Owning a virtual reality headset is still a pretty expensive proposition for most people, and even though you can play a bunch of great games with your VR hardware, sometimes you just want to watch something that has a narrative of its own, with no need to interact with it. In other words, you want to watch the best VR videos.
Thankfully, there are also many video clips you can check out right now that take full advantage of the 360 degrees of freedom that VR headsets offer. Some are scary, others are just fun to watch, and some may actually teach you something that you may not have heard about before. Here are our current picks for the best VR videos you can check out right now. Keep in mind that nearly all VR films aren’t not designed to be full-lenght feature films that you would see in a theater; they are usually much shorter in length.
Alien: Covenant | “In Utero”
The feature film Alien: Covenant was the sixth movie that centers on the long-running Alien franchise (not counting the Aliens vs Predator movies). This latest installment may not have been a huge success at the box office, but it was an excuse for Twentieth Century Fox to create a truly scary VR video short. In fact, this clip may be even better than Ridley Scott’s feature.
Basically, you get to see the viewpoint of the chestbuster alien as it gestates inside a human host. Yes, you get to experience how one of the greatest movie monsters of all time comes out of a person, blood and all, and then attacks any other human in its path. It’s actually rather brilliant, and we would love to see an even longer movie that features the full Alien creature as it hunts people inside a spaceship. As you might expect, this clip is NSFW, so be prepared when you put your VR headset for a lot of gore.
View of Earth from International Space Station
Have you ever wondered what the planet Earth looks like from orbit? Sure, you may have seen pictures and 2D video taken by astronauts and cosmonauts, but now you can check out a full 360 degree video of the Earth from space, specifically from the International Space Station. The Russian space agency Roscosmos and the state’s media outlet RT teamed up to produce something pretty darn cool.
The first part of the video shows the ISS orbiting the Earth in full VR, and then the scene changes so you can get a 360 degree look inside the space station itself. It’s perhaps the closest thing most of us will ever get to feeling that we are on board something orbiting the planet. The video is short, but very memorable.
The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes
Most people know that the wild elephant is on the verge of extinction in Africa, thanks to hunters who have been illegally killing these creatures for decades to claim their ivory tusks. In this National Geographic VR video, we get to see how a park ranger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Garamba National Park operates as he tries to keep these poachers from killing any more of these elephants.
This VR video, which was co-created in part by Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), is a fascinating look at a location that most of us will never visit, and its use of 360 degree video gives it an even bigger scope.
Here’s another example of the kind of VR video that really showcases how the format can be used to great effect. The clip takes us underwater, into the Bird’s Head Seascape in eastern Indonesia. You get to see the vast amount of fish and other aquatic life in this location, which has been saved from being taken from us by a community-based conservation program. This is yet another video that can not only be a great film to look at, but also gives us something to learn about the world around us.
We have already seen what the Earth looks like from the International Space Station, but what can we see beyond Earth’s orbit in VR. Capon Design has created a 9-minute video that imagines what it might be like to travel far into space. It’s not trying to be Star Trek or Star Wars, but something else entirely.
This is one of the few VR videos that you will have to pay for. It’s available via Steam for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift for $1.99 for a rental or for $2.99 to purchase in full. It does require that you install the Steam 360 Video tool in the Steam client to video the clips.
Red vs Blue 360
For our final selection, we decided to have some fun. The team at Austin-based Rooster Teeth help to promote machinima, or creating scripted movies inside game engines, with the Red vs Blue series, based on Bungie and Microsoft’s hit Halo game franchise. Now the same team is creating Red vs Blue episodes in full 360 degree video, which will put you inside the world of Halo, and more importantly, inside the world that Rooster Teeth has created for themselves inside the franchise.
You can check out four 360 degree Red vs Blue episodes on YouTube, and even though these characters battle, and joke around, in the Halo universe. it’s also cool to seem them interact while watching in a VR helmet.
While these are our picks for the best VR videos you can check out at the moment, more are being added every day on YouTube, Steam and other outlets. We may have also missed some that may be worthy of our attention. What do you think of our list of the best VR videos, and which ones would you add or delete from this list? Let us know your opinions and we could update this list in the near future based in part on your selections.