VR news, insights, rants and rambles

VR Marketing—Part 4: 360 and VR Cameras

By Paulo Tromp
November 14, 2016

Previously, in our VR Marketing series, we explored the headsets required to experience 360 degree content.

In this piece, the focus is on the technology needed to capture awesome VR content and share it with customers and prospects. As with headsets, there’s a camera system and content software to match every use case and budget in a fast moving market.

High-end solutions use a precisely aligned array of digital cameras to capture 360 degree video and audio content, and stitch it together into a seamless 3D recreation of the original scene.

Professional and Broadcast VR Recording Systems

At the professional end of the market, broadcast-class solutions are available with extreme price tags. VokeVR, very recently acquired by Intel, works directly with sports brands and live events around the world—presumably under contract, as there is no pricing—to produce VR content for the likes of the NBA and NCAA. Its stereoscopic camera and software can output live streamed footage, mixed with graphics, to many different devices including VR headsets and smartphones, catering to a mass audience.

Also at the high-end is Nokia’s OZO, costing professionals upwards of $45,000—although they can be rented—with training and tutorial packages as extras to master the technology.

The OZO offers a high-end experience for VR video capture; when filming, the operator views the content in real-time through a VR monitor. The camera’s digital cartridges can record up to 45 minutes of content each, and then saves all the recordings as a single file, unlike other systems that save them as separate files that require stitching together later.

A new entrant to the market, founded in 2013, Jaunt also works with travel, film and sports brands to bring a unique perspective on their content. The Jaunt ONE can be rented by producers and offers a professional-grade, 360-degree, 24-camera system. Consumers download the Jaunt app and can enjoy the end results in VR on their smartphone.

Mid-Range VR Recording Solutions

More affordable, but still firmly in the professional market at $15,000, is the GoPro Odyssey. A special rig packs in 16 HERO4 Black cameras, capable of producing panoramic, stereoscopic 8K30 video for astounding quality results. Also in this range is Google’s Jump, which provides a whole ecosystem for VR recording. With a 16-camera hardware solution, you can use the GoPro Odyssey or build your own out of metal, 3D printed plastic or card, depending on your budget. Data is processed in the cloud for stereo synchronized video, which can be displayed on YouTube for consumers to enjoy. Google has recently teamed up with IMAX and Yi to create their next generation of VR cameras.

Somewhat more affordable is GoPro’s Omni 6-camera solution, available as a rig ($1,499) or complete package ($4,999). With HERO4 cameras pointing up and down as well as over the four sides of the Omni’s rounded cuboid housing, it can capture 8K spherical content for some truly panoramic footage.

Enthusiast and Consumer Offerings

For the VR enthusiast, there are a range of more affordable options under the $1000 mark. At $800 apiece, the Bublcam (sold out at time of writing) and Vuze Camera (currently available for pre-order) are two solid semi-professional options.

Both pack in an array of HD cameras into a compact ring to capture 360 degree content and stitch the images into a seamless 3D experience. They use smartphone apps to control the cameras and to view the captured content for an easy-to-use creation experience.

The enthusiast market is so lively that other contenders are popping up all the time. ORBI Prime is the latest, using glasses-based cameras it is currently on Indiegogo as a crowdfunding campaign offering a hands-free personal recording experience.

Smartphone makers Samsung and LG, who already released their own VR headsets, now have cameras to capture and share 360 degree content that work with their smartphones. At $199, LG’s 360 Cam is the cheaper and more basic of the two. It uses two 13MP wide-angle cameras to capture 360-degree 2K video content, with 5.1-channel surround-sound. You can also snap both 360- and 180-degree still images.

Samsung’s $350 Gear 360 VR is a bit more expensive, but provides more features. Twin cameras capture video at 3840×1920 resolution and 25.9 megapixels. The unit is built to withstand dust and splashes for outdoor use. Pair it with a Galaxy smartphone and you’ll be able to use the phone as viewfinder and transfer and share files.

Another affordable option is the Ricoh Theta S at $350. It can live-stream HD video, and record in full HD with up to 25 minutes of continuous shooting at 30 frames per second. It has 8GB of internal memory, allowing it to record up to 175 minutes of video.

Naturally, Facebook has to be involved in any technology with a social aspect. Facebook 360 has already seen over 250,000 360-degree videos uploaded. Content creators can use the company’s Surround 360 17-camera solution or consumer-grade 360 cameras to capture the footage and publish them easily to the social media site.

Of course, you don’t get any cheaper than free, so if you want to dip your toes into the VR ocean without any commitment, you could do a lot worse than downloading Google’s Cardboard Camera app for your Android or iOS smartphone from the Play Store or the App Store. You capture 360 degree still images by panning your smartphone around in a full circle.

A steady hand is required and the end result can be a little rough around the edges—definitely more suitable for sharing with family than clients. But combine it with a sub $20 Cardboard-compatible headset and you’ve got a great introduction to VR and the possibilities it offers. Apple and Microsoft are also investing heavily in AR and VR, so expect more consumer products from them in 2017.

About Paulo Tromp

Paulo Tromp is CEO and Creative Director of VRMADA, a virtual reality agency dedicated to creating beautiful, memorable experiences enabling brands to connect with their audiences in new and unique ways. Some of his clients include BMW, JCB, L'Oréal, MTV, Philip Morris International, Telefónica, Toyota, and Vodafone.