Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to watch Cosmos Laundromat together with Victor, sitting on Frank’s island and watch the sunset? Or go to the “Oude Kerk”, one of the locations from Project Mango, and watch Tears of Steel there? Well, now you can do that! You just need a Google Cardboard and a smartphone (only Android for now, iOS coming later). We put together an App to watch three of the Blender Institute’s Open Movies in VR.
But why?! Isn’t that totally pointless? Yes! It is! But still, it’s fun, at least we think so.
Also, we wanted to put together a showcase for what we can do with mobile VR. Because currently that’s really our focus here at BlendFX. The Oculus and Vive etc. are certainly super cool, but the entrance barrier for the average user is quite high, whereas mobile VR doesn’t take you more than just a Google Cardboard and your smartphone. However, smartphones are still quite limited when it comes to graphics, especially if you want to do stereo, where the scene has to be rendered twice, one for each eye, with an acceptable framerate.
So instead we render everything in Blender, using the spherical stereo option to create stereoscopic panorama spheres which we then import to Unity. That way we get the best visual quality possible without sacrificing too much performance. And because Unity is a game engine we have full control over the scene and can add a bit of extra 3D content that fits into the pre-rendered panorama.
We did already some experiments with our first VR app VR ArchViz Pavilion but now we wanted to do something a bit more fun. Like watching movies….
Spherical Stereo 3D!
At first we just wanted to test playback of stereoscopic video files in VR. Luckily there is a stereoscopic version of Big Buck Bunny, which we used. But because playing back a video in VR in front of a black background is a bit boring we built a simple room in Blender with a TV inside, rendered that as a stereoscopic 360° panorama with Dalai Felinto’s awesome spherical stereo Blender builds and imported that into Unity, using the Google Cardboard SDK. Then it was just a matter of positioning the plane for video playback on top of the TV. That worked great, and Blender fanboys who we are we immediately thought of exchanging the room with an actual environment from one of the open movies.
So far there are not that many open movies that have been rendered with Cycles which also have scenes that work with a 360° panorama. So we went for Tears of Steel and Cosmos Laundromat. We think it’s a lot of fun to watch the open movies in their original environments, so of course we would love to do more. But it is also a lot of work to prepare the scenes for stereoscopic panoramas, maybe add a few details and easter eggs and render it in high resolution. So we can only justify to work on this if people really like it, use it and share it. So, if you want moar, let us know! :)