Making virtual reality a mainstream technology has been threatening for some years now, but everything I have tried to use has proven to be – while workable – mostly too hard for classification as a “consumer” product.
Or even semi-pro for that matter.
There are any number of online sites that promise to take your 360° footage and make it into something worthwhile, but either they are a) hard to use, b) expensive or c) require copious amounts of bandwidth that in Australia, we just (mostly) don’t have! There must be hundreds if not thousands of 360° degree cameras out there all waiting for something to actually do! Now along has come VR Studio 365 from VEGAS Creative software.
VEGAS Creative software, a brand of Germanybased MAGIX Software, which has been around for aeons and is especially big in Europe where its video, audio and graphics software are ubiquitous.
It wasn’t really until MAGIX purchased Sony’s range of software (which it had purchased 10 or so years earlier from US based Sonic Foundry) creating the VEGAS Creative Software line that Aussies became aware of both the VEGAS and MAGIX brands.
That software range included Vegas Pro, Sound- Forge, DVD Architect and ACID.
VR Studio 365 (which I’ll concentrate on here as there is also a VR Studio which slightly differs from the 365 version) allows you to import a 360° still image or video from a camera such as a Samsung Gear 360°, 360Fly, Garmin VIRB 360° or GoPro Fusion 360° and have that placed as a “scene”.
Once this initial scene has been created, other elements can be added including text, captions, images, video, audio, music and links These links can be to other scenes, themselves containing further elements.
In this way, a complete environment can be built letting viewers interact and “walk through” at their leisure.
The concept of VR Studio 365 is best explained by an example.
Where I live – well 30Kms north as there is NOTHING where I live – is a tavern called “Tall Timbers” The only other watering hole in the town centre is the local pub, which, as nice as it is, (and does good pub grub) is still a “country pub”.
And there is nothing wrong with that! Tall Timbers is more upmarket and prides itself on promoting the local area’s produce – food, wines and beers specifically.area of Tall Timbers (it could equally be a video by the way).
Along the main wall is a roaring open fire – it gets bloody cold here in winter I can tell you; 2 degrees last night) and the opposite side contains the main bar with an entrance to the kitchen behind that to the left.
Between these are the stool / customer counter areas and the dining tables, chairs, sofas and so on.
Through a glass door and to the right is the beer garden with more stools and counters, a BBQ, umbrella covered tables and a huge gold fish pond.
Finally, the back wall has a specialty fridge / storage area containing all the local red and white wines you can buy or try.
Each separate area – bar, dining, beer garden, kitchen etc – can be its own 360° scene video or still image with back and forth links in it.
Back to the main bar area / dining room, and let’s place a blackboard with the specials of the day from the restaurant on it.
This could be an overlaid image on the 360° scene in a specifi c p o s i – tion with a “link” attached, or the actual blackboard itself in the 360° scene that has had a “link” attached to it.
Clicking on this link might take you to a larger image of the menu with photos attached showing each meal and details of it including pricing.
This could equally be done with a menu placed on each table that each contained the same link to an image or video.
Switching this concept to the wine racks, clicking a bottle might show a large ver- sion of the bottle with its label and details, and a link could take you to a totally new space which is a 360° view (still or video) of the actual vineyard.
Links inside this space might allow you to hear and see a video of the wine maker discussing the wine, see a drone view of the vineyard (in glorious 4K footage) – whatever your imagination can throw at it! The same could be done for the locally brewed beers of which there are plenty – Eagle Bay is our favourite by the way.
Going back to the main bar area, (links backwards are automatically generated) a click on the front door takes you outside to the main street of the town (called Manjimup) and from here, other scenes could be called such as the Tourist Centre next door which might take you to even MORE scenes using our tall trees (the Diamond and Gloucester trees after which the Tall Trees tavern is presumably named), local areas of interest (the King Trout Farm and Marron fishery or Sky Tree Top walk towards Denmark further south), or other businesses in the district – again the imagination and available resources are the only limitation.
One BIG thing is that as VR Studio 365 uses WebVR to display your project, it can be seen on desktop computers, mobile devices, in a web browser or VR headset equally.
A free VR-X player is also available.
So far, I have used a hospitality business as the focus, but VR Studio 365 could equally be used in business, education, travel and training.
Ease of Use
Like all software, especially packages that are in a new genre, VR Studio 365 has its quirks and idiosyncrasies, but overall it is pretty intuitive.
The hardest part we have found is the generation of the 360° footage and stills to make sure they are of sufficient high quality to be usable.
This is not a fault of VR Studio 365 per se, and simply a matter of knowing your tools, their limitations and how to tweak them to obtain the best from them.
You can say the same about a pair of scissors or a chainsaw.
The “standard” Windows interface and menu system is not used which I do think is a shame (there is no Mac version) as there is some relearning to be done but overall VR Studio 365 is stable, and we have been dabbling with it now for a few weeks with no major dramas.
One thing we did find is that unlike a lot of VR software, VR Studio 365 does NOT stitch your camera video into a 360° panorama. If the camera does not do that internally, or with software supplied, then you’ll need to manually do this with another package.
Thankfully Vegas Pro 16 does allow you to do this
VR Studio 365 is available via subscription starting at $14.99 / month for a 12-month subscription or to buy outright (as VR Studio) at $329.95 and all the details are at https://www vegascreativesoftware com/us/vr-studio/
*VR Studio 365 includes updates and online training which VR Studio does not
We have had an advanced copy here for a few weeks and love it
To get a special price on VR Studio 365, simply click the banner below to get a 30% discount