Powered by the PS4, PSVR might not be the most powerful VR platform out there, but the newly released Joshua Bell VR Experience shows that execution—not oomph—is a major part of what makes VR great. The VR video experience uses inventive techniques to give you an immersive front row seat to a world-class violinist, featuring positional tracking and impressively sharp visuals.

Having watched the immersive video landscape for VR emerge over the last several years, there’s a breakdown of type beginning to emerge. There’s ‘360 video’ (good), ‘360 3D video’ (better), and most recently ‘VR video’ (best). The latter includes all the features of the first two (360 + 3D), but with one major addition: positional tracking. That means that you can move around within some volume inside the video scene. We’ve seen this sort of thing in action from HypeVR, and can confidently say that when it comes to VR headsets, it’s the VR video experience that we ultimately want.

Believe the Hype: HypeVR's Volumetric Video Capture is a Glimpse at the Future of VR Video

Sony’s newly released Joshua Bell VR Experience falls into the VR video category, and it’s among the best VR video productions you can find today on any VR headset, despite the PSVR’s somewhat lower resolution and less powerful hardware compared to PC VR headsets. That’s thanks to a carefully planned production which incorporates a number of interesting techniques to allow for much higher quality capture than standard 360 cameras, and the significantly improved immersion of positional tracking.

The techniques used may not be broadly applicable for all subject matter, but as far as sitting you in a live-action scene next to a world-class violinist and accompanying pianist, the execution is phenomenal. Even if you aren’t into classical music, there’s no excuse not to check out this free experience if you own a PSVR.

Sony isn’t sharing their production techniques in great detail, but I can take a few layman’s guesses at how it’s been done. It looks to me like Sony filmed the musicians separately, up close with somewhat wide-angle lenses (but probably not even 180 degrees), so that they could concentrate the camera’s entire resolution on the subject rather than spreading it around the rest of the scene. Then (I would wager), they used photogrammetric techniques to create a volumetric capture of the empty performance space and (separately) the objects spread throughout the room seen in the final shot. Eventually they would digitally insert the musicians and the objects into the volumetric scene as individual pieces of 3D geometry. So basically they’ve built a recreation of the scene as real 3D geometry (rather than flat video frames), which is played back in real-time, affording the the positional tracking ability.

It’s all done seamlessly (figuratively and literally, I see no stitching seams which are common in 360 degree captures), making this arguably one of the highest quality VR video pieces you can see on any VR platform today.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Massimo Depero

    I’m going to download this asap

  • Guest

    You should also check out the Kygo Carry Me experience that Sony put out on PSVR as well.

  • Foreign Devil

    Would love to samples of these on Rift.

  • Fear Monkey

    would love to see them start doing a concert series for different artists

    • benz145

      Yes, I would definitely like to see talented musicians up close with this sort of capture.

      • Massimo Depero

        This would work well for electronic music live jams

  • torreth

    Sorry, but this isnt going to help VR in any way at all. People arent going to buy in to VR to see some guy play the violin no matter how cool the visuals look. I remember being one of the first people to get on the internet, and seeing different companies launch web pages like “Tide” soap, and I thought it would be so cool to be able to surf the web and see the offerings, and what I quickly learned is that if people wouldnt have flocked to those sites out of personal interest they might as well not exist. For the PSVR to hit mainstream on a much larger scale “SONY” is going to need to invest real “MONEY” into the real reason people bought a PS4 in the first place, and that means “GAMES”. So far “SONY” has sat back on their lazy haunches and let indies flood the system with low budget, 10min to complete,mediocre, lackluster games that would never sell on any modern platform except RE7. I know the system has only been out for 4 months, but nobody who was standing outside with me for the midnight launch of the PSVR would have believed that after all this time we’d only have 1 more big game to look forward to in the machines life-cycle before there is absolutely nothing let to hope for (farpoint). This thing cost WAY TO MUCH for me to sit back and be satisfied with violin music. Its like buying a brand new corvette, and being forced to follow a city bus around all day for the foreseeable future.

    • benz145

      I know that when you say “people aren’t going to buy…” you’re talking about mainstream adoption. And while sure, people might not buy a VR headset *just* for this, it’s certainly a good example of something that some people will really enjoy if they do happen to have a headset. I would love to enjoy a full jazz band like this. Even seeing magic up close with this sort of VR video capture would be really cool.

    • Brandon Smith

      To be honest, there are more PSVR titles out now that are of interest to me than there were regular PS4 titles when the PS4 launched. The only real difference is that Sony was being more forthcoming about what big set piece titles it was planning in the future to trick people into buying the system.

      VR is a disruptive technology and I think that anyone interested in the space has to be aware of the fact that it will take time for the industry to figure it out. The whole reason I am an early adopter and vocal proponent of VR is because I don’t like what has become of the regular games industry. As such, I’m quite enjoying games like Pixel Gear, Crystal Rift and other, smaller games. Sure some things are done in 10 minutes, but I’ve been playing Crystal Rift for about 10 hours. (I chose to play it on hard.)

    • I disagree because this raises the bar for VR video regardless of the subject matter. Now Sony has a proven piece of content that exists to show other content creators what is possible with the technology. Not future technology, but the current hardware people have in their homes. That will cause other creators to push farther than before.

    • Ken Wallace

      Frankly this is probably one of my favorite experiences so far on the PS4 VR. You’re not watching “some guy” play the violin. You’re watching a world class musician in a way that would be impossible outside of VR unless you happen to be his best friend. It would be amazing to experience other elite individuals (musicians, actors, athletes, etc.) in this way — I think it opens up a whole new genre of content. Games aren’t everything.

  • Danilo Moura Silva

    I agree! Amazing piece!!! All content should be done this way if feasible.

  • Fluke

    Wow, ok. That’s the first time I’ve ever been impressed with video in VR. I’d also go as far to say that it’s possibly one of the only videos that has a right to call itself a VR experience (rather than being low quality 360 garbage).

    Even if the music isn’t to your taste, if you have a PSVR, go and try this now.

  • Jesse James

    Downloaded and watched this today…I was legit impressed! The video quality is amazing and the 3D effects are incredible!

  • markoh1

    Have to say this is mind blowing. Truly astonishing to witness. Just wish it was longer!