Got a new holiday VR headset? Immerse yourself in these standout VR videos from 2019.
With the official launches of the Oculus Quest, Valve Index, Varjo VR-1, and HP Reverb headsets, 2019 was a big year for VR. Notably, the Quest is “selling as fast as [Oculus] can make them,” and is speculated to have sold 400,000 units in the first five months of availability—even before the surge of Black Friday/Cyber Monday and holiday seasons.
And while there are many great games to be played in the headset, VR videos remain a vital part of the ecosystem. It’s a format that benefits from a lower barrier to entry than games for creators, and provide viewers with short-form, cinematic immersive experiences.
This year saw a rise in the prevalence of the VR180 format—which allows traditional video creators to shoot in ways already familiar to them while still giving audiences the ability to immerse themselves in the content.
So, as users new and old throw on their headsets this winter, the following list offers 25 of the top VR videos (both 360° and VR180) of 2019 available on YouTube—ranging from documentary, nature, entertainment, education, and more.
As the title indicates, this video finds EDM Producer Alan Walker bringing audiences a glimpse of what his live show is like. But the video isn’t just a single VR180 camera propped up in the crowd. Instead, using a futuristic motif and post-production style, Walker calls out individual aspects of his show. The result is that the video can function both as a musical experience and one that gives a more personal “behind the scenes” experience.
BBC Earth: Total Solar Eclipse: 360 VR Video Seen From Space | Earth From Space
Exactly as the name implies: this video from BBC Earth lets users witness a total solar eclipse from space—the first time this experience is available in full immersion. Punchy captions connect audiences to the content, providing insight and guiding us toward viewing the main event.
Brave Wilderness: Giant Mud Dragon a.k.a Big Daddy! - in VR180!
Brave Wilderness is known for bringing audiences “up close animal encounters,” but in this VR180 things get seriously up close and personal. See if you can keep your cool joining host Coyote in an encounter with a giant common snapping turtle—and learn why it also earned the name “Big Daddy.”
Cirque du Soleil: KÀ Fight Scene Wrestling in VR180 | IMMERCIRQUE Episode 4 | Cirque du Soleil's Barri Griffiths
Cirque du Soleil continues its tradition of producing standout immersive content with this VR180 video featuring WWE Superstar Mason Ryan—who is now an artist with Cirque du Soleil. Follow Mason—real name: Barri Griffiths—as he takes you backstage through his training, makeup, and costume routine—leading up to a final exclusive performance.
ChrisFix: Ride Along in my Drift Car (Virtual Reality)
Hop into the passenger seat of the ChrisFix DriftStang, a project car won for $1,000 at a charity auction. Get an intimate view of how expert drivers drift—including clutch kicking and emergency-brake pulling—or see what it feels like by looking out the window.
Christian Delgrosso: I DELIVERED MY FIRST BABY **EMOTIONAL**
Childbirth is said to be one of the most beautiful and intimate human experiences—but don’t worry, this VR180 is all laughs. Viewers find themselves as the woman in labor, and maybe the best way to sum up the experience is captured by Delgrosso himself in a comment left below the video, where he writes, “Imagine being left with these doctors to deliver your baby.... LMAOO.”
Erika Costell: Conscience (180° VR Music Video)
The immersive music video format has witnessed major innovation over the course of the past half-decade, and Erika Costell’s “Conscience,” carries the mantle in 2019. Immersion here is used to conjure a mood and an atmosphere and position users within that space. With the video’s clean editing, camera work, and the inclusion of 2D “closeup” video snippets, “Conscience” emerges as a standout VR music video of the year and the decade.
How to Cook That (Ann Reardon): How Small Can I Make PAVLOVA? | Teeny Weeny Challenge VR180
VR is a fantastic medium for exploring scale—and in this experience, Ann Reardon and How to Cook let you witness a cooking challenge from a “teeny weeny” perspective. There’s a strange thrill in seeing toys that feel life-sized moved around by gigantic, otherworldly hands—and of course, stick around to judge the resulting pavlova for yourself.
Invisible People: Homeless Disabled Firefighter Helping Homeless People in San Francisco VR180
One of VR’s most powerful use cases is bringing to light untold or ignored stories through documentary; the chance to feel embodied in other people’s lives can foster empathy in ways that 2D video cannot. In this video from Invisible People, we join Couper, a disabled, homeless firefighter and street medic in San Francisco in her journey to help other homeless people in need.
Jamie Oliver: Quick Cheese Omelette Baguette VR180 | Jamie Oliver
If you’re the type of person who loves to torture yourself with beautiful food videos, this offering from Jamie Oliver will let you take it to the next level. Once in the headset, join Oliver in the kitchen as he prepares a silky, oozy omelette with salsa and a baguette. You’ll feel like you’re right there in the kitchen with him, but unfortunately any salivation stays definitively in your own world.
Enter the fantasy realm of “The Wanderer,” a hooded “sage of the woods searching for meaning” in KickThePJ’s short immersive film of the same name. Come for the beautiful imagery, stick around for the intriguing narrative, which is grounded through ongoing voiceover narration.
Let’s Play: Tour of Achievement Cove - VR180 Minecraft (Part 1 of 3)
Minecraft videos have become a veritable platform in their own right—and now creators have the chance to take it to its natural extension in VR. This 180 video also manages to pull off a unique comedic tone amid its “day in the life” tour—pairing zany quips with a visual style that manages to subtly punches up the humor at just the right beats.
London Hacks: Dumpster Diving London VR180 - Part 1
One of VR video’s “superpowers” is to give viewers experiences they don’t typically get to have. In some cases (like the below), that means going to wild places across the globe—but it also applies to scenarios that occur all around us, but outside of our usual routine. In this video from London Hacks, take a look at the produce that often—literally—goes to waste.
National Geographic: Iceland’s Glaciers - 360 | Into Water
In National Geographic’s first installment of its “Into Water” 360 series, users travel across Iceland’s countryside with glaciologist Dr. M Jackson. Dr. Jackson has spent the last decade documenting “the incredible physical and cultural changes” of Iceland in response to an unprecedented melting of its ice, and now, users can witness the scope of change through her eyes.
National Institute of Standards and Technology: In the Eye of the Fire - 360° video
It’s not every day you get to see what the inside of a forest fire looks like—particularly in full immersion. That’s exactly the experience NIST researchers wanted to provide. Working in conjunction with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, the U.S. Forest Service. and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, NIST was able develop a solution for capturing a controlled “crown fire” from within by using a water-cooled glass enclosure to protect 360° cameras in fires. It’s a fascinating experience in-and-of itself, but also carries massive potential for recording immersive video in other ultra-hot environments.
Marshmello - Joytime III Playlist (13 videos)
Looking for a full album experience in your headset? Marshmello released all thirteen tracks from his album, Joytime III as a 360 playlist. Each is a discrete environment—and some are more intricate than others—though the Producer’s iconic logo always manages to make an appearance. There’s something charming about having a static environment from which to engage with each of these songs—operating more as an album visualizer than a concept film.
Outside TV: In Control | Yosemite Higher Spire Free, Part 3 (VR180)
Ever want to know what it would look like to climb one of the most dangerous spires in Yosemite? Now you can take a look from the safety of your couch as Adidas athletes Kevin Jorgeson and Ben Rueck do the hard work for us and make history, becoming the first to ever free climb the perilous Pitch 7 route.
Poppy: Touch the Icky Baby (Poppy VR 180 Experience)
Poppy continues her commitment to use emerging formats to further her idiosyncratic, futuristic persona. This video is part of a series of VR180 videos Poppy released this year, including “Is It Working?” and “Touch Poppy.” Each is sinister in its brevity, but “Icky Baby” is arguably creepiest in its brevity—with Poppy delivering the eponymous command in her disquieting roboticism—and the presence of her seemingly slaved counterpart.
RackaRacka: Demonic Spirit CAUGHT ON TAPE
YouTube is home to its fair share of ghost videos, aspiring ghost hunters, and parodies thereof—so it makes sense that we finally have an immersive take on the genre. While this piece is clearly fictional, the twitchy editing and artful use of sound cues create an experience that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
React (FBE): People Compete In A Beat Saber Challenge (VR180)
Beat Saber is the most popular game in VR history, and a big part of that success stems from breakout mixed reality videos last year, which showcased the game in a 2D video format. Now, viewers can bring themselves into the game environment in this friendly competition captured in VR180.
Salomundo: El Avion Mas Ligero Del Mundo! VR 180 | Salomondrin
Hit the skies—and waters—with this Spanish language VR experience from Salomundo that takes you into the cockpit of the world’s lightest airplane. The reverse shot structure allows audiences to witness the protagonists and environment out the front window in equal proportion, grounding the piece in a human story while simultaneously providing an immersive aviation experience.
StacyPlays: "Home" - A Minecraft 180° Adventure
The second Minecraft-based entry on the list is markedly different in approach. “Home” is a fast-paced fictional adventure, and unfolds without the use of dialogue (at least, human dialogue). Camera movements are intended to give audiences the feeling of tailing the feline protagonist on the epic journey, and the result is an emotionally resonant display of immersive Minecraft storytelling.
Taryn Southern’s album, I AM AI, garnered widespread critical and mainstream attention for its method of composition; Southern co-wrote the album with an AI platform called Amper, purportedly the first collaboration of its kind. As an extension of her new media approach, Southern released VR music videos for album singles—and “New World” deepens the infusion of emerging tech, becoming the first song to be tokenized via the Ethereum blockchain’s smart contracts. Buzzwords aside, “New World,” which was produced by Jenn Duong and features art by Vlad Illic (VRHUMAN), is a visual feast, progressing through an icy landscape that nevertheless brims with geometric life.
When it comes down to it, “Pet Cheetah VR” is just an awesome video to watch. Everything about it is just right: the editing, the shot composition and sequencing, the oscillation between asynchronous and live audio, the chance to witness the onstage pyrotechnics of twenty one pilots. Though the video is just for one song, viewers leave it with a sense of the “whole world” of the concert.
What’s Inside: What’s Inside the Washington Monument
The What’s Inside father-son duo brings their usual brand of peppy edutainment to the iconic Washington Monument, which had been closed for the previous three years. Thanks to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the two were able to showcase the monument dedicated to George Washington before it officially reopened on Sept. 19, 2019, letting audiences experience the Monument without any crowd interference.
With the official launches […]