When Samsung approached me to take a technical long look at the Samsung 360 Round, my first reaction was ok sure, why not? It's just another camera, right? I will just say it here right now — I was so wrong! The Samsung 360 Round isn’t just an amazing camera, it's 17 amazing cameras in a very futuristic housing along with some advanced technologies that have redefined the 360 world. The level of attention to details by Samsung for the 360 Round is off the charts and something I can really appreciate.
From pre-production to final distribution, producing in 360 is a different animal. To really grasp this technology, you need to put aside your preconceived notions about production. I know that may seem like a bold statement but you will thank me after.
Josh Dixon, Senior Product Manager, VR and the guru on all things in the Samsung Round 360 universe, demonstrated all of the cool things this camera can do. Josh and the entire Samsung team was really focused on explaining, then demonstrating in detail what I can only describe as the holistic process of working in the entire 360 space.
Before we get into specifics, here are some of the product highlights that make the Samsung 360 Round so unique.
- 17 lenses in a stereoscopic 8-pair configuration plus a single topside lens for professional-quality 3D 360 content.
- Capable of capturing 4Kx4K using standard production equipment.
- IP-65 water and dust resistance Built for hours of continuous shooting with a compact, unibody chassis and factory calibrated sensors that reduces heat and power consumption.
- The included software enables controlling and stitching shots, as well as expandable connectors and ports to hook up additional gear.
A Whole New Way to Shoot
Many of us have only shot video or film in the traditional two-dimensional plane. This practice puts us and everything else behind the camera and out of the shot. This is not the case with the Samsung 360 Round.
When you set the camera up you must be aware that you are capturing everything around the camera, hence the name! As with any other production, it takes a lot of planning to execute. Scripting becomes a new process because now you have to script for and storyboard everything that the camera would pick up.
Camera placement is also very critical. You need to decide what is the predominate focus point for the viewer. According to Josh, it's always best to put your main object dead to center. Knowing this is helpful for planning shots ahead of time.
As with any shoot, scouting is a key to a successful outcome. Now take that visual concept that you have to execute and multiply that by 17. With the Samsung 360 Round, what you see is what you will get. Want to shoot a medieval sword battle? Great. Make sure there are no power lines in the distance — I don’t think they had those back then.
The Samsung 360 Round Up Close and Personal
One of the privileges of getting a one on one demo like this one is the ability to step through the process in a very deliberate manner. Josh started with the 360 Round set up, which is a very well built camera (that looks like a little spaceship to me) sitting on top of a very sturdy stand. The camera has built-in heat fins so there are no fans (I dislike fan noise) and is IP65 rated against crappy weather so getting yourself outside is not an issue either.
For setting up, you could use a standard tripod, but either way, you'll need to drape the sticks in black to avoid getting them in the shot. From there, Josh ran a couple of cables back to his computer and showed me a very cool way you could see and control everything from a mobile device app. That's nice for those tricky remotes or shoots where you have to hide out of shot.
A VR Stitch In Time/Live Streaming
We shot some straight-ahead footage in the conference room. This setting provided an excellent viewpoint and added a lot of depth and perspective of everyone and everything in the room. We also discussed that the 360 Round supports live streaming. Live streaming 360 content can be process and bandwidth intensive, considering the resolution of the content and the real-time stitching needed to broadcast to VR. Like online distribution for linear projects, not all platforms support the same live streaming features.
When streaming VR content, you're at the mercy of upload speed at the user's location and the quality of their internet connection (though with 4G aggregated modems — and now 5G — this is becoming less of an issue). Due to limited bandwidth, bitrates have to be kept low to ensure a successful stream without buffering. Platforms like Samsung VR offer live streaming of the optimized H.265 codec, at as much as 4K per eye for stereoscopic content. H.265 can often provide a comparable quality level at half the bitrate of an H.264 video.
The motion stitching is top-notch. As the camera records in its native state, a person moving through multiple frames will “jump” (like a jump cut) as the image “jumps” from one set of lens to the next. This is really easy to see as the subject moves past fixed objects. The resulting images even in the “rough stitch ” mode was impressive. It's handy to first to check for grievous errors before you spend all your time and money editing in post just to realize that you missed something. Josh also pointed out that if you are going to go deep into the process you need some serious computer crunching power due to the high amount of data you are moving. I know it takes a lot of creative brainpower to make this happen but here is also where you need to be technically for post:
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional or above
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K or above
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 1080 or above
- RAM: 16 GB DDR4 or above Power: 850 W Storage: SSD 512 GB or more (recommended)
The Bottom Line
In my professional opinion, the Samsung 360 Round is some truly amazing technology with some great upwards potential in the gaming, sports, entertainment and training spaces. Are there some disadvantages? Well, it's not inexpensive. Getting the spatial audio right can cost you a big chunk of the post budget.
You also need to look at it with your client and be honest. Is shooting in 360 the best approach? The bottom line is the bottom line after all. Would I shoot a production with the Samsung 360 Round? Absolutely. Would I do it alone? Maybe not the first one. I am going to get some really smart people who have done 360/VR before and go from there.
Lastly, don’t be stuck in one place production-wise because you are not willing to learn new tricks! Samsung has produced an excellent white paper that guides new-comers to the 360 video world. If you are going to take the deep dive I would love to hear from you and share your experience with your fellow ProductionHUB readers. Good luck and good shooting!