capturing audio of Buemi or someone else describing the weekend’s events, their team’s expectations for the season, or anything else related to the race team that provides the viewer, who may not know much about racing or F1 specifically, more context into the events, format, and race cars.

“Surfing in Tahiti” Story Review

World Surf League published this video on October 28, 2015, about a surfing experience in Tahiti. The story follows C.J. Hobgood, a World Surf League World Championship surfer, and his friends on their adventure in the water while they drive over to the site, take a boat out into the ocean, surf and snorkel. The video currently has 18,370,240 views on YouTube.

I liked this video because it was immersive and made me feel like I was included in it. Sometimes VR Stories face barriers with making the viewer feel like a part of it because we cannot interact with the subjects by talking to them, but this video did a good job of overcoming that. Right off the bat when you’re riding in the car on the way to the ocean, I felt like I was the shotgun rider on my way to a trip with my friends. There were other shots when we were on the boat where we are all sitting around the outside of the boat together, so I got to look around at all the people. Other shots where I felt included in the story where when the people were looking directly at the camera, so it looks like they are looking at me. It looks like they are taking pictures of you on the boat, acknowledging your presence and making you feel like a part of the group, which I thought was really cool.

The video used a narrative technique in a subtle way. It wasn’t narrated at all, but it started from the beginning of the trip with driving in the car on the way to the ocean. Then it showed the people walking out the pier with their surfboards, getting on the boat to take them out into the ocean, jumping into the water, and then finally surfing. The video was character, location, and experience driven because using CJ as the celebrity focus of the video gave it a cool twist, but you got an awesome experience in general from being right in a wave as it’s barreling or being underwater while people are swimming around. Being in Tahiti didn’t hurt either! It was a beautiful place with a lot to look at all around, and it was an awesome experience that most people will never get to see otherwise.

I also liked the use of audio in this video. There is music overlayed, but you can still hear the waves crashing all around you, the rush of water when the surfers first jump into the water, and people cheering when something cool happens. It was a good use of spatial audio because I was hearing things all around me, and it made me want to look around and see what was happening. I thought everything was smooth and cohesive, and while there was a lot to look at, it was never too much happening at once.

I thought this was a very appropriate story topic for a virtual reality 360 video because it provided viewers with an immersive, up-close experience that they likely would have never gotten to see without this video. They used all elements like characters, location, and experience to drive this video, and I thought it was very intriguing and fun. The whole video was upbeat and adventurous, so it played on people’s desire for excitement and fun. It was overall just a pleasant experience that made me smile while I was watching it. I found myself wanting to rewatch it again and again when it was over, so I think that shows what a success this video is.

360 Stories: The Source | Charity: Water VR Video

Water is life, and Clean Water Means Health.
-Audrey Hepburn

In this Virtual Reality experience, documentary, and campaign we are taken into a third world country struggling a to seek a basic element of life that we often take for granted: Clean Water. We embark on this journey through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Selam. In this experience we are exposed to the harsh conditions of a water crisis at a young age, but we are also exposed to the strength of family, faith, and dreams.

As Selam narrates, we are discovering that everyday that her family is forced to utilize unclean water on a daily basis. When they want to cleanse or even drink water, they must go to the river. Sadly, the river is infested with leeches and other things. Selam seeks  and prays for better for community.  Selam mesmerizes the audience with her strong will and ability to carry and take care of her family all while pursuing her education at the same time. Just as Selam willing gives to her family and community, the Charity: Water campaign will change her community forever by blessing them with the tools to bring clean water into her community.

Experience Selam’s Captivating Story here:

This Virtual Reality experience is very successful due to its interactivity.  We’re taken from open grasslands to fields where animals are present, all the while viewing the condition of the water. There no default viewpoint in this experience, you are right there in the very moment which adds a more intimate emotion to the story. Another example would be when Selam and her friend were playing the in the water with each other. Of course we were not exactly present, but the interaction of the water  with the camera would make you feel as if you messed were getting splashed by the water as well.

Another element that distinguished this virtual reality experience from other experiences is that it was character driven. We were put in the perspective of a female teenager. When it comes to using 360 cameras  all the while trying to reach a big audience it was executed very well. I didn’t sense any type or hyper masculinity or hyper femininity within the film.  If this was going to occur, then the production of the virtual reality experience would not have been as successful. I believe that its important to be creative when it comes to creating a virtual reality experience, but if you over indulge in you creativity the message and emotion that you want to present to your audience will be lost.

I believe that this virtual reality experience is more than appropriate because it takes most audience members like me to another world that I haven’t seen while also introducing me to new people. It was a very intimate experience. For a moment I truly felt like I really put myself in someone else’s shoes. In addition to the experience, its also a part of a collaborative campaign focused on restoring clean water all over the world. This shows that Virtual Reality has the power to carry a message even bigger than the its experience.