What is Virtual Reality Video?

Dec 20, 2016

Ask just about anyone involved in marketing what their biggest challenge is and they’ll likely say “engagement” before you can finish your sentence. Everyone wants engagement from their content, but not everyone is sure how to get it. These days Virtual Reality (VR) video is the current buzzword, and at Corduroy Media, we get a lot of requests for it.

While we certainly think virtual reality video is pretty damn cool, we’d be remiss if we said it was the best choice for every project. The specifics of virtual reality go pretty deep, but it’s important to have a grasp on the basics before you decide whether it’s a good option for your purposes.

What is virtual reality video?

We’ve all played realistic video games where we’re thrust into an interactive world, either in the driver’s seat of a racecar or on the battlefield as a first-person shooter. Virtual reality video builds on this experience by altering your perception of what is real. While 3D capability is important here, the key lies in tracking a user’s head and eye movements so the image displayed actually changes with his or her perspective. Along with 360° video, sound and tactile feedback work together to make the experience even more immersive.

Another major component of creating a virtual reality video is virtual interactivity. A virtual reality video will give the user a degree of control over his or her navigation. Walking forwards and backwards, making turns in the virtual environment, and even interacting with objects in that environment enhances one’s sense of being immersed in the experience. When all of these elements come together, the brain can actually perceive that virtual world as real, giving the user/audience a stronger emotional response as a result.

Yep. It’s truly mind-blowing technology.

Why virtual reality video is not always a good fit.

Here’s the thing. Visual storytelling is all about taking the viewer on a journey by providing a strong point of view. Everything in the frame helps guide and direct the viewer’s experience, and the filmmaker pays as much attention to what’s not in the frame as what is. Although most people are not aware of it, filmmakers use very deliberate strategies to hold the viewers’ attention and elicit their emotions. They do this with lighting, movement, editing, and many other tools and techniques. But virtual reality video gives the viewer more control over what they pay attention to, so you lose the ability to provide a really strong point of view.

Of course, it is possible for filmmakers tell a story within that 360-degree frame, and we’ve certainly seen it done well. But it’s important to remember that this means producing content for every direction of the frame, which exponentially increases both the complexity of the shoot and the budget.

So when is it appropriate to use virtual reality video?

So far, we’re still just seeing the tip of the iceberg as to how virtual reality video can be used for marketing, but some companies have already found really cool ways to do it well. When considering whether it’s a good fit for your project, it’s crucial to understand why you’re doing it. Here are some situations where virtual reality video can be a great fit:

  • To demonstrate product attributes, features and functionality, like a virtual test drive for a new car.
  • To give consumers an experience they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have, like soaring over Pluto or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  • To provide consumers with a tangible preview of an amazing experience, such as a beach vacation on a tropical island.

In particular, here are a few pioneers who are doing it right:

(For maximum viewing pleasure of the following virtual reality videos, use Google Cardboard.)


TOMS uses a virtual reality video to help people understand the impact of its mission. Customers know that for every pair of shoes TOMS sells; a pair is given to a child in need. With this short, inspirational video, consumers are transported to Colombia where they can virtually connect with a child who benefitted from this program.


Everything Red Bull does is based around experiential marketing, including dangerous adventures and extreme sports events. Red Bull uses a virtual reality video to take its marketing to the next level by transporting the user to an expedition to an active volcano. This is an unforgettable experience that drives home the company’s brand messaging.


The virtual reality video created by XFINITY is designed to bring NASCAR fans closer to the action than ever before. Within the video, users have a first-person perspective of what it’s like to be looking at the track from the spotter’s stand and in the pit, as well as an on-track experience as a passenger with Daniel Suarez.

For additional virtual reality experiences, try these apps with your Google Cardboard.

Let’s talk about whether virtual reality video will work for your next project.

Virtual reality videos are very cool and cutting-edge, and we totally relate to your impulse to geek out on this new-ish technology. However, you really need to get down and dirty with your concept before deciding whether virtual reality is the best medium for delivering your message.

Hey, we’ll get down and dirty with you! At Corduroy Media, our projects start with a conversation about your creative and video production needs and end with engaging content that clearly communicates your brand story.

Give us a call and let’s get the conversation going. Our collaborative approach combined with our solid storytelling skills and a well-earned reputation as creative problem-solvers makes us more than just a San Francisco video production company. It could make us your new best friend.