We’ve reported about several interesting inventions by Korean manufacturer Varavon before. This time around at Photokina 2016, Varavon introduced their new 3-Axis VR Drone for the first time. The Varavon 3-Axis VR Drone is a large virtual reality camera platform with a special gimbal design that holds the camera array steady even during fast movements and strong wind. At their booth at Photokina, the guys from Varavon showed us how the gimbal stabilization works. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to fly the drone in the convention center halls or even outside due to drone laws in Germany. At the moment, the VR Drone market seems very limited. A quick Google search results in several custom built VR Drone setups, but besides one manufacturer there were no other large and commercially available flying platforms with a gimbal like the one Varavon displayed. According to the sales rep at Photokina 2016, the Varavon 3-Axis VR Drone can take a payload of up to 12kg and has a flying time between 12 and 15 minutes. The cost of $27,000 seems quite high, considering that the M600 is available at under $5k and has a similar size, but with no special VR gimbal, of course. But since this is probably the first drone of its kind, I suppose a higher price is acceptable for those looking to create an aerial VR array with so many cameras. According to Charlie from Varavon, the drone is “ready to sell now”. The fact that it does not show up on the Varavon website yet might indicate that you have to contact them directly if you’re interested in purchasing this flying crazyness.Read more
The Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 takes on virtual reality with a 20MP sensor and full spherical images. In this hands-on video, we take a closer look at the 360° action camera. Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 is Another 360° Action Camera This is not the first 360° action camera we’re seeing this year. At Photokina 2016 that kicked off today, Nikon introduced another new action camera alongside their Nikon KeyMission 360 and there are more manufacturers taking on the VR 360 action camera market. The Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 has two different wide field of view cameras in one body; 235 degrees and 155 degrees, both with a 20MP CMOS sensors that record 4K video and still photos. Combining the images of both cameras with stitching, the 360 degree, full spherical images can be used for virtual reality. In virtual reality mode, video can be captured in 3840 x 1920 at 24p, and still images at 27MP, both in 2:1 ratio. Using either the front camera or a combination of both cameras gives a variety of formats for video and stills, including round images and video in 1:1 aspect ratio. The front 155 degree camera can capture 1080p video at up to 60fps, with the option to change the field of view to a wider or narrower angle. 120fps slow motion is only available in 1440 x 1080 resolution in 2:1 aspect ratio. The video format is MP4, recorded in H.264 codec, there is no mention of a ‘flat’ or neutral profile for colour correction. Aimed at the sports and action market, the camera is splash-proof and shockproof up to 2m, it can be controlled via a smartphone app or the remote that’s included in the package with wi-fi, NFC and Bluetooth. Stitching can be done in camera but at a lower quality, or with the app or software in post production. Here are some more specs of the Kodak PixPro 4KVR360: F2.4 aperture 20MP sensors Camera modes – VR Mode, Round Mode, Front Mode. 3-axis level gauge stabilization. ISO sensitivity from 100 to 3200. White balance settings – Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Flourescent, Incandescent, Underwater. Records onto MicroSD. Shoots up to 160 still images and 55 minutes of video (at 4K/30p) based on battery performance. Micro HDMI port. Stereo microphone input (2.5mm connector). Removable rechargable Li-ion battery. The Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 is still in development, but is expected to hit the shelves at the end of 2016 or early 2017, with pricing around $500.00, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet.Read more
The new VR One Plus headset from Zeiss builds upon their previous model, the VR One, by adding a few key features to make it even more user-friendly at an affordable price. We have been covering the VR craze incessantly in the past few months. It was one of the hot topics at NAB, and as we have seen, many filmmakers are already embracing the new technology. What will undoubtedly determine whether VR goes the way of 3D, however, is the ease of access that consumers and audiences require to view the content. True, you can just tap or click your way around a Facebook VR video environment, but what really makes this content come to life is the experience through a headset of some kind. The Zeiss VR One Plus falls in the middle of the range between Google Cardboard and OCULUS Rift, and at only $129, this improved version delivers some nice features. Let’s take a look. New Features of the VR One Plus The foam that comes in contact with your face is now removable. While this may seem like a small improvement, Zeiss are showing the possibilities of VR beyond just entertainment. They recently showcased a cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, in which they demonstrate how VR can be used for recruitment purposes. If VR is going to become as commonplace as we think it is, then the hygienic reasons behind removable and exchangeable face foam become fairly obvious. The headstrap is also removable. Most VR examples we have seen in the last months have been immersive movies or games, for which a having the headset strapped to your face seems like the most logical setup. However, there are other applications — such as certain events — where the aim is a more communal experience. In these situations, it is useful to have a removable headstrap to facilitate handing over the goggles from person to person. A new Universal Smartphone Tray. The original VR One already had an advantage over the similarly priced OCULUS/Samsung Gear VR in that it accepted phones from brands other than just Samsung. However, you needed a special tray for whatever phone model you were using. The VR One Plus solves this by introducing a single universal phone tray that accepts phones anywhere between 4.7 and 5.5 inches, or between the size of an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. You can now get access to the optics to clean them by removing part of the cover. So, while not offering revolutionary features, the VR One Plus is certainly a more polished version of its predecessor, offering the same premium optics and comfort. VR is still very new tech, and what we are seeing is manufacturers slowly working out the kinks to make sure this is technology that actually ends up sticking around.Read more
Watch previous episodes of ON THE COUCH & ON THE GO by clicking here! Visit our Vimeo and YouTube playlists, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Please visit our sponsors’ websites to keep new episodes of ON THE COUCH coming! Thanks to G-Technology and Røde Microphones. In this first part of episode 30, I talked to representatives from 3 very different VR camera manufacturers: firstly Kim Grönholm from Nokia, a lead engineer for the OZO camera, the highest-end solution of the three, then George Krieger from Sphericam, and Kevin Cruz from Kodak with the SP360 camera. Knowing that I still know very little about the new evolving area of VR and 360 degree filmmaking, we started off by talking about current applications of VR cinematography. Further topics are the practical difficulties of actually shooting VR without the crew actually showing up in the shots – and the difficulties of designing cameras for VR with all the challenges that stitching and moving the cameras so close to each other poses. Will VR ever become mainstream, and what’s the future of it? We talk about how it is still evolving and which applications we will see in the near future. Is the Star Trek holodeck finally just around the corner? In the 2nd part of this episode, we will talk in detail about the different camera solutions by Nokia, Kodak and Sphericam, and highlight their features and different target markets. Sphericam VR camera Kodak SP360 VR camera Nokia OZO VR camera Please visit our sponsors’ websites to keep new episodes of ON THE COUCH coming! Thanks to G-Technology and Røde Microphones.Read more
EDIT: The live stream is over. You can watch a recording of the stream below. Today at 2pm EDT / 8pm CEST /7pm BST, B&H is going to stream a live panel discussion about Virtual Reality and 360 degree cinematography and we are happy to support the event by embedding the live stream right here. It’s been the topic of the year at NAB 2016 for sure, and we are also about to release a series of ON THE COUCH podcasts and discussion videos on that same subject. The live stream discussion The single most important factor in VR will be content. But who will create it, and how? Tune in as our distinguished panel discusses practical solutions for creating virtual reality content, the brave new world of gear required to produce it and virtual reality’s impact on the future of filmmaking. Be sure to see the discussion streamed right here on this page! The guests Alex Chechelnitsky – Head of Production, Koncept VR Ben Nunez – President, Littlstar Douglas Sonders – Co-Founder, 8112 Studios PJ Morreale – Head of YouVisit Studios Learn more about the guests on the B&H event page! DISCUSSION TOPICS Understanding 360° Video and VR. Introduce each category and explain the key differences that define them The Challenges of Creating 360° Video. Solving stitching problems, troubleshooting rigging and staging, storytelling parameters, displaying video, and beyond. The Emergence of Virtual Reality. A closer look at VR and 360 headsets and their role in shaping creators’ and user’s experiences. The Future of the Medium and the Technology. We’ll ask and answer the following:What do all these new options mean for creators? What kind of language exists now, if at all, or will we have to invent new, visual languages for 360° video and VR as we move on? VR requires advanced hardware to fully enjoy the experience. How will this affect the landscape 5, 10, 20 years down the line?Read more
In the middle of this year’s NAB show, GoPro have announced a newly developed VR platform which goes alongside their brand new smaller VR rig, the GoPro Omni camera rig which will sell for $4,999 – with everything you need for capturing 360° footage included. The GoPro Omni Camera Rig: A smaller approach The GoPro Omni camera rig is a much smaller rig than the larger Odyssey 16 rig, which is more focused on the professional market with a price tag of $15,000. The Omni camera rig will sell for $4,999, with everything included, 6 GoPro hero4 black cameras and all the mounting to line up these cameras correctly. As an alternative, if you happen to have six spare GoPro camera lying around, you can purchase the bare bones cage only, for $1,499,99. According to GoPro’s press-release “proprietary hardware at the center of Omni enables pixel-level synchronization between all six HERO4 Black cameras.” Other features: Six cameras act as one: Interact with the primary camera in the array to configure settings or initiate the start/stop of recording for all six cameras. The proven image quality of the HERO4 Black…times six: Produce high-res images that virtual reality viewers will notice. Omni may also be used for “over capture”; capture at 8K and extract an HD deliverable. Optimized workflow: capture using Omni, use GoPro Omni Importer for preview, data management, and rendering, fine tune the content in Kolor Autopano® Video, then proof the content in GoPro VR player and publish it to the GoPro VR website. By collaborating with Adobe®, GoPro further solves the pain points of editing spherical content by enabling native handling of 360-degree video up to 8K resolution within Adobe® Premiere® Pro CC, and Adobe After Effects® CC. The all-inclusive Omni package includes: One GoPro Omni Sync Rig GoPro Kolor Software License Six GoPro HERO4 Black cameras and batteries GoPro Smart Remote Six GoPro Mini USB Cables, 32GB microSD Cards and card readers Ultra compact, rugged shipping case The SKU includes: GoPro Omni Sync Rig Waterproof Shipping Case Plastic Tweezers Microfiber Bag 2.5mm Hex Key The new platform Alongside the new Omni camera rig, GoPro announced a new web platform called GoPro VR. This platform will be accompanied by free apps which will be available for both iOS and Android. According to GoPro, the new platform is a place to showcase and share VR content. The GoPro VR platform is a refined version of the existing Kolor Eyes platform (Blog post). a platform to view and share immersive content. The platform allows users to experience the immersive world of 360˚ video and transforms users’ screens into a virtual portal, showcasing original content from GoPro and a global community of artists. GoPro VR is available on the web, free mobile app, or experienced on a mobile head-mounted display. The apps will be able to work with VR headsets as well for a better VR experience than just dragging the mouse (or a finger) around on a video screen. Editing the footage in GoPro Kolor and showcase it on the GoPro VR platform Competitors For nearly $1.500 the bare bones cage of the Omni camera rig is not the cheapest solution out there. Other manufacturers offer similar platforms for much cheaper – such as the 360Hero Pro6 360° rig, which sells for $495. But it is clear that the Omni camera rig is a more advanced piece of gear since it has a proprietary hardware controller built in. Time will tell how seamless the process from capturing to stitching and final delivery will be. It seems like GoPro has a hard time to deal with the progress other manufacturers make in the field of action and sports cameras. We will see if VR is the next big thing and if GoPro is ready to hold their promises with this new line up of products and services. Both the all-inclusive Omni camera cage rig package and the bare bones package will be shipping around August 17th.Read more
GoPro 360-degree camera solutions are expected to usher in the next big step in the world of digital video. At this year’s CES, YouTube CBO Robert Kyncl held a keynote explaining how this platform is situated in a world of abounding digital video. It truly is an interesting watch. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, we recommend you take a look – you might have to go to YouTube to see it as there seems to be some content restrictions in some countries for the embedded version: In the framework of this discussion, GoPro is positioning itself as a big player in the innovative field of 360-degree video. We have known since last year about the Odyssey, where the Google Jump video assembler works in tandem with the 16-camera GoPro array. This is pricey and only available to a select few of those who apply online. However, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman hints that the company is already working on a smaller 360-degree video solution that reduces the rig to a simpler, consumer-friendly format. Unfortunately, there is no information available about the product, except that it will incorporate 6 GoPro cameras and will come in 2016. The question that springs to mind is whether this decision to branch out into other markets will play to GoPro’s favour. The emergence of many competitors at lower price points capitalizing on the popularity of action cameras has understandably translated into a big hit for GoPro. Also, the company’s latest action camera—the GoPro Hero4 Session— has seen big price drops since its release, after a starting price of $399 failed to convince consumers. Factors like these seem to have caused a loss of confidence in investors, with recent reports revealing that the company share prices have plummeted up to 70% in the last year. As a result, a significant number of their employees are being let go, and the company has suffered severe losses due to restructuring, as well as price-protection, manufacturing and excess inventory costs. But the world of video is advancing, with the mass adoption of newer technologies such as 4K and 360-degree video clearly dictating what the next steps will be. And this company is showing that, with their new GoPro 360-degree camera arrays and the recently announced GoPro Karma drone, they are not afraid of stepping outside of their comfort zone in the way to innovation despite the bumps along the way. Large names are clearly positioning themselves to facilitate both creation and consumption of a new kind of video experience. With products by household brands like GoPro, support from the YouTube platform, and simple solutions like Google Cardboard, the adoption of this relatively new medium seems imminent. And when these tools become available to everyone everywhere, it will be interesting to see what it will mean for the future of video, and for us as creators. What kind of project would you do today if you had access to an affordable, compact 360-degree video capture solution like the GoPro 360?Read more
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