Sitting in a packed cinema can often be a stressful experience.
Someone behind you might be rustling sweet packets, to your left another audience member is narrating the story out-loud and right at the back of the theater is a ringing phone. Even if all of these problems magically go away, you still might have to deal with bad audio quality, uncomfortable seats and the booming rumble of the screen next door. Thankfully, CINEVEO solves all of these problems by offering five virtual movie theaters for you to sit within while enjoying a movie, TV show or home video on the big screen.
Now, we’ve seen virtual cinemas for the Rift before. Originally there was VR Cinema, whose developer is now working at Oculus on an official VR movie theater app. We’ve also seen Whirligig Publisher, which can simulate 360 stereo rendering and multiple ratios, but CINEVEO stands out from the others by offering multiple themes, some really clever details and a novel interface that uses head-tracking to let you control the playback with a swoosh of your head. Priced just $10, it’s not a free app, but you get a polished experience that’s fun to use, features buttery smooth video playback and actually makes watching video on your Oculus Rift an immersive and impressive experience.
CINEVEO is actually split into five executable files, each being a different theme for presenting your videos. The first, and most impressive is the 4D Movie Theater theme, which simulates a modern cinema but with added mood lighting that changes color to reflect the on-screen image. It’s subtle, but rather impressive, and certainly helps you to immerse yourself in the movie. Look around and you’ll notice some other clever touches, including a box of popcorn on the chair next to you, movie posters in the hallway behind and an animated virtual body sitting in the chair. The other themes included with CINEVEO include a spooky graveyard, wooden boat out at sea (with a rotating lighthouse nearby), space station hovering over Earth and a black void that displays only a huge hovering theater screen. It’s great to have the option to choose multiple themes, but we found ourselves sticking to only two: the 4D Movie Theater and black void themes. In part, because the 4D Theatre actually feels like a real cinema, and its mood lighting genuinely enhances the atmosphere, but also because the black void theme makes it easier to focus on the movie, and not at your surroundings.
CINEVEO doesn’t play all video formats out-of-the-box, so recommends that you install a video codec pack such as LAVFilters. Thankfully we already had a suitable codec pack installed, but if you haven’t then we suggest you read the included PDF file which walks you step-by-step through the process. Once that’s sorted, the simplest method of loading your films into CINEVEO is to copy them into the “movies” folder included with each theme, then open the relevant .exe and load a particular file from the in-game menu. If you’re sticking to one theme then it’s a doddle to load each video, but if you’re swapping between themes then you can either cut and copy the video files to that particular theme folder, or instead use the in-game file menu to navigate to the relevant folder. This latter method is a bit of a chore, so we found ourselves cutting and pasting videos from one theme folder to another.
Once you’ve loaded a file and are sitting in a virtual theater then you’ll find CINEVEO to be an incredibly comfortable experience. It runs at a smooth 75FPS, features full head and positional tracking and renders video beautifully sharp on the virtual theater screen. We didn’t notice any chromatic aberration problems, nor did the video playback stutter. In fact we didn’t have any technical issues whatsoever; and there’s plenty of customisation options to be found; using keyboard shortcuts you’re able to toggle between curved or flat screens, switch between 2D and 3D modes, and if you’re sitting in the 4D Theater it’s possible to toggle the ambient lighting on and off or switch to another seat.
Is CINEVEO worth its $10 asking price? Yes. Easily. It offers plenty of customization options, a novel hands-free interface and makes watching movies on the Rift an enjoyable experience. It really does recreate the experience of sitting in a movie theater, but without any noisy audience members or technical issues. If you have a decent pair of headphones then the audio experience is just as thrilling as a real-life theater, and the virtual screen is far brighter and more vivid than a projected screen. However, the DK2 headset is limited to a resolution of 1920×180, so the clarity is never going to match that of a real theater screen; not until the eventual Oculus Rift consumer headset is released in (hopefully) 2015. Until then, CINEVEO is a fantastic way to watch 3D films in your own home. It easily beats the experience of watching a 3DTV, and makes standard 2D playback look positively archaic.
Packed with clever ideas, CINEVEO provides a genuinely fun and immersive experience for watching movies and TV shows on your Oculus Rift.
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Oculus Rift Experience