What It's Like To Watch Movies On The Oculus Rift

What It's Like to Watch Movies on the Oculus Rift

There is no doubt that the Oculus Rift VR headset, with its 3D display and tilt sensors, is designed for gaming. But that's not all it can do. There are several apps that allow you to watch movies on it as well.

Some of these apps simulate the theatre experience, complete with rows of seating and a giant screen on the wall in front of you — not to mention the use of the tilt sensors to emulate your head's movement. But for me, all I wanted was for the movie to be floating in the blackness in front of me — with no fancy tilt controls or anything else.

VR Player fit the bill. And not only is it capable of taking a 2D movie and projecting it into the Oculus Rift, it works with 3D movies too.

What It's Like to Watch Movies on the Oculus Rift

After plugging in my headphones and lying down on my couch, I started with the animated feature My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. During close-ups it looked fine, but anytime there was a wide shot with lots of details — or worse yet a wide shot with lots of details plus movement — the Rift's inherent problem showed through: Because each of your eyes is looking at the equivalent of a 600x400 pixel screen two inches away from your face, it looks more than a little blocky.

What It's Like to Watch Movies on the Oculus Rift

When I moved on to my second movie, the Tom Cruise sci-fi film Oblivion, it got even worse. As a live action movie, it was generally more detailed than an animated one — not that I'd know that from the Rift. Details in wide shots were practically non-existent — especially in the case of faces. This in turn caused me to miss out on some of the film's most important reveals (until, at least, the film's next close-up clarified what was going on). Also, due to the pixelation, reading anything was this side of impossible.

Lastly, I tried out Avatar in 3D. On the whole it shared the same pixelation problems as the other two movies. And as for the 3D effect, while it was noticeable, it seemed to have less "pop" than when watching films in the theatre with 3D glasses.

What It's Like to Watch Movies on the Oculus Rift

To tell the truth, I wasn't able to watch all three films in one go. After watching the first two films, I had to take a break from using the Rift and return to the real world. While it wasn't crippling or anything, I was in pain. Despite the Rift's less than a pound of weight, my sinuses, where the Rift had been resting, ached. More than that though, my head and eyes hurt.

Much like when playing games on the Rift for long periods, your eyes start straining. Your eyes know what you're seeing should be clearer, so they try to bring the video into sharper focus automatically. All this does, though, is reveal the pixel boxes. So after feeling the effects of several hours of this, I chose not to watch Avatar until the following day.

So, to sum it all up, what is it like to watch movies on the Rift? Like watching movies on the world's biggest standard definition CRT TV. The screen looks huge and so do the pixels.

Still, it is nice to be able to just lie down on your back and watch a movie.


    It will be interesting to see if the the increase of resolution will decrease fatigue caused by the Rift at the moment.

    Thanks for this article, I had no idea the res was so absurdly low. Incredibly underwhelming. I was almost ready to buy one but until they up the res there's no way I'm forking out big bucks for sub-1024x768 imagery, especially if the 3D isn't that great either. Even for games I'd expect a way better picture.

      It's a DEV unit. Purpose built for testing not primarily pleasure. The consumer release will be higher res.

    Sounds like it's no Headflat - Oculus isn't even 4D-ready! http://www.headflat.com/

    When it gets 1080p in each eye and the weight drops a little bit more then it's going to be killer - right now it's a developers toy - a very, very cool toy.

    I love that people who crap on 3D for having to wear some glasses are going bat shit crazy for what looks like a pair of scuba goggles.

    Surely using a screen that's literally cm away from your eyes is going to cause some MONDO eyestrain isn't it?

    I mean, who here reads a book by pressing it up against their face?

      it sounds like a sure fire way to get Myopia

      (in that scientists still really aren't sure if screens and/or lack of sunlight can increase the likelihood of Myopia or if the evidence is all just circumstantial but this does both and hot damn do your eyeballs hurt after extended sessions of playing)

      That's why a major part of the Rift is the optics that let your eyes focus off in the distance.

        You got a link to that? It's sounds very, very cool.

        I think the device would be unusable for most without something like this.

          Umm... can't think of anything I can specifically link to. But I have a Rift devkit of my own, and can tell you that there are a set of big fat lenses that sit between your eyes and the screen, and that looking around in it causes no eye strain for me at all.

          Edit: Wait, they have pictures of the insides and stuff in the teardown. That'll do I guess?

          Last edited 28/08/13 8:03 pm

    The oculus rift is still in beta, perhaps when the commercial rift is released, they may have made a few changes which could include better image quality, and a more comfortable fit?

    It's just the best thing ever. It really, really is. Even with a dev kit, you never need to go to a cinema again. The resolution is good enough. Then there's the sound, the sound, man, it's beautiful. Not a single teenager on a mobile or elderly person chatting. Just you and your gaming gear watching what you want on a screen you perceive to be so much larger than it actually is.

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