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NBA live in VR

Up close with the Golden State Warriors and the experience of broadcasting an NBA game in VR

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James Martin
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1 of 10 James Martin/CNET

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry shakes hands and signs autographs before an NBA game to be broadcast in VR.

"VR has a level of immersion you can't get from traditional broadcasts, and that hammers home what's so promising about this medium and why we're pursuing it," said Jeff Marsillo, the league's associate vice president of global media.

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Cameras around the arena stream the scene from many different angles. There's an unmanned one midcourt at the scorer's table, and one under each basket. A camera sits at each locker room tunnel, and one hangs above the court for overhead shots. A roving camera can get up close and personal if a player gets injured, or focus on a reporter doing an interviews during a time-out.

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Producers check camera feeds on a bank of screens while editors scramble to package videos. One person is working on a video of Warriors star Stephen Curry's must-see pregame routine, including his popular 30-foot shot from the tunnel. Producers wearing Samsung Gear VR monitor the stream of the game.

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The VR broadcasts have been gradually improving, particularly as producers have learned to make the cameras track gameplay better.

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"In five years our goal is to produce this content so realistically that you will have a hard time distinguishing it from actually sitting in one of these seats," said NextVR co-founder David Cole.

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The company's mission is to make basketball fans wearing VR headsets feel so immersed in a game that they feel like they're sitting in the front row, close enough to think they can touch the players.

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NextVR has been adding other features too, like showing player warm-ups and sending a cameraman roving around the arena to capture the sights and sounds in the stands.

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The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry practices during pre-game warmups.

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The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry practices during pre-game warmups.

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A technician makes last-minute preparations inside NextVR's production truck prior to the company's broadcast of a Warriors-Timberwolves game.

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