Facebook is working with partners like OTOY, Adobe, Framestore, Foundry and others to build out a new kind of camera system, tools and workflows capable of volumetric capture. The system should equate to a more realistic representation of reality in captured footage. In the end, it will let viewers in VR move their head around with greater freedom and see the action in a video from different angles. The plan is to release it later this year.
This new soccer ball-sized camera system will be an evolution of the earlier open “Surround 360” camera announced last year that equated to roughly $30,000 in parts. I asked Facebook for details on the pricing of the new six degrees of freedom system, but the company is planning for manufacturing partners to license the new camera designs and turn it into a product — so pricing is up to them.
Of course, you’ve heard about 360 cameras by now – capable of capturing video or stills of the entire scene. It’s been emerging over the past couple of years, and really feels as if the market is ready to explode. But if you truly want to a 360/VR experience with your goggles, the visuals are only part of an important equation: You need 360 audio in order to complete the experience.
Here at the NABShow, The Digital Circuit spent some time Monday poking around the world of Ambisonic audio.
Now you might think, given that 360 video is a recent phenomenon, that this whole idea of ambisonic (kind of a mashup of ambient and sonic) audio must also be a relatively new deal. That would be incorrect.
The reality is that this concept (and even the word) has been around since the analogue days. Wikipedia describes it as a “full sphere surround-sound technique: In addition to the horizontal plane, it covers sound sources above and below the listener.”
Though it was cool at the time, it never really took off. Some audiophiles loved it and there were niche recordings, but it just wasn’t a mainstream hit.
That was then. Enter digital, home theatre, 5.1, 7.1, 9.1-channel audio and the interest in what has popularly become known as “surround sound” enjoyed an obvious resurgence. But true ambisonic audio is different from these discrete channels, because the sound source can move just as you move in a virtual space.
Back in March we wrote about the reports that GoPro was making cuts to its VR division in an effort to refocus its core business. That much may be true, but the company still has a new VR camera on the way.
The company this month announced Fusion, a new device capable of capturing both 360 degree and traditional video content in up to 5.2K at 30fps. There aren’t many images of the device available yet, though it looks very different from the traditional square-shaped HeroCams we’re used to seeing. You can see some of the first panoramic footage captured with the new device below.
Joining Google’s newly unveiled YI HALO camera is the Yi 360 VR, a consumer-tier camera designed for recording 360-degree video for virtual reality purposes. The camera is able to stitch together 4K-resolution videos and it can also livestream content at a 2.5K resolution, putting a relatively high-end VR camera in hobbyists’ pockets. Despite its capabilities, the camera is small enough to fit in a pocket or bag; it works in conjunction with a mobile app.
Hallelujah is a new experience by VR film studio Within that’s captured using Lytro’s latest Immerge light-field camera which captures volumetric footage that makes for a much more immersive experience than traditional 360 video. Hallelujah is a performance of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 song of the same name, and mixes the latest in VR film capture technology with superb spatial audio to form a stunning experience.
Lytro’s Immerge camera is unlike any 360 camera you’ve seen before. Instead of shooting individual ‘flat’ frames, the Immerge camera has a huge array of cameras which gather many views of the same scene, data which is crunched by special software to recreate the actual shape of the environment around the camera. The big benefit of which is that the playback puts the viewer in a virtual capture of the space, allowing for a limited amount of movement within the scene, whereas traditional 360 video only captures a static viewpoint which is essentially stuck to your head. Not to mention the Immerge camera also provides true stereo and outputs a much higher playback quality. The result is a much richer and more immersive VR film experience than what you’ve seen with traditional 360 video shoots.
8K x 8K. That’s already an amazing figure on its own, but there is more to this device than just a massive pixel count. In terms of design, the YI HALO works as the frame that holds seventeen 2.5K action cameras. 16 of them handle the horizontal view while one camera faces up, and they are all connected internally to the main unit that also powers them.
This design makes the YI HALO completely modular. If something happens to one of the cameras, you can just replace it with one of the two spares it comes with, and you can even replace them with newer models once these become obsolete – something that doesn’t take very long in the camera world these days. Firmware upgrades are also easy to do: they can be triggered for all connected cameras through the interface on the main unit.
FACEBOOK BELIEVES THAT video is the future. Not just any video, but immersive 360-degree video that approaches virtual reality. Of course, creating such video requires a very different breed of camera. So, a team of Facebook engineers, led by a camera guru name Brian Cabral, is hoping to bootstrap a much larger market for these extravagant devices. This morning, at Facebook’s annual developer conference in Northern California, Cabral and team unveiled blueprints for two new cameras designed to capture spherical video with extreme fidelity.
One of these orb-shaped devices grabs video through 24 individual lenses. The other, simpler and cheaper to build, spans six. And both shoot with “six degrees of freedom,” moving forward and back, up and down, right and left, and across three other perpendicular axes. This means they can capture a more complete and more realistic image than most cameras on the market, according to Johannes Saam, a senior creative developer at Framestore, a movie effects house that tested early versions of these devices. “If you put a headset on, the presence you feel from these images is way, way, way greater,” he says.
Jaunt has carved out a name for itself as a maker of virtual reality films. Now it is launching the Jaunt One VR camera designed for professional VR creators. It will be available as a direct-to-consumer sale through a network of resellers.
The move puts the company into competition with rivals such as Nokia, with its Ozo camera, and gives the company a new line of business, in addition to its films. Among the resellers are The Studio-B&H, AbelCine, and Radiant Images.
Ahead of the 2017 National Association of Broadcasters Show, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Jaunt also unveiled several new Jaunt One features, including support for 120-frames-per-second capture, real-time video feed, and updates to white balance correction in Jaunt One’s companion software suite: Jaunt Cloud Services (JCS).
“Demand for the Jaunt ONE has been unwavering since we introduced it to rental houses last summer, ” said Koji Gardiner, vice president of hardware engineering at Jaunt, in a statement. “The natural next step was to provide filmmakers the ability to own the camera. These filmmakers are pushing the creative boundaries as they eagerly explore the medium, and we could not be more proud to provide them with the only professional-grade VR camera designed specifically for their craft.”
Filmmaker Ridley Scott isn’t a stranger to using emerging tech to push his creative vision. I mean, for all of Prometheus‘ faults, Scott’s use of 3D wasn’t one of them. Back in 2015 Scott said he was working on a a mystery VR project, so today’s news that his RSA Films outfit is launching RSA VR as a company “dedicated” to virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed media perhaps isn’t too surprising. However, it does signal that Scott has an eye to the future beyond whatever timelines the Alien and Blade Runneruniverses take place in. In fact, the first project for RSA VR is a previously-announced Alien: Covenant vignette.
“We have been heavily involved in VR for the past few years, and having a dedicated stand-alone division underscores our commitment to immersive media in both the brand and entertainment space,” RSA’s president Jules Day said in a statement. Seeing one of the biggest names in old-guard filmmaking putting his weight behind VR is probably a pretty good sign for the medium’s future.
This weekend’s Virtual Reality LA (VRLA) confab is expected to draw thousands to the Los Angeles Convention Center, but for many stakeholders, the big unresolved issue continues to be how content creators can make money with virtual reality.
That was a key topic of discussion among many attendees, which included those who are interested in creating VR content, as well as technology developers, studio execs exploring VR’s potential and startups looking for investors.
Roy Taylor, vp of VR content alliances for tech developer AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group, estimated that roughly 500 VR entertainment experiences are in development, at a cost anywhere from $100,000 to $2 million per project. “But what everyone wants to know is, when can we sell tickets?” he said.
Taylor believes the answer to this question can come from companies looking to offer paid content in public venues. In particular, he cited Awesome Rocketship, a startup that made its debut at VRLA with a plan to distribute VR content via viewing “pods” that the company aims to install at movie theaters, shopping malls and other public venues.
Awesome Rocketship’s CEO Jim Stewartson said that to do this, it aims to license VR programs from studios — he said these discussions have started — as well as independent developers, or possibly come on board as a partner or co-producer. In some cases, the VR offered at a cinema might be an extension of the feature presentation itself.
Stewartson added that Awesome Rocketship (which has a technology partnership with AMD) is planning launches in the U.S. Europe and Asia, beginning this fall.