NextVR and FOX Sports have recently partnered to bring live streaming VR to the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament. Live VR broadcasts of the event were available onsite and across select North American cities via Gear VR headsets.
NextVR, a company focused on capture and live broadcast of VR video, has recently strapped U.S. Open fans into Gear VR headsets so they could view their favorite sport without having to step foot on a golf course. The company ran approximately 100-300 visitors daily through their on-site VR tents at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, making five different vantage points available for live viewing around the course.
The golf tournament, which lasted from June 18-21, was simultaneously broadcast to FOX Sports locations in New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, and welcomed golf enthusiasts to try out the VR livestream technology for the first time. NextVR had five simultaneous camera views
Road to VR’s Ben Lang had a chance to check out the live golfing action.
NextVR’s live broadcast of the U.S. Open is second only to being there yourself. The cameras are closer to the action than the audience at the course itself. On one hole I watched a golfer do a practice swing before teeing off; he brought the club back in a mock swing and the head of the club felt like it was just feet from my face, stretching out toward me convincingly in 3D.
The company is also pulling HUD elements into the broadcast. Down below the horizon is an indicator showing which hole/camera you’re viewing. Some of the feeds also have picture-in-picture cameras and leaderboards.
The sights and sounds are well captured, though your average golf fan will likely want to see the picture quality increased to what they might expect when watching from home on an HDTV. NextVR says that the quality bottleneck at the moment is at the mercy of the Gear VR’s video decoding capabilities, while their system captures in 6K, allowing them to bump the quality as soon as the playback hardware is capable.
The stereoscopic capture is important to VR video and NextVR is doing it as well as anyone else to my eyes, but it isn’t yet perfected. The company recently introduced a light field component to enhance their stereoscopic reconstruction.
Recently partnering with FOX Sports to broadcast the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from Auto Club Speedway in California, NextVR has also used their VR video tech at NBA, NHL, and MLB events. To capture the events, NextVR uses a custom-built stereoscopic camera setup composed of RED 6K cameras, approximately worth $180,000.
“Our ongoing efforts with NextVR are exactly the kind of relationships we are exploring with our new FOX Lab platform,” said John Entz, FOX Sports President, Production. “Virtual reality is most certainly delivering a new level of excitement to next-generation production possibilities and it will be great to gauge the reactions of the audiences who get to sample it at the U.S. Open this weekend on FOX.”
NextVR’s portal, which the company says will be available on all virtual reality devices (Oculus, Samsung, Sony and others), will host U.S. Open 2015 highlights and other immersive video events. The company maintains that current home and mobile Internet connections will be sufficient to livestream their selection of premium VR content.