Finding the right VR video resolution

alex novak
Alex Novak

TL;DR Most of VR ready devices are capable of 4K video playback. More videos are released in 5K and 6K. You can watch these with compatible devices or streamed with viewport. Find out the highest video resolution for your headset.

Common misconception: It’s not your VR headset that defines the resolution of a video to be watched, but rather your GPU or chipset processing it. Stereoscopic video files consist of a left and right image pair representing slightly different perspectives seen by each eye. Each half of a video is projected onto the corresponding eye, but you can see only a part of that due to the 100º FOV limitation of current headsets. Hence video file resolution does not correspond exactly with headset resolution like it does with conventional files. It’s always good to watch higher resolution videos for better quality and extra zoom features.

Why 5K is better than 4K

4K is compatible with most headsets, with 4096px being the maximum resolution. Most content producers offer 5K, or even 6K, as that’s what you really want to watch. You can still get 4K version of these videos, but higher resolution definitely has an advantage.

This is what your eyes get from 5K and 4K videosd:

  • 5400x2700px stereoscopic 180º provides 2700x2700px for each eye, this gets projected via 100º FOV onto 1280x1440 of the OculusGo screen. Effectively downscaled 1500px video is watched on 1280px (+17%) vertically and 1440px (+4%) horizontally.
  • 4096x2048px stereoscopic 180º provides 2048x2048px for each eye, this gets projected via 100º FOV onto 1280x1440 of OculusGo screen. Effectively upscaled 1137px video is watched on 1280px (-11%) vertically and 1440px (-21%) horizontally.

5K and 6K video can be watched with Nvidia 10xx and 20xx cards and on Samsung Galaxy S8/S9 (International edition) phones with GearVR or DayDream headsets. The upcoming Galaxy S10 is expected to be supported with both US/Asia and International versions. The table below provides maximum resolutions for popular headsets.

Alternatively, viewport adaptive streaming provides the highest quality video playback on every headset. It brings original quality 5K/6K videos on 4K decoders. This way the video is cut into multiple pieces in the cloud and some sections of these are played simultaneously in the area you are exactly looking at. It switches instantly to other pieces following the movement of your head. It also grants additional zoom, requires much less bandwidth, means there’s no overheating of your phone and extends your battery life.

It’s already available on the SLR app for Android-based setups like OculusGo, GearVR, Daydream and Cardboard and the upcoming Oculus Quest. iPhone and Windows support is expected by September 2019. Windows headsets will be provided with 90 FPS quality.

As a general rule h.264 encoding is used to encode up to 4K videos with a maximum of or converted to and results in 503,316,480 checksum. H.265 is used for higher resolutions. It’s expected that h.265 provides better or the same quality as h.264 at significantly lower filesize.

OculusGo and VR compatible CPUs are exceptions being able to process h.264 and up to respectfully. In-browser WebVR players max resolution 4K 55FPS in h.264 or VP9.

Maximum specs theoretically supported by high-end devices are 

Headset Decoder Max video resolution Expected format
Oculus Rift / HTC Vive (Pro)/ Windows Mixed Reality/ Pimax 8K Nvidia 10xx, 20xx FPS
Derivatives:
FPS
FPS
FPS
360º stereo 30FPS

180º stereo 60FPS
360º stereo 60FPS
180º stereo 90FPS
  Nvidia 9xx
AMD Radeon
Others

360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
  VR compatible CPUs

FPS

Performance depends on CPU and h264 is preferred

 
GearVR      
Galaxy S8, S9 International (also Note) Exynos 8895
Exynos 9810
FPS
FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
360º stereo 60FPS
180º stereo 90FPS
Galaxy S7 International (also Note) Exynos 8890 180º stereo 60FPS
Galaxy S7, S8, S9 American, Asian (also Note) Snapdragon 835 360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Galaxy S6 Exynos 7420 Octa 360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Galaxy S10 (expected) Exynos 9820 and Snapdragon 855 FPS
FPS
360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Oculus Go Snapdragon 821


is played by OculusGalery

360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Oculus Quest (expected) Snapdragon 835 180º stereo 60FPS
PSVR      
Playstation 4 Pro 4.20 TFLOPS 180º stereo 60FPS
Playstation 1.84 TFLOPS 180º stereo 60FPS
DayDream, Cardboard (Android)      
Pixel III, LG V40 Snapdragon 845


360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Pixel II, Lenovo Mirage, LG V30 Snapdragon 835
360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
Pixel, Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Moto Z Snapdragon 820/821
360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS
iPhones: 6S, 7S, 8S, X and modifications  
360º stereo 30FPS
180º stereo 60FPS

 

 

 

 

alex novak
Alex Novak
Born and raised in Southern California, Alex Novak has always had a passion for technology. He followed that passion to Stanford where he received a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Business. Always interested in exploring new frontiers, the avid gamer and sci-fi reader found himself drawn to VR and its endless possibilities. Alex is excited to see what the future of VR brings and how he can help shape it.
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