Jaunt wants to give you something to watch on makeshift virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard, Dodocase, and Mirage. So today the 360-degree camera and VR production software maker launches its free Android app featuring the first of many planned VR content releases: on-stage and front row views of Paul McCartney playing “Live And Let Die” at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
Load the app up on an Android phone, slip it into a VR headset, and you’ll be close enough to see the former Beatles’ face strain to hit the high notes. The Jaunt app could prove VR’s magic to a wider consumer audience and draw more content makers to its camera and end-to-end production platform.
A quick preview of Jaunt VR’s “The Mission” WWII film made in partnership with New Deal Studios
“The philosophy behind the company is to make [VR content] production really easy,” Jaunt VR’s CTO Arthur Van Hoff tells me. “We have a camera you can record with on set, preview [what you just shot], process the content in a fully-automated backend system, and very quickly create a VR experience that’s pretty good quality. Then you can use post-production to really finesse it.” That idea has brought in $35 million in funding from investors including Google Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, and British Sky Broadcasting.
After years of VR hardware that doesn’t make you sick being just a dream, rapid improvements over the last few years mean there’s “so many headsets available that that’s not really a bottleneck” says van Hoff.
Jaunt’s app will work Google Cardboard and the $25 Dodocase cardboard headsets you put together yourself, and the foam Merge headset. Next month, Samsung will start shipping its Jaunt-compatible mobile Gear VR headset that has you stick in a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 as a screen. And eventually, Jaunt plans to create a version of its app that’s compatible with the first consumer Oculus headset coming out soon.
For now, though, it’s the lack content to play on the headsets that’s the problems. So Jaunt’s goal is to “create enough high-quality content that people will see this as a viable new medium to consume regularly.”
That led Jaunt to the world’s longest-running rockstar through a friend of a company. van Hoff recounts that when Jaunt gave Macca a demo, “Paul McCartney was blown away, saying ‘Oh my god, I’ve seen the future. We need to do something together. I’m playing at Candlestick tomorrow. Why don’t you come record.”
Jaunt set up its 14-lens, 360-degree cameras on stage next to Macca’s piano and in-front of the front row at the final event at the former 49ers stadium. “He loves the creative possibilities [VR] gives him,” says van Hoff. Jaunt’s hardware will compete with fellow VR cameras like Samsung’s Project Beyond and Red Camera.
I tried out the concert experience, and its both a worthy demo of VR and an accurately vivid portrayal of a McCartney show (I’ve seen him three times).
You’re dropped on stage and its hard not to feel the bashfulness and excitement when you look out onto massive crowd. The picture looked sharp on an Oculus DK2, and everything was laced together well enough to prevent dizzyness. You’ll be shocked by the pyrotechnics, and lament the modern condition when you see no faces in the front row, just a wall of people holding up their camera phones.
The camera switches can feel a bit jarring, unfortunately. Also, you’ll be tempted to step or lean forward hoping to a get a little closer look at Sir Paul, but will be disappointed to find you’re stuck in place. While passive content experiences like Chris Milk’s Beck concert are sufficiently stimulating when the cameras move on tracks, you can get a little antsy stuck in place while the action unfolds around you.
Jaunt will have plenty of opportunities to get better at VR cinematography. In conjunction with New Deal Studios, which has worked on the Star Wars prequels, Jaunt has a horror movie, World War 2 action film ‘The Mission’, and a kaiju monster flick (previewed below) in the works, as well more concerts with big-name DJs. The CTO tells me Jaunt is “Hoping by the end of the year to have half a dozen pieces of content in the app.”
While a lot of the focus on VR has been around gaming, van Hoff says Jaunt is thinking about “‘How do we make VR accessible to a much larger audience?’ By focusing on the entertainment experience.” With cinematic content, there’s no skill required, no controller. “You don’t need to learn much” van Hoff says with a smile. His parents would never play a video game, but they understood why VR was important from just a quick jolt of Jaunt content.
Getting its VR experiences out in the world, and attracting more creators to its platform will refine that entertainment experience until it gets better and better. van Hoff asks “How do you do a narrative story? How do you direct the viewer’s attention? Where does the camera man sit? All things we need to invent and discover again.” Need is the key word. By the time Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift are out in a few months, VR nerds will need amazing content to show their less tech-inclined friends.
van Hoff concludes, “We need to get past the novelty.”