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Go beyond the gridiron in VR with “NFL Immersed” season two

December 14th, 2017

Jump, Google’s platform for virtual reality video capture that combines high-quality VR cameras and automated stitching, simplifies VR video production and helps filmmakers of all backgrounds and skill levels create amazing content. For the past two years, we’ve worked with NFL Films, one of the most recognized team of filmmakers in sports and the recipient of 112 Sports Emmys, to show what some of the best creators could do with Jump. Last year they debuted the first season of the virtual reality docuseries “Immersed,” and today the first three episodes of season two land on Daydream through YouTube VR and the NFL’s YouTube channel. This season will give fans an even more in-depth look at some of the NFL’s most unique personalities through three multi-episode arcs, each dedicated to a different player.

Shot with the latest Jump camera, the YI HALO, the first three episodes follow Chris Long, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. Each episode gives fans a sneak peek into his life on and off the field, from his decision to donate his salary to charity to a look at how he prepares for game day. They’re available on Daydream through YouTube VR and the NFL’s YouTube channel today, with future episodes featuring Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and players from the 2018 Pro Bowl coming soon.

We caught up with NFL Films Senior Producer Jason Weber to hear more about season two, what it was like to use Jump and advice for other filmmakers creating VR video content for the first time:

What makes season two of “Immersed” different from the first season?

For season two of NFL “Immersed,” we wanted to try and dig a bit deeper into the stories of our players and give fans a real sense of what makes them who they are on and off the field, so we’re devoting three episodes to each subject.

VR is such a strong vehicle for empathy, and we wanted to focus the segments on players who are making a difference on and off the field. Chris Long is having a tremendous season with the Eagles as part of one of the best defenses in football, but his impact off the field is equally inspiring. Calais Campbell is a larger-than-life character whose influence is being felt on the resurgent Jaguars and throughout his new community in Jacksonville. And the Pro Bowl is a unique event where all of the best players come to have fun, and the relaxed setting gives us a chance to put cameras where they normally can’t go, giving viewers a true feeling of what it’s like to play with the NFL’s finest.

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Last year was NFL Films’ first foray into shooting content in VR. What was it like filming and producing season one, and how did it compare to your experience with season two this year?

We learned a lot last season; in particular, the challenges of bringing multiple VR cameras to the sidelines on game day. As fast as the game looks on TV, it moves even faster when you’re right there on the field. Being able to get the footage we need, while also being ready to get out of the way when a ball or player is coming right at you took some time to master.

What makes shooting for VR different from traditional video content? What considerations do you have to make when shooting in VR?

Camera position is one big difference in shooting VR versus traditional video content. When we shoot in traditional video formats our cinematographers are constantly moving to capture different angles and frames of our subjects and scenes. With VR—though we've noticed a slight shift toward more cuts and angles in edited content in the past year—letting a scene play longer from one angle and positioning the camera so that the action takes advantage of the 360-degree range of vision helps differentiate a VR production from a standard format counterpart.

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What did you like about using the Yi Halo to shoot the second season of “Immersed?”

With the Halo, we were most excited about the Up camera. You might not think that a camera facing straight up would make that much of a difference in football, but there’s a lot happening in that space that would get lost without it. We can now place a camera in front of a quarterback and have him throw the ball over the Halo, giving a viewer a more realistic view of that scene. With field goals, placing the camera under the goal posts produces a very interesting visual that wouldn’t work if the top camera wasn’t able to capture the ball going through the uprights. One of the most goosebump-inducing moments at any NFL game is a pregame flyover, which we can now capture in its full glory thanks to the top camera.

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What tips do you have for other filmmakers thinking of getting into making VR video content?

Take the time to consider why you want to use VR versus traditional formats to tell your story. I work in both formats and feel that if I’m just telling the same story in VR that I would in HD, then I’m not doing my job as a VR filmmaker. VR gives you the unique opportunity to tell a story in a 360-degree space. Use that space to your advantage in creating something memorable.

Grab your Daydream View and head to YouTube today to watch the first three episodes, and be sure to check back soon to see the rest of season two of “Immersed.”