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How to watch VR 360 Movies on the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive

VR 360 degree movies are still very much in their infancy. Many of them, frankly, are pretty bad with lossy compression and low resolution. As with every new technology filtering through all the crap to find the diamonds in the rough is half the battle. Once you find some good sources, how do you play them?

Why not play movies with built-in Oculus Video App?

If you have an Oculus Rift, you have probably noticed the built in Video App. The Oculus App has several limitations which include:

  • Inability to detect automatically 360-degree movies stored on your computer. Workaround: Rename any 360-degree movie you have so the filename ending with  _360, then the player will pick up the file for playback in 360 degrees.
  • The player will play regular video files such as .MKV in a virtual movie theater, which is cool, but it will not play 3D movies or play any sound if the audio is encoded in DD5.1, DTS or any surround sound format

How to Play VR 360 Degree Movies?

OK, so no decent built in VR app then. I have tried many players, such as the VRPlayer, which I have written about before but unfortunately, is no longer supported. The best app I have found so far is the Virtual Desktop. Which does far more than just watch movies, but for this article, I will focus on films.

Download and Install Virtual Desktop

First, download and install the Virtual Desktop from Steam. The cost is $14.99, but well worth it. If your target price is, well, free, then you can download the free GoPro VR player from Kolor. However, you need to start and stop the videos on your desktop monitor and is not entirely VR integrated.

Setup Virtual Desktop

The first thing to do is determine how BIG you want your desktop. The app lets you fully customize the size of the desktop. You can even specify with a simple slider control all the way up to 360 degrees which wrap the entire desktop around you. Although neat, 360 degrees is not too practical. Personally, I like 180 degrees with a screen distance around 3 meters.

Playing 360 Videos

Now you have the virtual desktop installed and setup, playing 360 videos is easy!
Just click the 360 Videos option (top right), then browse to your video. Depending on the video format, you will need to change the Video mode. If you see the image duplicated on the left and the right, then select Side By Side (SBS). If you're unsure which format you need, then just click the option until the video looks good. Very few videos these days are 180 degrees, most are 360 degrees in the video projection option.

Any questions? Let us know in the comments below.