VORTEX VR – A Unity Fulldome 3D Player for the Oculus Rift

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Featured, Vortex | 9 Comments

Oculus Master (00035)

The Oculus Rift has been gaining momentum over the past couple of years and if you haven’t heard, it’s tipped as being the VR system that will succeed. The new Crystal Cove prototype was a big hit at CES earlier this year winning the best of CES award and appearing on every tech blog from here to Timbuk-2.0. Over the past year I’ve heard many tales of joy from those who have tried one of the dev-kits and an equal proportion of folk who have been severely non-plussed. So I’ve been waiting for some time to try one for myself. It wasn’t until v.02 exhibition at QUAD that I had my first experience with one… I was blown away. It was part of an awesome exhibit by Darius Powell. Yes, I felt a bit sick and couldn’t resolve much detail and the headset was a little awkward and my eyelashes were brushing the lenses but none of these things got in the way of my pure enjoyment of the experience. It felt similar to the ‘spiritual’ experience of seeing fulldome 3D for the first time. You can’t ignore these moments.

I guess I immediately saw the potential to use the Oculus Rift as a previs tool for fulldome film-making. I then thought about the bigger picture. It’s actually a great platform for viewing fulldome films. Actually, why not lose the spring-line and start producing fully spherical films? With some improved technology, this could possibly be a better platform for viewing fulldome films than a dome all together. This makes me feel a little sad to consider… The dome resides in a special place within my heart.

We actually got an Oculus Rift at work in December but I hadn’t had chance to play with it due to paternity leave. My good friend Philip Day however, did. Phil’s a tinkerer. He likes to figure out how to do things. He likes to do it without looking at the manual. A typical “What happens if I press this?” makers approach. So he took the Rift home and made a fulldome player in Unity. His aim is to make something open that people can download and easily plug their own fulldome videos in and watch them on (or should that be in?) an Oculus Rift. A noble cause. He used Vortex as a test video to help figure it out. It’s useful for these kinds of things because it’s so short. It was useful for me to feed into the project with ideas for what settings I would like to see as a content creator and also for testing out the ease of customising the player.

So here’s the unity stereoscopic fulldome player project on the Oculus VR Share page: (Coming Soon!) And here’s some more info about the player project on Phil’s website. You can download the Unity Fulldome 3D Player project including Vortex here: Or download just Vortex using the icon below.


Simply download and play on your Oculus Rift, no other downloads or software is required. Currently this only works on Windows, the Mac version is coming soon.



Customising the Player

A little more about what’s required to get a stereoscopic fulldome film working in the player.

You can pretty much just replace the video file with another and it’ll just play it. The video that is required for input into the player is an OGV file, which can be created from an mp4, wmv etc. I’d recommend rendering the first pass at a high bit-rate to not lose too much quality after rendering the ogv from it. There’s a basic OGV converter included with the player project.

The dimensions can be any resolution at 2:1 ratio. To maximise the resolution of the current dev kit version without going over the top it’s worth working out what the perceivable resolution is. The field of view for the current dev-kit model is 90 degrees horizontally and has a resolution of 1280 x 800 in total or 640 x 800 pixels per eye. That gives it a ppd (pixels per degree) of 7.1, which is 11.85%, or around 1 eighth of human perceivable resolution (60 ppd). This is equal to watching a fulldome film at 814 x 814 pixels. So a 1k fulldome video should hold up just fine for the current version and should play back without too many issues on a half decent machine. To keep things in line with Imersa standards for for fulldome video resolution and general stereoscopic standards, I’d recommend rendering a side-by-side L-R video at 2048 x 1024. If you want to make sure it looks good on the new HD version of Oculus Rift then a resolution of 3072 x 1536 (Works out at 2444 x 1222) will cover it.

VTX_4k_60fps_L (02247)
Example of a side-by-side L-R stereoscopic frame

The menu has some very basic controls for the tilt (pitch) of the dome, 0 degrees being flat and 90 degrees being completely upright. The dome size controls how big the dome is in metres. Although the dome isn’t really pereptable when viewing stereoscopic content it does affect the perceived depth of the content. Play and quit are pretty obvious.

The menu is a png and the design can be customised to suit your desired stlye. This will make more sense if you download the player and take a look at the menu image. Whatever the design, the numbers will need to remain in the same place. The image is stacked 4 times for button highlight options. The order of the stack is ’tilt, size, play, quit’ from top to bottom.

Menu design 

Phil will be developing the player further so if you have any feedback or ideas, get in touch with him over on phileday.com


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  5. Bruce Ferguson
    February 12, 2015

    Hi Aaron,

    We met at Fulldome UK 2012, I produced the dome film “Shark Attack”.
    Great work on bringing Fulldome and the Rift together!
    However there doesn’t seem to be a “directtorift” file in the download, so I’m unable to get it working with head tracking on the Rift. Am I missing something?

    Thanks for your good work,


  6. Aaron
    February 13, 2015

    Hi Bruce!

    Yeah, I released Vortex for the rift back before the DK2 was released and I just haven’t updated it yet. I will at some point do this. You could download a fresh Whirligig player from here http://whirligig.xyz/downloads/ and drop the video into the media folder. Hope that helps.

    Hopefully see you at another event soon. Maybe Imersa?

  7. Bruce Ferguson
    February 13, 2015

    Ahh, of course, sorry I’m a bit of a Rift new comer and keep forgetting about the fabled pre-DK2 era. Thanks yup we’ve stumbled upon Phils Wirligig, awesome thanks.

    Would love to make it to another domey event but would need conincide with some other travel palns as New Zealand is at the ass end of the world [we do love it here mind you]. Who knows maybe we’ll get our own scene happening down here.
    Good to reconnect!

    Congrats on Vessel to. Love ya work!


  8. Aaron
    February 13, 2015

    Thanks Chap! And I know a few guys at Weta have been playing with the Rift and some of our content… The scene is coming! Maybe I’ll see you there 🙂

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