MilkVR Review

A GEARVR NEWS APP REVIEW

by VRift720


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INTRODUCTION:

      There are already quite a wealth of video players on GearVR that this point.  My first video experience was quite good ... this only by the luck of the draw.   Because one of the earliest video players I found out about was VRSE by Chris Milk.  In that player, I watched my first video ever … “Evolution of the Verse” which is probably the finest example of 3D-Depth video available on the device to date.  It’s still one of my favorites even after all of this time.

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     “Evolution of the Verse” was entirely CGI generated, meaning the whole set was created in a computer and rendered into being through algorithms.  That’s why the stereoscopy in it is darned good.  It was not filmed in the real world, but it still looks quite realistic, with dragonflies hovering near your face and an incredible sunrise over a serene lake nestled deep in snow-capped mountains.  I thought all the videos I was about to see in GearVR would turn out like that, so mind-blowingly epic, that I was almost feverish with excitement for the future.  That would, sadly, not turn out to be the case, as I would later learn I had seen the best film … firstAnd it was all down hill from there, as the majority of videos are 2D.  And in VR, 2D videos don’t really work.  More than that, they are mostly just … bad.  Things look too large, or too far away, but closing one eye does help with this a little.

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MILKVR – THE BEST:

      So when I first saw the “MilkVR” video player I didn’t have a frame of reference, my mind automatically assumed that it must have also been created by Chris Milk.  “MilkVR just made sense that way.  It was only when I did the research for this article that I learned MilkVR is Samsung’s own VR video player.  Now a lot of things have begun to make sense, like the way MilkVR seems to know every audio and video format available for GearVR, and is able to play them all.  The way it can be programmed to play sideloaded videos directly off the internet.  The way it can find your videos in any folder of your device, as long as you know how to tell it where to look.

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      All the other video players can’t do the all of things MilkVR can do.  It’s versatile, it’s powerful, and it has the most videos available for download at any given time.  It also seems to have the most 3D-Depth videos, with more showing up daily.   There is a 3D shark video which is only barely a minute long, but the sharks are also CGI creations, not real sharks but computer generated.  Which is also why this video is so much better than anything filmed underwater with traditional cameras. 

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GREAT CONTENT:

      For your money, it’s better to look for the videos which have been rendered by computers and not filmed.  The CGI sharks come right at you in the aforementioned video … so if you happen to turn around like I did at just the wrong moment, all you see are teeth.  I jumped out of my own skin, literally shell shocked by it.  They set it up like that, too.  The woman says “Wow, a Great White ….” just 5 seconds before it comes at you.  You naturally want to find the shark, so you begin turning around to look.  And that’s when you see the 2-ton beast, its jaws partially open, sail past you only 8 inches from your face.  It could give you a heart attack, but I still really loved this video!

      There are many stereoscopic-3D videos by GE Electric that are truly stunning for the quality of the art and depth shown, despite their low resolution.  One video takes you under the sea in a deep-sea submersible craft while another takes you inside the brain of a man to see the effects of his neurons while listening to a musical concert.  The one in the deep-sea craft would be better if they’d made it into an application separate from MilkVR.  The reason is that they could have made the cockpit a foreground live-rendered graphics with the windows serving as screens for the 3D video behind it. 

      That way, the actual cockpit of the craft would be the highest resolution possible, creating more immersion.  But they chose to render the cockpit in the video, making it blurry and not as cool as it would be if they’d used actually geometry in Unity to display the foreground as real objects.  An example of what I’m talking about is the “It Can Wait Driving Simulation“.  This app has its car cockpit live rendered, with the video portions done through the car’s windshield and surrounding windows.  Way more convincing.

      Another great video is the 3D Hunger Games one.  Here’s another CGI creation that stands out above the rest.  You start in a field near a fence, like in the latest Jurassic Park film, but inside the Hunger Games’ world and are treated to several frozen-in-time locations within those films.  It’s very nicely done.

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HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM MILKVR:

      Let’s say you have a movie you want to watch on GearVR but no space on your phone to put it in the usual place.  You can pick up a Sandisk Connect Wireless Flashdrive (shown above) and drop your movie on there in the mp4 format.  Then you go to HeavyKick’s XDA page to learn how to use it HERE.

      Essentially, you create a link that gets stored in a MilkVR folder at the root level of your phone directory.  That link now allows MilkVR to create a folder inside of its “Devices” tab. You click “Devices” and you’ll now see a “Sideloaded” option.  Click that, and you now see all of the Sideloaded movies HeavyKick’s “MilkVRLauncher” has linked to MilkVR for you.  It’s very slick.  You can plug your Sandisk Wireless device into a USB charging plug so it never runs out of juice.  The device is rated to be able to broadcast a movie to up to 3 different devices at the same time, so it’s really fast.  That means when you have a HD video in 3D that runs at 60 FPS and needs 40,000 Kbps (or 40Mbits) to pull off, the Connect can deliver this performance and MilkVR is capable of displaying this, too.

      Now let’s say you have an SD Card and want to play your movie off of that.  You’ll need to know the FULL file-folder location of your movie from root to that SD Card, which you can just exchange in the example below where you see the blue text…


milkvr://sideload/?url=file:///storage/emulated/0/MyVideos/CarBee_5.1.mp4&video_type=_mono360&audio_type=_5.1&title=videotitle


      You exchange the name of the video in red above with your video’s title.  This is what the actual videofile is called on the disk, not it’s title inside MilkVR.  For example, its name on disk could be shorted to “CB51.mp4” but yet you want it to say “Car_Bee_The_Adventure” in MilkVR.  In that case, this actual name goes where it says =videotitle in purple above.

      If the video is also a 3D-Depth Video, instead of mono360, it should say stereo360 for “video_type” shown in green above.  In this way, you can create a link directly to your SD Card’s location within MilkVR. 

      How you use this URL is you send yourself the link, possibly as an email, and open it on your phone.  You copy that URL from within your phone and then load up MilkVR.  It has a place to paste URL’s.  Once you paste this, it will create a link and save it in the MilkVR folder in your phone’s root directory.  If you don’t have a MilkVR folder, it could crash MilkVR upon pasting this link!  Be sure to have a MilkVR folder created in the root directory of your phone first before pasting any links.  The XDA link at the start of this section explains how to do that in more detail.  You then find the “Devices/Sideloaded” tab in MilkVR to play it.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

     Of all the video programs offered on GearVR so far, MilkVR is still the best one.  While JauntVR does have a nicer interface, with more stereoscopic embellishments, MilkVR’s interface is nothing to scoff at.  But until video resolutions begin to pass the 1150-PPi threshold for what is needed in VR for us truly enjoy the visuals without groaning about blurriness and pixelation, it may be a while before these video services can really begin to take off mainstream.  For now, most people put these on, load up just the wrong video to discourage them immediately, and go around spouting off how bad it all is and will never give it another chance after that.  I’m lucky.  I saw one of the best videos first, and knew what was possible, even as I suffered through 100’s of tedious 2D films trying to find anything at all in those other areas that worked for me.  But that was rare indeed.   

      Facebook is doing a lot to fix the current video-resolution issues in VR over the coming months with the release of their Dynamic Streaming video codec for use in Oculus Video.  This, as they seek to position themselves ahead of YouTube in the coming VR race.  But it remains to be seen whether or not Facebook will share this technology with Samsung’s MilkVR application. I would hope since they have a collaboration with Samsung, that this codec will extend to MilkVR as well.  It could really be a game changer and set MilkVR far ahead of the competition, as I’m sure it will for Oculus Video.

      Although the current video resolution is still a big drawback for VR at the moment, the depth information and ability to feel these locations through a Sense of Presence normal 2D non-surround videos can’t begin to offer is the thing which gives me hope for where the medium may one day be able to carry us.  The videos of today aren’t perfect, but they do open the window just far enough … for our imaginations to do the rest.

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