VideoBlocks today is adding another dimension to its expanding subcription-based content libraries and marketplace options for shooters: 360-degree monoscopic and stereoscopic virtual reality footage. The newly launched content, featuring a wide range of locations, perspectives and experiences, is now available to view via a special player and download from both VideoBlocks’ unlimited library, accessible through monthly membership, and the full commission marketplace the company opened in January 2015. 

The fully stitched footage, which can also be edited, brings a new option to creatives looking to expand on tradtional viewer experiences, whether they are building an immersive carry-along experience for a network television show in a specific location or providing a new way to loom over Hollywood Boulevard or walk on the beach (below). The company has created several key partnerships that will feed content into the marketplace and will also be creating its own original 360 VR content to distribute through the unlimited library.

Click on the controller in the upper left of this VideoBlocks beach footage, uploaded to YouTube, to move around the frame.

"It's a pretty huge variety of types of experiences and locations," adds Vice President of Content Acquisition and Contributor Engagement Greta Pittard. "We have everything from wildlife and beach experiences, forests, sunrises and sunsets—a lot of very relaxing environments, in fact—to New York City and LA, to herds of elephants and packs of wild dogs in African nature reserves and images from space." The company's earliest key footage partners include U.S.-based Ovrture, Offhollywood, SubVRsive and 360Labs, as well as DeepVR, based in South Africa, and the Australian-based Atmosphaeres, which focuses on relaxation VR to alleviate stress.

"360 VR was the natural next step for a lot of these folks," says Pittard. "They are doing everything from making related content available for viewing or download on YouTube or network web sites to working with Google Business View to get a 360 tour office spaces to covering boxing matches for Showtime in 360 and huge rock concerts from the perspective of the band."

VideoBlocks adopts new formats only after gauging customer interest and industry relevance, according the CEO Joel Holland. "Virtual Reality has been a pretty interesting topic for the past few years but within the last year it has turned white hot," Holland said." But trends don't always lead to profitable business plans, he says.

"We passed on 3D, for example, because we soon realized that was a fad and we didn't see how it would really stick for all of our customers," Holland said. "With VR we asked the same question: Is this just a passing fad and worth getting into? The even more important piece for us was, do customers really want or need this as stock footage? As we started to talk to them we actually saw some demand come in the door. If fact, one of our big customers, a high-profile production company from one of the networks doing a show that took place in New York City, said, 'We're doing a project that's going to have a virtual reality component to it and we were hoping you might have some location-based VR experiences we could purchase.' They wanted to have some carry-along content that they could distribute with the show, as a download for a VR viewer, to promote it. That was the critical second piece for us and we said, 'Hey, let's do this.'"

Holland says the company is using the term "360/VR" as a catch-all for a segment of the industry still evolving as we speak. "It's the Wild West right now in terms of formats and there're not a lot of standards," he admits. "The holy grail of content that we're trying to get, which we're shooting ourselves, is both 360 degrees and stereoscopic 3D, so as you're looking around, you have this incredible immersive experience. But a lot of the content that's already been acquired is monoscopic 360, which is similar to what YouTube is allowing you to upload. You can still look around in a 360 sphere, but it's only 2D. And there turns out to be two distinct uses for both types of content. Some groups just want the monoscopic video; others want it to be stereoscopic and 3D, which is the direction I think all of this content will eventually go. We don't want to limit what's put into the library. We want the highest quality stuff. A cheetah running toward the camera is just cool on its own, for example; we don't care that it's mono or stereo."

"VR is at a really interesting turning point," adds Pittard. "We believe that the more stuff that's out there for creators to play with, the better."