Apple’s immersive MLS Cup 2023 highlight reel for the Vision Pro

So today Apple finally released their 3D, 180° immersive video of MLS Cup 2023 for the Apple Vision Pro that they’ve been promising for over a month.

As Vision Pro owner and lifelong soccer, I was really looking forward to this. Man am I disappointed!

First, it’s months late and only five minutes long. I have no idea why. This was not worth waiting for at all. It’s a teaser that should have been available at the start of the MLS season.

I found the whole thing nauseating and disappointing. Not because of the tech, but because of the lame content. Whoever was in charge of this ought to be fired. It was terrible. It was clearly not put together by a soccer fan. It’s like someone told someone, “Go film this” and they did with no plan or direction.

It was called “MLS Cup 2023” but bizarrely was about the playoffs. It started out in reverse, on the field celebrating Columbus’ win and trophy presentation. Then it cut to a bunch of clips of various games and goals, with no rhyme or reason or transition, that I finally decided were playoff games leading to the final. It was utterly confusing for me and I’m a hardcore fan. A non-fan wouldn’t have a clue what was going on. So one second you’re watching a yellow team play against a red team and then suddenly it’s a green team against a black team in a different stadium and five seconds after that it’s yet another game. No titles to indicate what match it is, the score, the time in the game, or anything. There’s no context at all about the goals, so you can’t tell if the team that scored is winning hugely or making a comeback.

The proper way to do this is to show a diagram of the playoff brackets, show highlights from Game 1, then show Game 2, etc. so we see the progression of the playoffs, build the suspense, and it culminates in the championship game. This was random chaos, just terrible. I didn’t have a clue what was happening and I watched all the games last fall.

And five minutes might be barely enough to recap the final, but it’s definitely impossible and pointless to try and recap dozens of playoff games and the final. That’s like trying to summarize everything Shakespeare wrote in one paragraph. Just worthless.

Not only were these just random 10-second clips of goals, but they were the worst kind of goal clips you can make for soccer, just showing the ball going in the net and none of the build-up play, which is what makes the goal interesting. That’s like showing the final winning shot of a billiard’s match or a final golf putt with none of the other shots leading up to it. Why? It’s pointless!

And none of the goals showed replays. Every televised game you watch immediately shows a replay of the goal, so you can enjoy it again or from another angle or in slow mo or whatever. In every highlight reel you see the same goal at least three times. It takes that long to absorb what happened and see all the action. I kept expecting that and instead I was watching a different goal from a different game with no warning or transition, and it was utterly confusing since I was still thinking about the first goal and assuming I was seeing a replay.

The 7-minute recaps Apple does of every game every weekend are vastly better, really good. I’ve been very impressed with those. This was absolute garbage.

All that aside, the immersive stuff was definitely cool. No issues there. You are right on the field, behind the goal, with lifesize players running around you, fans in the stands, etc. It was great. They had closeup shots of the fans and that was the most impressive, because they looked 3D and were right there, life-sized, five feet away from you chanting and singing and cheering. Amazing. It felt like you were at the game.

The soccer itself was hard to judge because there was so little of it. Just these random clips and I couldn’t focus on the game. So I have no way to judge if watching a whole game in immersion would be good or not. Transitions in immersive are vital. It is such a real experience that it makes your stomach queasy when you’re teleported away to another viewpoint with no warning — and that happens like 50 times in this 5-minute recap show. I kept wanting them to show a longer clip, at least 60 seconds of the same fricking game, so I could feel what it was like. Instead I was behind the goal in one game and suddenly I’m watching from the sidelines of another game. It was exhausting and bewildering.

In terms of visuals, the best experience was the very end when we got to be in the locker room with the Crew celebrating their victory. The players were dancing and spraying the air with champagne and beer, and all that spray was 3D, coming down all around and I felt like I was gonna get wet. It was really intimate and impressive, but part of that was it was an extended experience — 60 seconds in the same place instead of jumping me all around every 10 seconds.

I have no clue why Apple bothered with this. At 5-minutes it’s not enough content to recap anything, and soccer fans will hate it and it does an injustice to the sport. It’s not cohesive enough to show off 3D immersion — any 5-minute clip from any game, with no interruptions, would have been better than this — so this isn’t going to sell any Vision Pros or demonstrate whether this tech is good for sports.

Is this a free trailer promoting an upcoming 90-minute documentary film about the playoffs and final? I hope that’s the plan, because if this is all we get, there’s no point to it at all. I really want to see a full soccer game in immersive 3D. This is definitely not that. It’s just a teaser and while some clips show some promise, the way they are shown in this video, in rapid-fire machine gun fashion, is the opposite of what you want to see.

Someone should be fired. Worst media I’ve seen out of Apple in their entire history.

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Were you expecting a replay of a new game, or planning to watch a recently broadcast game? Mixed reality is a whole very new and very unique Vision Pro eco system. And there’s probably not as much content for it available out there as yet.

And it looks like you might need to have a Season Pass to see an existing VP broadcast:

It really is a bummer that Apple continues to make a big stink about how much content they have for VP when they don’t have much content at all. It’s not at all like when Apple debuted iPod with a gazillion songs.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apple has been promising an immersion experience involving highlights of MLS Cup 2023 and the 2023 playoffs since around the time Vision Pro launched. In other words, they’ve been promoting this both to Vision Pro owners and MLS fans. I assumed it would be a sort of documentary, at least 30-90 minutes long.

This 5-minute video that looks like an intern just slapped together 50 clips of footage into iMovie and hit “export” is what we got. So it’s incredibly disappointing. If they were just going to do something this mediocre, why advertise it? It just makes them look bad.

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Jason Snell has an interesting review analyzing what is wrong with the video:

The major problem is that there is so much information in an immersive video that using short clips is wrong. When you view an immersive video, you need time to scan the whole frame rather than just looking at the central stuff. When I watched the video, the only immersive section was the after-victory celebration, where there were few cuts, and you almost feel the champagne.