David Beckham steps into your living room with Sky’s stupendous virtual reality

By Oliver Smith 18 August 2016

Is virtual reality the future of sport? Sky certainly thinks so.

In March Sky, the leading pay-TV broadcaster, revealed it would be plunging headfirst into the world of virtual reality, establishing a 10-person team dedicated to the format.

During the last six months the newly-formed Sky VR Studio has created dozens of clips, most of which have been created for and posted on Facebook, generating millions of views.

From the inaugural Formula 1 360° clips that Sky created with the Williams Martini Racing team to take viewers into the cockpit of some of the fastest cars in the world, to an up-and-close interview with footballing superstar David Beckham.

Sky VR Studio

But creating a 360° interview with the most famous footballer in the world wasn’t easy.

They created it with the help of acclaimed VR director Richard Nockles, who spoke to Digiday about what he’d learnt over the first six months working with Sky.

While other broadcasters are trying to create feature-length virtual reality experiences, for now, Nockles says it’s much smarter for Sky to prioritise short clips for sharing on social media.

“There’ll be lots of people experimenting with longer form, but the headsets aren’t set up for that yet,” said Nockles.

Indeed the leading virtual reality headsets start at around £400, take up huge amounts of space and are only being bought by hardcore gamers.

Like being at the theatre

The team has also had to learn to act more like stage directors at the theatre in the way that they produce VR.

“The camera sees all,” said Nockles. “You’re not pointing the audience to particular things but letting them choose where they look.”

You can see this clearly in the interview with David Beckham, where the camera crew is trying their best to shrink out of sight as not to distract the viewer.

And Sky isn’t the only broadcaster experimenting with virtual reality. The BBC has been experimenting with the format to capture breaking news from around the world, and The Economist and The Guardian have also started creating their own VR clips and apps.

For now Sky is further along than any of its rivals in creating this content, with its own dedicated Sky VR app due to launch this summer to bring all of its 360° videos together in one place, and a total of 20 VR videos being produced in 2016 alone.

Here are some of the best 360° clips from Sky’s first six months in the world of VR:

Team Sky in training for the Tour de France

Anthony Joshua ahead of his world title fight with Charles Martin

David Beckham interviewed in celebration of 25 years of Sky Sports

Sky’s first 360° video with the Williams Martini Racing team