Sky is launching its very own in-house virtual reality production studio in order to create unique 360-degree video content for virtual reality headsets that can be experienced alongside regular Sky satellite TV channels.
The Sky VR Studio has already been hard at work and, on Friday 18 March, Sky will be releasing two VR experiences shot during the recent Formula 1 testing in Barcelona, Spain. The VR experiences will aim to give F1 fans a bird's-eye view of what it's like to be part of the team, with immersive footage showcasing the pit lane, the team garages and test drives on the track.
Initially, Sky will be making the two VR experiences available for consumers to watch on the Facebook 360 Video platform, using Google Cardboard or cheap consumer headsets, as well as on the Oculus platform. Thus, users will be able to view the content using both the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets.
The VR experiences will make it onto the YouTube 360 platform in the near future, and eventually Sky also plans to have its own dedicated VR app. The broadcaster acquired cinematic virtual reality firm Jaunt in 2013 and has been carrying out VR testing for the last two years at a variety of events to see how best to use 360-degree video cameras.
To that end, Sky News has created an immersive VR video taking viewers to the centre of the Syrian migrant crisis with footage of refugees landing at Lesbos, as well as showcasing daily life at the refugee camp in Calais. Sky also used 360-degree cameras to film the red carpet at the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December 2015, another potential way to get fans and consumers closer to the action.
The broadcaster says that the new VR studio will be staffed by producers who already have extensive experience in VR film-making, led by award-winning VR director Richard Nockles, Nockles has worked with artistes like Kasabian and Damian Hirst, as well as BBC Radio 1 and international brands like Budweiser and Asos.
To that end, in the next few months Sky plans to release virtual reality experiences relating to a range of news, arts and entertainment programming, including following boxer Anthony Joshua as he bids for a heavyweight world title, and following Team Sky cyclists as they compete to hold on to their Tour de France title.
"The Sky VR Studio allows us to add a new dimension to storytelling, taking viewers to extraordinary places and offering a unique perspective on a whole host of events. The development of VR technology is moving at an incredible pace and excitement is building about its potential," said Gary Davey, Sky's Managing Director of Content.
"Our expertise across a wide range of video content, from original drama to live sport, gives us a unique ability to bring VR to life for customers. This is just the start and we're looking forward to creating more amazing VR content and exploring the possibilities with our tech and content partners."