Follow My Lead: The Story of the 2016 NBA Finals marks a strange milestone. At 25 minutes long, it’s one of the first virtual reality films to approach the length of a single TV episode. If this sounds like a small achievement, though, think of it this way: Oculus, the NBA, and a production company called m ss ng p eces (prounounced “missing pieces”) can get people to sit down and strap potentially motion sickness-inducing goggles to their face for nearly half an hour; play them video stitched together from a nascent, complicated camera setup; and still deliver something with enough style and momentum to keep a non-sports fan like me interested.
As its name suggests, Follow My Lead is a Gear VR mini-documentary about this year’s dramatic showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, narrated by actor Michael B. Jordan. This is far from the NBA’s first foray into VR. The organization was one of the first major sports to take a serious interest in the medium, partnering with Samsung on a 360-degree video initiative in early 2015. Cavaliers player LeBron James even got his own VR short made by studio Felix & Paul, following James’ daily training regimen. But this is a larger, more narrative-driven project. “We wanted people to stop saying, oh, you can only use VR to do this story, or that story,” says Oculus head of video Eugene Wei. “There are a lot of things that VR video can do, a lot more than people believe. But you just have to show them that it’s possible.”