Industry June 25, 2018 by Innes Garden
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Review of BBC Sport VR – 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

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Recently we reported that the BBC were going to show live games from the World Cup in VR. So now the competition is underway what is it like?

We used the PSVR version and downloaded the relevant (free) app – BBC Sport VR – 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia – from the PlayStation store. Installing was quick and easy. You then access from your Library.

Once loaded, what you experience is access to a director’s box on the halfway line in the stadium in Russia. This offers a panoramic view of the pitch and the crowd. Indeed, it’s like being in the best seat in the stadium. If that’s not good enough, you also have various other options of where to watch the game from, and can be easily zip between them.

There is also an option of a large drop down TV, which is big enough to comfortably watch, yet also not blocking the”live” view through the window. This shows you what is being shown on the domestic BBC TV feed. Just like when you’re at a live match, this screen is great for checking out close-ups and replays. You get the best of both worlds: seeing the whole game spread out in front of you in VR as well as all the on-screen details.  You also optionally have access to the BBC audio commentary, or you can just listen to the raw sounds of the beautiful game.

Generally picture quality is fine. It is obviously not as good as watching on 4k TV, but you can see the ball clearly and there is no delay or blurring as it moves quickly up and down the field.

One interesting issue was that while it was raining heavily during the Belgium v Tunisia match – we couldn’t make out the rain while watching from the halfway line, but could make it out from the the viewpoints at either end. Presumably this is an effect of the size and speed of the raindrops and the VR cameras being used. (Note though that you do not get the full effect of rain from ordinary TV cameras either!)

Overall the experience went smoothly, but there does seem seem to be a few glitches with some of the other functions of the app. There is an instruction screenshot showing the functions of the PS4 controller when you start, but the guide option was not working while the match was being played. There’s also an onscreen control panel that allows various options, but this seemed to appear in strange places and at odd angles at times due to it trying to sync up with your field of view (and failing slightly). When it’s working properly, it handily lets you toggle through various options. It also lets you watch highlights from previous matches shown on the BBC – but only in a small screen on the control panel. And you get both the live commentary and commentary from the highlights.

You can also switch between various locations in the “Directors Box”. However at the time of testing this seemed to be just to a coffee table with a couple of cups if coffee on it so not very useful besides adding a hint of immersion. I did though somehow manage to get a view from behind the sofa! I am not sure how this happened – I was trying odd button pressing as you do – and suddenly the view changed to behind the sofa. Presumably this position was added for when England faces a penalty shoot out!

The BBC claims that you will be able to watch live action for the BBC’s 33 live games. When watching live games users have a choice of camera angles from the 180° live feed.

They also say that live games will be accompanied by real-time data for fans to keep up on statistics, but I was not able to access this at the time of testing.

The app, which is available in app stores as well as working on PlayStation VR, also supports iOS, Android, Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR headsets – to get viewers immersed in the action like never before.

Overall I would commend the BBC for its efforts. As stated the app is free and does give a good quality VR experience.  It’s a very good sign of things to come.

 

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