Pasadena, CA - January 1, 2016 - Rose Bowl: The Stanford University Cardinal during the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Stanford University’s athletic department is utilizing virtual reality across a number of sports in an effort to enhance athletic performance and engage with fans.
Most notably, Stanford’s fencing team made an interactive video that features a fencer fighting the viewer. In it, a virtual reality rig is set up facing the fencer as he or she is lunging away at you — the color changing as the viewer is hit by the saber.
“Probably my biggest regret from this video is that I said, ‘Don’t worry about hitting the camera,’” Stanford Athletics director of video services Heath Trabue said last month at the SVG College Sports Summit. “The camera took a couple whacks from the saber in this thing.”
Stanford’s video department uses a rig that consists of six GoPros with a specialized placement holder at the top.
“The rig we use is not overly expensive,” Trabue said. “Contrary to what I think a lot of people think, we don’t have the largest budget at Stanford in our video department.”
Another video that Stanford’s athletic department has produced is a football “team runout” video, in which fans can experience — in 360 degrees virtual reality — the Cardinal football team take the field as if they were actually at the stadium themselves.
The rig has also been used to produce a virtual reality video of the wrestling team in the middle of training, photo shoots of members of the women’s and men’s basketball teams — Erica McCall and Reid Travis — and the Cardinal women’s volleyball team getting hyped in a huddle before a game.
“If you know anything about the Stanford volleyball team, they’re kinda goofy, so they were all about this,” Trabue said. “If you actually watch it in the VR sense, they gather around our rig so you’re in the middle of a huddle.
“This is a good example of the biggest problem with any VR that we’re producing or anyone else is producing — most people don’t watch it as it is intended,” Trabue said. “A very small percentage of folks are watching VR content on a headset. It’s going to be mostly on a phone or on not so good 4G. There are a lot of bad experiences with it in that sense.”
Trabue added that a more narrative based virtual reality experience — as opposed to simple, one-off clips — is where the future of VR consumption will take place.
“I think the biggest leap the technology has is incorporating more of a story element to it and less of an inside look,” Trabue said. “That’s the biggest area of growth. I’ve seen a lot of runouts, I’ve seen a lot of in the huddles, I’ve seen a lot of this is ‘what this space looks like,’ but as far as telling a story that has a narrative there hasn’t really been a lot of it in this space so far.”