Creating an interactive Virtual Reality (VR) experience from scratch is much easier than you think. Especially because nowadays there are no coding skills required to do so. Additionally there are more quality free resources available today than ever before to help you hit the ground running with your new VR experience.
To save you time and put you right ahead of the pack we created this resource guide with only the best free resources available in the VR world today.
Step 1: Idea generation
If you want to get started with VR and VRdirect but have no idea what kind of experience you want to create in the first place, you can always get some inspiration from already existing experiences and content. The following two resources offer you an enormous load of material that you can work through and generate the perfect idea for your interactive VR experience.
1. VRdirect App
The VRdirect App is available on the App Store as well as the Google Play Store for free. Many creators have already uploaded their interactive 360° and VR experiences there, so it is a great source of inspiration for anyone looking to get started with interactive VR experiences created with VRdirect.
2. Youtube/Facebook 360° Video search
If this is not enough for you and you want to take it one step further and really want to see what is possible in terms of 360° video you can use the Youtube and Facebook search to find 360° video content and watch them for free in your browser.
For Facebook just add “360” to your search term – if you are looking for 360° skydiving videos for example just search for “Skydiving 360” and you will find multiple 360° videos.
On Youtube the search for 360° content works even better. Input your search term and afterwards use the “Filter”-tab of the Youtube search to display 360° videos. You can also apply multiple filters. For example to show for the most watched videos first.
Step 2: Wireframing and Storyboard
Every great VR experience starts off first with a plan of action, even if that plan is rudimentary and minimalist at first. All you need to get started is a simple storyboard (physical paper or digital paper, it makes no difference) to act as the foundation that the rest of your VR world will be built upon.
3. Adobe XD CC
Adobe XD CC is a free wireframing program that is usually used by Web- or App-Designers that want to visualize their user experience and create a prototype. Although you will only need it to create a roadmap that shows the possible paths your user can take through your experience a resource like Adobe XD CC can be really helpful for that. It is available for both Mac and Window.
To learn how to create the perfect storyboard visit the ACMI website.
After you’re done sketching your user experience it’s now time to create your storyboard. A storyboard is a shot-by-shot visual plan that shows what a film will look like before the film is shot. It’s very important to create one in the first place so you don’t miss out on any important shots when filming your footage. If you are producing your VR experience for someone else you should definitely talk with your client about your storyboard first before you start producing.
If you already know how to create a storyboard you can immediately take it digital. Storyboarder is a wonderful tool by wonderunit.com. Storyboarder makes it easy to visualize a story as fast you can draw stick figures. It is also available for Windows, Mac and Linux 100% free of charge.
Step 3: Footage and content
You should now be clear about what story you want to tell and what media you need for that. For VR experiences the basis will always be 360° photo or video-content or something that you designed in 3D.
360° Photo- or Video-Content:
Most of the time 360° photo- or video-content will be the foundation of your interactive VR experience. You don’t need complex 3D footage or models to create stunning interactive 360° experiences with VRdirect. Although we always recommend a dedicated 360° photo- or video-camera there are some free apps out there that can help you to get started.
6. Google Street View for 360° Photos
The Street View App lets you create 360° photos directly with your smartphone – for free and without any additional hardware. Just open the app on your iOS or Android device and click on “Create” and take a series of photos. The photos are taken automatically and once you’re done the app does all the stitching work for you. After the stitching is done the 360° photo will be automatically saved on your smartphone which can then be added to your experience
Okay – to be honest, there aren’t any convenient and high-quality ways to create 360° videos without additional hardware for free. But there is Spincle. Spincle is a free app available for iOS and soon to be released for Android as well. Using Spincle is pretty similar to Google Street View or creating a panorama photo – only with a little twist. You spin to capture still images and stay a while to capture video. The results are then combined become a 360°-video. The videos are than saved on your smartphone. Although this doesn’t sound too spectacular, it lets you add 360°-video content to your 360° experiences.
Editing 360° Video-Content:
If you have 360° video content that you downloaded from a stock footage platform or created with your own 360° camera (or Spincle) you can directly import it into your VRdirect project. But sometimes you will have to edit the footage before using it in your VR experience. For example to get your shots to the correct length or, for example, enhance the colors of your shots.
While 360° photo content can basically be edited in any image software this is not the case for 360° video and it’s not too easy to find a good solution even for basic editing such as trimming.
If you are only looking for basic editing options, V360 – which is available for free on iOS or Android – is exactly the app you need. V360 is an app that lets you edit 360° videos from your mobile phone. Basically, it allows you to trim and sort your 360° footage very quickly to get somewhat a rough cut and save the final product to your smartphone. It’s definitely a great resource to get you started, working with 360° videos can still sometimes require more editing possibilities.
For more advanced editing we definitely recommend a professional video editing software. Although all other resources in this list are 100% free – for this we move to a Trial version.
With Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects you can really get the best out of your 360° content. Besides the basic editing in form of cutting, sorting and exporting, the Adobe suite offers you easy ways to add audio effects, edit the colors of the video etc. Basically everything you can do with 2D-video as well. Again – there are hundreds of tutorials online and it is definitely worth having a look into this awesome software.
The Adobe suite is available as a trial for 30 days and can be purchased afterward. So you have 30 days of time to get done with all the editing you need after shooting your video.
Although you don’t need any fancy looking 3D-animations to create a stunning and interactive VR experience, some people still want or have to use them. With 3D-animation computer graphics are used to give the impression of objects moving and being in a three-dimensional space.
Blender is a free and open-source 3D creation software. If you don’t have access to 360° footage or need parts of your experience to be created in 3D, blender is an ideal way to get started and create your first 3D models. There are thousands of tutorials online that can help you to create exactly the 3D models that you need.
Other software might offer more advanced features for creating 3D models, but when you’ve never used a 3D modeling tool, you can probably do everything without them. Also, other and more advanced software most of the time isn’t free.
Blender is more than good enough to create your very first 3D models for your VR experience and we would definitely recommend taking a look at it. Sure – it might take you some time to really get started but that’s the case for almost any software.
Step 4: 2D-Elements and Graphics
If you have the main content, 360° footage or 3D-animations, set up you can now think about 2D-content, like videos, photos or graphics, that you would like to include in your VR experience. One of the main things you will need these for are the interactive elements that trigger transitions, start a video or play a sound. Icons and png graphics often represent those.
One of the main places to get access to such icons that you can freely use in your projects is iconmonstr.com. The website hosts over 4237+ free icons that you can download as .png graphics in your preferred resolution and color or as .ai to use it as a vector graphic. The license of iconmonstr.com grants you every right you need to have: use the downloaded icons in non-commercial and commercial projects, services or products without attribution in any media.
So after you’ve downloaded your .png icon you can just import it into the VRdirect Studio and use it for your interactive elements.
If you are not happy with everything iconmonstr.com has to offer, you have some other choices for sure. One of our preferred ones definitely is freepik.com. They offer millions of vector graphics, icons, and illustration. But that’s not all of it. If you want to use stock photos in your VR experience as well freepik.com has over a million of them. Free to use in commercial or personal projects. Just have a look at the license which tends to differ between different media files. Some are free to use with attribution while for others you need to attribute the author.
If this still isn’t enough for you and you need more or different images for your VR experience there is another possibility to get access to them. Just by using Googles search tools.
If you go to images.google.com and type in any search phrase you will see a small toolbar just below the search bar. Just look for “tools” there and click on “usage rights”. You can now filter your search results for images that were labeled for reuse and modification. You’ll be surprised how many results come up there.
But before you use one of these images: make sure that the website you download the image from actually states that the image is free to use and modify without any restrictions. As with freepik.com you will often have to attribute the creator or the website you’ve downloaded the image from.
Step 5: AudioEverything you need visually should now be ready and in the best case already imported and implemented into your VRdirect project. Your 360° or 3D content as well as your icons, photos or videos. The final thing you need for the perfect interactive VR experience now is music and sound effects.
Music:In VR experiences music is most commonly used as background music that is hearable throughout your experience. It’s not too easy to find good royalty free music that is free to use in a personal or commercial project but as always there are exceptions. And when it comes to music there are some really great ones.
One of them is Bensound. It is a royalty-free site with around 100 tracks ranging from cinematic to world, acoustic, folk and the other genres. You can use Bensound’s music licensed under the Creative Commons License in your multimedia project as long as you credit Bensound.com. Examples of proper way to credit us: “Music: https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music or “Music: « Song Title » from Bensound.com”.
If for some reason you can’t find the right music from Bensound.com you can trust AI to come up with your individual and perfect soundtrack. Jukedeck lets you create custom, royalty-free AI music for your projects. Choose your style, personalize your music and download unique, royalty-free tracks. The possibilities with Jukedeck are endless although it might take you some time to come up with the perfect track. However, as an individual or small company (with 10 or fewer employees) you can use any track created on Jukedeck.com for free and give credit. Or buy the track for $0.99.
Similarly to music, sound effects can make the difference between a good and a great VR experience. Whether you trigger them by timed events or add them to interactive elements. Sounds effects give realism to your experiences and make them even more immersive. Characters and objects that you use in your 360° videos are usually doing everyday actions, so it is important to reinforce these actions with the sounds that people are used to hearing. But where can you find Sound effects that are free to use?
17. Youtube Search
The answer might be more simple then you’d expected but using the youtube search function to find royalty free sound effects works pretty good. Just search for your desired sound (e.g. a “punch”) and add the term “sfx royalty free”.
You will find many videos including download links. Again: make sure to read the whole video description or visit the website of the creator (if one is declared) to make sure under what conditions the effect is free to use in your project.
Although you can directly import your sound effects or music to VRdirect you sometimes might have to edit it or cut it to the right length for your Experience. The same thing might also be true for the audio you recorded with your 360° camera. For example, there might be some background noises you want to cut out or to enhance the audio level of your recordings.
And that’s exactly what Audacity is used for. It’s a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor, and recorder that is very intuitive and easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder. It is available for Windows, Mac and other platforms and you can basically do everything you would ever need to do with your audio files. Again there are thousands of tutorials available online for free that you can use to get started.
Step 6: Putting it all together & Publishing
So now you’ve worked yourself all the way through and you’ve got everything ready that you need to create an immersive interactive VR experience. Now you only need to put everything you’ve created before together. And that’s where VRdirect comes into play.
19. VRdirect Studio
The VRdirect Studio is a free software that lets you create and publish your own professional interactive 360° experiences. The VRdirect Studio is available for Windows and Mac. It is an easy-to-use drag & drop editor. In fact, the usage is so intuitive you can create interactive 360° experiences within minutes. We have created a complete tutorial on how to use our Studio so you can convince yourselves.
Download and use the VRdirect Studio for free. Create and preview as many experiences as you like on your local devices.
And this is it. You have just created an interactive VR experience that you can show to everybody locally, just by using free resources. Isn’t that amazing? We think so too.
But wouldn’t it be great to also be able to watch your experience on an actual VR headset?
Step 7: Watching it
You can always watch your VRdirect experience in the VRdirect App for free by using your smartphone but at the end of the day, this doesn’t give you the full VR feeling. So we had to include this final resource.
20. Google Cardboard (not free – but still ..)
We know that Cardboard is not for free per se but there are a lot of tutorials out there showing you how to build one from scratch by yourself. If you don’t want to go through all this trouble you can order one very cheaply from all major shopping websites. They should be around $1,00 and $5,00 which – in our opinion – is still very cheap and definitely worth the money.
One last tip: if you don’t even want to spend that little you still have the chance to grab it at many VR exhibitions and conferences for free since many companies use it as a branded giveaway.