Capture Ultra-High Resolution VR Video

This Case Study explores the theoretical upper limits on today’s super-high-resolution VR video capture, using professional cinema cameras.

Using RED cinema-class cameras to capture VR video

As we set out to build Pixvana’s VR video pipeline, we realized that our VR source media we acquired didn’t feel truly immersive or lifelike — it just wasn’t high resolution. The media and tools we were using generated master files at 4K resolution and lacked dynamic range and sharp detail. So in May 2016, we set out to acquire a set of test scenes with at least 10K resolution.

With the help of our friends at the RED camera company, we were able to use five 6K RED Dragon cameras. We needed resolution and detail, so we designed a two-day shoot covering four iconic Los Angeles locations. In cooperation with the agency Bread n Butter, we were able to add three amazing dresses from haute couture designer Ralph Russo and three professional models to add character and flash to our shoot.

The What, the Where and the How

In order to get the best-looking results, the crew paid significant attention to the capabilities of the equipment they were shooting with, the individual locations where they were shooting, and how they arranged each shot. This yielded a high-quality immersive VR video which transports viewers straight into a fashion shoot.

Choosing a Camera

Bigger is better, especially when it comes to ultra-high-resolution VR video. That’s why we shot with 5 RED Dragons at 6K. For this shoot, we worked with The Camera House to build a custom rig using Canon fisheye lenses. This allowed us to capture a 360 x 240 degree view with a one-up-and-four-around configuration. The only time bigger wasn’t necessarily better was when we had to move the cameras.

Capturing Vast Image Data

The complicated setup of the shoot meant that we only captured about 70 minutes of footage in RED raw format. However, each 6K camera generated a huge amount of data (adding up to over 7 terabytes for all of our locations) providing our team with ultra-high-resolution shots of each location. The RED camera was a perfect tool for capturing detail, particularly when shooting outdoors—in the video you can read every message scratched in the bamboo!

Framing the Viewers POV

To make you feel like you had the best seat in the house at the Ace Hotel Theater, we set up a shot from the front row. To get the greatest amount of detail in the shot, we used a high-contrast light design to highlight the deco elements around the stage. By focusing on the stage, our shots of the dancers and models gave the final product that “private fashion show” feeling. We also took the shoot outdoors to the LA Arboretum to bring crisp, detailed nature elements into the final product.

Stitching

We completed this production back in May of 2016, right as Foundry was releasing the Cara VR Stitching plug-in for Nuke. We used a combination of Pixvana’s own SPIN Studio technologies to master the images, correct color, and get the stitching as close as possible to perfect. However, the relatively large parallax between each of the lenses (caused by the large distance between the cameras) introduced some problems. Stitching this kind of footage is often in the art of choosing where to hide the stitch artifacts.

Grading and Editing

All editing and grading for this project was completed using 4K proxy versions of the masters in Adobe Premiere. These smaller files were practical for iterative editorial experiments and reviewing in VR headsets. We then mastered the video at full 10K resolution using Adobe After Effects and color grading with Red Giant’s Magic Bullet. These large source files and terabytes of data really taxed our PC workstations, making their fans run at full speed. At times they sounded like a jet airplane about to take off!

Viewing in VR

For ultra-high-resolution VR viewing on HTC Vives, Oculus Go & Rifts, and Samsung Gear VR HMDs, we used Pixvana SPIN Studio to prepare various streaming and local-playback versions of the experience that mastered the content in advanced FOVAS, Diamond-plane, and traditional 4K equirectangular versions. No matter the streaming format, the higher quality source footage really adds fine detail and color to make for a truly compelling experience in VR.

Check out the final product on Pixvana’s YouTube account. This video is also available for free on Pixvana’s SPIN Play application, where you can effortlessly cast it to your VR Headset and view in full 360°.

Download the SPIN Play application for free from leading VR app stores including Oculus , Steam, and Google Play for Daydream. Also be sure to check out Wundervu’s website for more information on their work.