When you have the opportunity to take part in an exciting panel at SXSW, it’s a good day. When Obama references that panel, it’s even better. POTUS was at SXSW yesterday for a talk that happened to be at the same time as my session, something he took note of, according to the Austin American-Statesman’s live blog:
He noted that his SXSW panel was in [competition with] strange topics like “Dude, where’s my par? Making virtual reality golf.”
“It’s true,” Obama said. “So I can confirm, you’ve kept Austin weird.”
I’m happy my panel topic and copywriting skills could help keep Austin weird. And hopefully, the topic my fellow panelists and I discussed was an interesting one. Kudos to T.J. Won of Oculus and Alex Lindsay of Pixel Corps for joining me in the session.
My portion of the panel centered on the efforts I’ve been leading with the PGA TOUR around virtual reality, efforts that really started during last year’s SXSW conference when I connected with Won. They continued last summer as I spent time in the Oculus lab in Palo Alto and as we began testing VR content production at a Web.com Tour event.
For the test, we spent two days filming at the Stonebrae Classic, working closely with Web.com Tour players to shoot a variety of videos, including instruction, player-caddie interaction on course, and video from the practice putting green. As with any good test, we learned a lot. Instruction video, for example, came across extremely well in the VR environment. Gathering good audio from the windy course proved tricky, a common issue for a sport that deals with the elements on a daily basis.
The other big takeaway was in how unique golf comes across within VR, particularly as compared with other sports. For one thing, our venue changes every week. And those venues are beautiful. Being immersed on any one of the courses where we play is compelling. The other element comes back to the individual nature of the sport. When a viewer puts on a VR headset and gets immersed in the environment, there’s a sense of being there with the player or with the player and his caddy. It’s an intimate view of the player and creates an experience that can’t be captured in traditional video or broadcast TV.
That brings us to this year. In February, we became the first sports league to launch an app on the Oculus platform. The initial app is meant to give us a foundation on the platform, one that we can build on over the course of this year and beyond. We launched the app with four pieces of original on-demand VR video. All were shot and edited during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One provides a unique view of the experience on the 16th hole. We also captured two instruction pieces, one with Peter Malnati on chipping out of bunker and the second with Patrick Rodgers on putting. And finally, we went behind the scenes at our PGA TOUR LIVE production, showcasing the TV truck environment, something few fans ever see.
Throughout the year, I’m excited to continue experimenting in VR storytelling, identifying players or storylines that may play well on the platform. We’ll continue to publish those videos to the Oculus platform. And to reach a broader audience, we’ll be publishing 360-degree versions to Facebook and YouTube.
Thanks to SXSW for making video from the panel available. Enjoy!