With soft-looking imagery and distracting artifacts, here’s why today’s VR video often doesn’t feel immersive.

Why does VR video look fuzzy?

VR video can transport you to new places and let you feel truly present. That’s not possible in conventional film. The best immersive experiences come from the highest-quality video.

Unfortunately, today’s VR video often falls short, with soft-looking imagery and distracting artifacts. But why?

To experience virtual reality, we use special headsets. One popular headset is the Gear VR. This mobile headset uses a smartphone’s high-resolution screen to let you experience VR videos. This phone also can play 4K video at 30 frames per second. It shows video in individual views, one for each eye, that are about twelve hundred by twelve hundred pixels each.

So why does the VR experience look so fuzzy?

A VR video is essentially a video wrapped around a sphere. On the Gear VR, you’re always seeing a little slice of that sphere. This slice is the field of view, measured in degrees. It covers about a quarter of the sphere, or 96 degrees. The math says we only see about 1000 pixels out of that 4K image. That piece gets mapped on to the display, but unfortunately it’s a little too small. It has to be stretched to fill the display. This makes the video look soft.

It gets worse for stereo video. Stereo video shows different views for each eye. The left and right views are slightly offset to create a sense of depth and better immersion.

4k vs 10k videovr view of man in tophat


But we have to pack these two views into the same frame to play them on the Gear VR headset. Stereo VR video is delivered by squeezing two views into one frame, one on top of the other. Squeezing means a loss of resolution. When the video is played in the headset, those squeezed views must be expanded again to twice their vertical size.

That’s a lot! This makes the video look even softer.

So what is the solution? Our fix is to start with a much bigger image.

Instead of scaling UP to fit the view, scale DOWN, and you can deliver smoother, more life-like videos. 

But limitations of the Gear VR hardware and today’s bandwidth-limited networks mean you can’t just use a bigger image. Pixvana is pioneering Field Of View Adaptive Streaming technology that delivers a bigger and better image right where you’re looking. Adapting VR video for every headset ensures that today’s content will look great, even on devices that have yet to be invented.

At Pixvana we are excited to solve the many challenges of VR filmmaking. With adaptive technology, VR films can be more immersive and lifelike – giving everyone a better experience.


man on skateboard jumping

Free SPIN Studio Account

Transform the way you create, edit, and show VR video experiences across any device anywhere. Sign up for a free account and demo our industry-leading projection formats with your own content.

Filed Under: