VR Video Cameras

VR Video Cameras are quickly becoming *awesome* and affordable

Very high-quality and affordable VR video cameras are available today, with consumer versions capable of 4k resolution priced in the $300-700 USD range, and Pro VR cameras starting at $3,000 USD and going well into the $100k+ if budget and bulk/weight are no-object!  Pixvana SPIN Studio is compatible with all of these cameras and can be integrated in your VR video production workflow to review dailies and editorial decisions, to build final client presentations, and to publish your final VR videos and VR video applications.

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Early VR Video Cameras (2000-2015)

When VR video cameras started out they were simply 3D printed rigs (or massive metal plates) to hold multiple off the shelf cameras. Some companies used completely custom rigs. These required the user to manually set each of the cameras to the exact same settings and to manually start each camera with no means to synchronized them or control them as a single ‘camera’. This made the process very error prone and time consuming.

Modern VR Video Cameras (2015-2018)

In just the last 3 or 4 years the choice of VR cameras has exploded with a range of cameras designed specifically for VR from low cost consumer cameras to very high end systems with full control. Most systems have a method to control the entire camera with a scontrol on the camera or when connected to a mobile phone. Most have the ability to preview the images and many have the ability live stitch and stream video.

VR Video Cameras To Consider in 2018

The following cameras are just a sampling of cameras available with some basic information. Some camera manufacturers make multiple models with different feature sets and more cameras are being brought to market. Be sure to visit the camera sites for more details and latest updates.

Popular VR Video Cameras 2018

Here at Pixvana we work with many VR video cameras.  We recently conducted a VR Video Camera quality comparison test which examined the image quality that can be achieved using a variety of lenses and sensors, at both 8k and 4k resolution.  We’ve also written about the many factors that affect VR video image quality.

Below are some details about our favorite cameras.

GoPro Fusion (and similar) 2 Lens VR Cameras

The GoPro Fusion is one of the best commercially available 2 lens cameras for VR Photography. 2 Lens cameras have 2 sensors back to back and fisheye lenses greater than 180 degrees, which together cover 360 degrees around the camera body, with just enough overlap between the two images such that they can be “stitched” into a full 360 panoramic scene.

This 2-lens design is used by all the entry level consumer VR cameras such as the Samsung 360, RyloRicoh Theta, Yi 360 VR camera, Insta360 One. There are also several variations on this 2-lens design whereby an attachment can be added to a iPhone or Android smartphone, and software on the phone handles camera control, stitching, and basic editing for posting to social media such as Youtube and Facebook which support 360 stills and videos.

The simple design and low part count make these less expensive and easier to operate.  Their very small size also make them capable and useful for filming closer objects, or for placing multiple cameras within a scene for wider coverage at an event or busy location.

The GoPro Fusion (~$700 USD) can shoot 5.2K @ 30fps or 18MP stills. It can shoot underwater to 16ft and has built in stabilization. It comes with GoPro Fusion Studio to stitch the footage, after it has been copied to a computer.  Other cameras in this class all support resolutions from 4k up to 5k, and are built using similar lens and sensor parts (and thus produce generally, similar resolution/quality).  The other consumer cameras in this category can range from $100-400. The older Samsung 360 cameras are now below $100

Any of these cameras can be used with Pixvana SPIN Studio to edit, add interactivity, and directly cast VR video to viewers.  The lower image resolution will generally produce a softer image, but the lower cost, and very portable/easy to use on location form factors, make these cameras an important tool in the VR video shooters repertoire.

Kanda Obsidian VR Cameras

Kanda makes 2 models of the Obsidian with different specs depending on the type of shooting required. This is a 6 lenses VR video camera laid out in a horizontal radial pattern–a common design arrangement that allows for both mono and stereo/3D stitching results. Kanda provides a bundled stitching software with the camera.

The two configurations of the Kanda VR video camera include:

  • Obsidian R    – High resolution –  Stereo360: 8k @ 30fps   4k @ 60fps
  • Obsidian S    – High speed –  Stereo360: 6k @ 50fps   4k @ 120fps

Pixvana SPIN Studio is fully compatible with footage from Kanda’s line of cameras.  Simply upload either the raw footage for stitching assembly using our SPIN Studio VR video stitching capabilities, or already stitched and edited content which can be added to SPIN Studio produced immersive experiences that include high-resolution streaming or casting to multiple headsets.

Insta 360 Pro VR Camera

Insta360 makes a number VR cameras and the Pro is their current high end model.  It has six 200 degree lenses in a radial pattern on this ball shaped camera system. It’s able to shoot both stereo and mono. It comes with the Insta360 stitcher and supports 120 fps for slow motion (at lower resolutions) along with stabilization and live streaming.  At its maximum settings it will produce a ~8k resolution VR video element.  Insta360 have also released a Adobe Premiere plugin to allow stitching of source footage within a Premiere centric workflow.

Stereo360  

  • 3840×3840 @ 24fps (4K) (real-time stitching/live-streaming)
  • 6400×6400 @ 30fps (6K) (post-processing stitching)

Mono360

  • 3840×1920 @ 30fps (4K) (real-time stitching/live-streaming)
  • 7680×3840 @ 30fps (8K) (post-processing stitching)

The raw footage shot with the Insta 360Pro can be uploaded to Pixvana’s SPIN Studio software for stitching, editing, reviewing, adding interactivity, and presenting final VR video experiences to viewers in VR headsets.  By using cloud-rendering on multiple computers, full 8k resolution stitching of Insta 360Pro footage can be parallel processed for greatly improved speed and overall throughout of your VR video.

 

GoPro Omni VR Camera

The GoPro Omni is a workhorse VR camera that’s based on some of the original 360 3D printed systems. This is 6x GoPro Hero4 cameras arranged like a cube and typically shot in a diagonal format (on corner of the cube). This orientation allows stitching to avoid seeing a monopod support. GoPro added firmware support to these cameras which allows all 6x cameras to be synchronized and controlled from one “master” camera. These are big improvements over having individual GoPro cameras in a rig made by any other vendor, as only GoPro has access to the firmware with these added control capabilities.

The GoPro Omni comes with a copy of AutoPano Video stitcher software.  Final stitch resolution is 7940 x 3970 (when shot with 2.7p camera settings) and 5638 x 2819 (when shot with 1440p camera settings), which produces very nice image quality.

Unfortunately the GoPro Omni is no longer being made and it appears GoPro is done building 1st party VR rigs for their cameras.  A new version of this product would use Hero 6, the current GoPro camera, which would add resolution and image quality.  The Omni can be purchased at a greatly reduced price of $1400 (instead of $5000 original pricing), and is still a great VR video camera option (as of this writing in summer 2018).

Footage shot with the GoPro Omni can be uploaded to Pixvana’s SPIN Studio software for stitching, editing, reviewing, adding interactivity, and presenting final VR video experiences to viewers in VR headsets.  By using cloud-rendering on multiple computers, full 8k resolution stitching of GoPro Omni footage can be parallel processed for greatly improved speed and overall throughout of your VR video.

Z CAM K1 Pro VR Camera

This little beauty of a VR 180 camera was the first commercial 180 degree camera and conforms the Google VR180 standard. The Z CAM K1 Pro has 2 sensors spaced the distance of a average human’s pair of eyes, and fisheye lenses that see a wide 180 degrees each.  The combined effect of 180 degrees, and proper eye-distance, produces VR footage with a compelling stereo/3d effect.

It should be noted that unlike 360 cameras (which cover all around as if an entire sphere), the VR180 cameras only film the front of the sphere. The result is less immersive but an often much easier on-location shooting experience.  With a 180 camera actors and crew can simply stand behind the camera out of view. 

K1 Pro produces up to a 6K @ 30fps or 4K @ 60fps video that has a left and right image.  Therefore, each eye has 50% of the horizontal resolution of the total image output.  A 6k image is thus 2 3k images in the video, side-by-side.

The K1 Pro designation because it uses high quality components (lenses, sensors) for professionals and has a price tag to match at $3000 USD — but well, well worth the quality that it can produce for a truly immersive VR video experience.

Other VR180 cameras are coming to market in 2018 including the Leveno Mirage, which will produce 4K/1440P/1080P @ 30 FPS for under $300 USD, and the Yi 180 VR Camera which will shoot 5.7k (price not yet announced).   Both of these cameras will have significantly lower image quality than the professional grade, higher-resolution and better optics of the Z CAM K1 Pro.

Footage shot with all of these cameras is fully compatible with Pixvana’s SPIN Studio software for editing, reviewing, adding interactivity, and presenting final VR video experiences to viewers in VR headsets.

Yi Halo 360 VR Video Camera

This camera is a maker-enthusiasts-fantasy!  It combines 17 individual Yi sports mini-cameras into a design that provides 16 horizontal overlapping images, and 1 upwards facing camera for coverage of the zenith above the camera array.   The design is based on the Google “Jump” initiative which originally used GoPro’s for the same design (a short-lived v1, which has been supplanted by this newer partnership with Yi).

The Yi Halo captures a full 360 but does have a blind spot at the nadir (looking down) directly below the camera.  It is possible to use a still camera to take pictures of the area beneath the camera (after moving the camera out of the way, of course), and through post-production compositing, to fill in a full spherical 360 degrees. 

The large number of lenses produces meaningful overlap between each lens, which allows for post-processing “computational stereo analysis” which produces a high-quality left and right eye stereo pair, and as a added bonus for VFX work, a grayscale depth map!  All stitching for this camera is done using the free/included (for now) Google Jump Assembler (a fully cloud based stitching software specifically for this camera).

The Google Jumpo Assembler produces a high-quality stereo/3D video of 8192 x 8192 @ 30fps (with 50% of that vertical resolution for each of the left/right images), or a 5760 x 5760 @ 60fps if shooting at the higher frame-rate.  The camera is available for $17,000 USD.  

Yi made several meaningful improvements on this camera’s design over the previous GoPro powered V1: integrated battery-pack, greater responsiveness and control, enhanced image quality (using newer camera sensors), and, a more manageable workflow for removing the media cards and getting everything uploaded to the Google Jump Assembler cloud website.

Footage produced by this camera is fully compatible with Pixvana SPIN Studio for client reviews, editing, and creating interactive VR immersive experiences at the highest possible quality.

Z CAM V1 Pro VR Camera

Z Cam calls this a Cinematic VR Camera and the Pro the designation indicates the focus on quality (and price, at over $30,000 USD). It has 8 radial lenses and 1 lens looking up to complete a full 360 degrees of coverage, and can capture stereo/3D or mono footage. Z Cam provides a bundled stitcher called “WonderStitch”, which is also capable of live-streaming output for live 360 coverage.  Resolutions up to Stereo360: 7K @ 30fps / 4K @ 60fps​  and Mono360: 8K @ 30fps / 4K @ 60fps

Footage shot with the Z CAM Pro is compatible with Pixvana’s SPIN Studio software for editing, reviewing, adding interactivity, and presenting final VR video experiences to viewers in VR headsets at maximum resolutions of 8k and above.  SPIN Studio’s stitcher can natively handle source footage from the Z CAM Pro, for both mono and 3D/stereo stitching–all in our cloud-based render farm which can parallel process stitching across 100s of machines simultaneously.

RED Cinema Camera VR RIg

Using 5 independent RED Weapon or RED Dragon cinema camera modules, together with the Canon 8-15mm lens at its widest field-of-view, this camera system is illustrative of the highest quality capture systems available on the market today for 360 degree video capture.  The effective data rate of the 5 RAW camera recordings is cumulatively more than 1TB of data-per-hour of footage, and can be resolved to over 10k of resolution at 60fps!

As should be expected, the resulting VR video images produced by this class of VR video camera are *astoundingly* dynamic in color, contrast, sharpness, and resolution.  Even when these images are downsampled to 4k for playback, the higher quality is very noticeable–and with that quality, an enhanced sense of presence and virtual realism.

Pixvana’s SPIN Studio is fully compatible with this class of camera system.  SPIN Studio can stitch the various videos produced by this camera into a monoscopic master video file of 10k+ resolution, and then turned into interactive or linear stories that wow the senses.

This case study reviews a ultra-high-resolution VR video shoot we conducted using this camera system.