Oculus founder Palmer Luckey recently told Road to VR that the company is keen to bring the social experience to Oculus Cinema.

Up until now, those using a £129 Samsung Gear VR headset felt as if they were immersed in a realistic real-world cinema environment, complete with simulated ambient screen lighting and rows of seats – albeit empty ones.

However, Palmer has plans to change this, announcing that a host of social functions are to be introduced.

“That’s definitely the point of Oculus Cinema,” he told Road to VR. “It’s not that you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theatre alone, you want to replicate the experience of being in a movie theatre or home theatre with all of your friends.

“We already have a lot of internal social functions in Cinema that are going to be rolling out in the next few months. Things like avatar systems, being able to communicate with people over long distances, rather than just local multiplayer, but having actual long distant multiplayer as well.”

He also confirmed that Oculus Cinema will be coming to the Oculus Rift: “What’s going to be shipping with the (consumer) Rift has a lot more (social features) built-in than the versions of Oculus Cinema that are shipping right now (on Gear VR).”

Oculus Cinema is currently available for Gear VR and will launch with additional features alongside the Oculus Rift.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the social features will work across the two platforms.

Read on for all you need to know about Oculus Cinema and the Samsung Gear VR…

Oculus Cinema, explained

Basically, there are two ways for a user to watch their own video content in the ‘My Videos’ section of Oculus Cinema.

First, any films that are recorded using a phone’s camera will automatically appear in the ‘My Videos’ section.

The other way is to copy compatible video files directly to a phone or SD card.

On a PC, a phone’s storage can be accessed from Windows Explorer by simply plugging in the USB data/charging cable – no software is required.

For Mac users, files can be transferred to the user’s phone using Android File Transfer: (https://www.android.com/filetransfer/), a free utility provided by Google.

It is worth noting that no video content with DRM, such as videos purchased from the Play Store or iTunes, is viewable in Oculus Cinema.

The next time the user launches Oculus Cinema, their video should automatically appear in the ‘My Videos’ section.

 

3D Videos

For 3D video content, Oculus Cinema supports the side-by-side and top-to-bottom formats.

To designate that a file is 3D, all a user need do is create a text file with the same file name as the video and place it in the same directory.

Subtitles

If the user requires SRT format subtitles for side-loaded videos, they can also load them into Oculus Cinema.

 

Video Encoding

The company recommends using 1280×720 HD resolution to encode videos, as higher resolutions will not provide any better quality, wasting space and processing power.

Using a higher bit rate than a typical web stream at that resolution is also recommended, as the pixels in a video will be magnified on the phone’s screen.

The optimal bit rate is content dependent – and many videos can get by with less – however 5 Mb/s should suffice.

While H.264 is the recommended video coding, H.265 videos can also be played.

3D movies should be encoded ‘full side-by-side’ with a 1:1 pixel aspect ratio.

Content mastered at 1920×1080 compressed side­-by­-side 3D should be resampled to 1920×540 resolution full side­by-side resolution.

Oculus Cinema Void Theatre

The Void Theatre in Oculus Cinema allows the user to reorient the film screen – particularly useful when watching movies while lying down or reclining in a chair.

To reorient the screen, the user should look at the location where they would like to reposition the screen and then tap on the touchpad.

 

The Samsung Gear VR, explained

 

The Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus turns a person’s Samsung Galaxy Note 4, S6, or S6 edge smartphone into a portable virtual reality system.

Gear VR was designed in collaboration with Samsung, allowing users to download virtual reality games and experiences such as the virtual movie theatre, right from their mobile device.

According to the company, watching a film in a virtual reality theatre is ‘the next best thing to owning your own personal multiplex’.

Free from the distractions of the outside world, the idea is that the user is completely immersed as they watch films on a theatre-sized scale.

The Gear VR uses mobile phone screen technology, a wide field of view and low-latency sensor tracking to deliver VR experiences – and because it’s wireless, the user can jump into VR wherever and whenever it’s convenient.

More on virtual reality

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