European Pay TV Giant Sky Launches Virtual Reality Production Unit

LONDON — European pay TV giant Sky has launched a virtual reality production unit, Sky VR Studio, as it steps up its commitment to VR programming.

The first pieces of fully immersive VR content to be produced by the unit will be released on Friday — two films shot during Formula One testing in Barcelona, which will put viewers in the pit lane, the team garages and out onto the track.

The two Formula One VR “experiences,” which were produced in conjunction with Formula One management and Williams Martini Racing, will be made available via the Facebook 360 Video platform. The full VR experience will also be available on the Oculus platform, and viewable on the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift headsets. Later in the year, Sky will look to distribute content through a dedicated Sky VR app.

Over the coming year, Sky VR Studio will produce more than 20 films, across a range of Sky content — from major cultural events in news to some of the world’s biggest sporting events.

The Sky VR Studio team is led by executive producer Neil Graham, and includes VR director Richard Nockles, who directed the Formula One film, and is behind a wide range of VR projects for a number of global brands.

Sky has been building its expertise in VR for a number of years. In 2013, the company invested in Jaunt, a U.S.-based company pioneering cinematic virtual reality. Since then, Sky has been carrying out testing across a range of events.

Already, the Sky News team has produced “360” videos, taking viewers to the center of the migrant crisis with footage from the refugee landing beach in Lesbos, and the refugee camp in Calais. Sky Movies also trialed the technology at the recent premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” giving a 360-degree view from the red carpet.

In the coming months, Sky VR Studio will create exclusive VR content on Anthony Joshua’s challenge for the heavyweight boxing title, and Team Sky’s bid for the Tour de France crown, as well as various VR programming across news, arts and entertainment.

Gary Davey, managing director, content at Sky, commented: “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. 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.”

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