Virtual Reality headsets are the latest trend in electronic entertainment, these goggles allow you to put yourself “inside” a virtual world instead of merely watching.
They are mainly used to play with a whole new generation of games, but they are not limited to gaming. You can also use them to experience non-interactive stories in a more immersive way. VR movies and videos can take you into the big screen like never before.
You can use your VR goggles to watch, technically, any video or picture that you could on your browser, as every headset has a web app. However, some movies are specially made or adapted to VR, to take advantage of the technology.
What are the types of VR movies?
3D movies: Because the goggles display images to each eye individually, they can replicate the 3D effect that these films use. VR headsets can be used instead of 3D goggles to watch these movies without losing the third dimension.
180°-360° videos: Most VR headsets can track the movement of your head. When you turn your neck in real life, you turn it inside the virtual world as well. These videos allow you to do exactly that while you watch them, giving you a 360° view of the action.
Both: This type of movie is made exclusively for VR and takes advantage of both the 3D and the motion tracker to give you the full VR experience, without much of the motion sickness associated with VR gaming.
Yeah, that´s great, but where can I watch these movies?
Yep, the premier site for videos on the web has its own VR collection. You will find a wide variety of options here, all you need to do is search for them.
Putting “VR” or “360° video” on the search bar will get you a lot of results, there are entire channels dedicated to this type of video. Some of the most famous films have you follow a pride of lions, go to space, ride a rollercoaster, among others.
The easiest way to watch YouTube's VR videos is to download the YouTube VR app from your headset’s app store: the Oculus Store, the Viveport, Google Play, etc.
For mobile headsets that rely on your smartphone to be the googles, you might have to download the Daymare app first and then the YouTube app. After downloading, you can use the app to browse for videos without taking your goggles off.
These stores also have a multitude of other VR video players. Most of them allow you to copy a URL directly onto them, so that’s another option if the Youtube app doesn’t cut it for you.
Nope, this not the Samsung VR headset, but SamsungVR.com, a collection of VR videos made available by Samsung and any other channel that wishes to do so.
The Korean company set out to make a sort of “YouTube for VR” with this site, meaning that you can upload your own videos if you know how to make them. You can find not only VR experiences like the ones on YouTube but also a couple of custom made clips and trailers as well.
You can watch these videos on your browser, or by downloading the app. It is available in practically every store and for every headset. Even the App Store and Google Play have it.
While these videos provide with very unique and entertaining experiences, they are just that, experiences. You might want to watch something with plot and structure, if that’s the case, you should try:
Netflix VR, Hulu VR, and the Amazon Prime app:
Netflix has an app for watching movies with a VR headset. It has access to its entire catalog, and you can watch it from the inside of a cozy virtual cabin.
Disappointingly, it doesn’t have specialized VR videos, so no 180° videos nor 3D movies.
Amazon Prime also has its video streaming app. Unlike Netflix, Amazon does have a handful of VR movies, and by a handful, I mean precisely ten, which you can watch as long as you have a Prime subscription.
These films include the documentaries Greenland Melting and Return to Chernobyl as well as short films like Invasion, Asteroids, and Vestige.
Hulu VR is the last of the streaming services that you can get for your headset. It stands above its competition in one key aspect, It has over a hundred VR short films and shows, including most of the ones available on Amazon.
To get Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, simply download their app and set up your account as if you were watching them from any other device.
However, if you want to watch videos that are actually enhanced by the VR headsets, then I recommend:
Like Netflix and Amazon before it, FandangoNow is a streaming service in which you pay a subscription fee to watch their movies and shows.
Unlike its peers, Fandango has hundreds of 3D movies that take advantage of your headset. As a rule of thumb, if the movie you are interested in watching had a 3D theatrical release, odds are you can watch in 3D in Fandango.
The app´s main disadvantage is its exclusivity. It is only available to the U.S and for the Oculus Go and Quest headsets. Otherwise, it works exactly like the previous apps. Download, pay, and watch.
If you were hoping to see custom made movies for VR that aren´t 3D adaptions of theatrical releases, they exist, and there is a way to find them:
Steam VR, Viveport, Google Play, App Store, and Oculus Store:
There are a few films made exclusively for VR, however, there isn’t a unified platform for them, so they are sold independently across each store. The biggest store for these kinds of movies is the Oculus Store, followed by the Viveport and Steam VR.
To find these movies, you browse through the store and purchase them (some are free) like you would any other app or game. After downloading them, open the video and enjoy the show.
Do keep in mind that these films are much shorter than their full-length counterparts on the silver screen. Documentaries notwithstanding, they tend to be more focused on special effects and action than dialogue and writing.
What movies do you recommend?
You have quite the selection spread across the different storefronts from a variety of genres:
If you want action, The Limit available for pretty much every VR goggle on the planet.
Want to be wowed by visuals? Try out Surge or From Nothing to marvel at the effects.
If you enjoy experimental films, the memory trip of Vestige is for you.
There are animated short films like Colosse or Invasion that resemble classic Disney and Pixar movies.
There is even a biblical tale made by Vive’s studios that tells the story of Jesus’ seven miracles. Coincidently, that’s the name of the film, 7 Miracles.
There are a lot of ways to watch VR movies:
If you only want a short but fun experience, then downloading the Youtube or SamsungVR.com will do the trick. These two will provide an almost endless supply of videos, trailers, and panoramic shots.
If you want to see 3D movies with your headset, FandangoNow is your best bet, as it has hundreds available. Unfortunately, it is exclusive to the US and the Oculus, so you will be unable to download it if you fall outside their target market.
Otherwise, Amazon Prime and Hulu VR can give you bite-sized shorts and documentaries.
You can also search for proper VR productions on each headset’s particular store, where you can find movies and shows that take full advantage of each platform´s capabilities.
VR movies are still a young and experimental art form, but they are a growing medium. You can expect to see more complex and high-budget flicks in the future, but for now, there is still quite a good selection, don't you think?
If you want a VR headset to watch movies, we recommend the Oculus GO. It doesn’t need a powerful PC to work, but it´s not as barebones as some of the cheapest mobile VR headsets. Click here to check it out on Amazon.
If you instead want to take advantage of your iPhone, check out our article on the hidden features of its Video playback setting.