Making Strides in the Virtual Reality World

Published on in Equipment / Tech Reviews

Virtual Reality has made a lot of progress working into the production cycle. The ultimate goal is to then get the show or product to the end user. Setting up for the production of a VR program, whether being live-streamed or recorded, takes on some challenges that are different than traditional production. Of course in the gaming world, there will be a ton of post. So much post, that I will be talking about that topic specifically in the future. But before we get into the deep dive and specifics, let's go over the basics.

What is VR and what is a VR camera?  

VR imaging is normally created by stitching together a number of photographs taken in a multi-row 360-degree rotation or using an omnidirectional camera, the complete virtual reality image can also be a totally computer-generated effect or a composite of photography and computer-generated objects.

Getting into the Mix

Talking to VR experts, one of the most common mistakes is that many go into this type of production unprepared. No one is saying you aren’t a professional. What the VR experts ARE saying is don’t go into it thinking you know everything because you most likely don’t.

If you're going backcountry or someplace new, get an experienced crew and location scout. Having that person along will save you time and money. They should know the best places in their area to get into this space. Talk to your own compadres, or contact the state or local film board in your area for a list. Of course one can always slide on over to our very own listings on ProductionHUB.com to find the right crew for your award-winning production.

From a VR production perspective, it was mostly new to me. My biggest take away was seeing how people had to get their shots without being in the shot. So for some figuring that out might be a daunting task. Remember this is still somewhat new to some people. But that's ok. Production people are a curious lot. We’ll figure it out.

VR Tools of the Trade

If you're jumping into the VR space, you are going to have to make an investment in gear and in yourself with the learning curve. Of course one can just rent the gear. I have said a million times anyone can rent or buy a really nice camera, but do you have the brain or conviction to learn it inside-out? If you have time, walk before you run. Like I said before, talk to everybody you can. It will be worth it. So who are the players? Let's take a look.

GoPro Fusion and Software

Right at the top of my list is GoPro Fusion along with the editing package. I love live action and sports in particular. I'm excited by the product's durability and the relatively inexpensive entry point. Light, cheap and durable — I'm not afraid to jump into the mud puddle if I want to. But hey, don’t just take my word for it check out this fun and kick ass Fusion demo.



Insta360 Pro

I've seen the Insta360 Pro used in arenas, concerts and other live streaming events. After a while, I don't think you would even notice it. The Insta360 Pro is built with six 200° fisheye lenses and offers adjustable shutter speed, but you have complete control over how many lenses the camera shoots with. You can select from just three to all six and control which subjects take center stage in the image. Nice that you can stick it on a tripod and just leave it. The camera also records audio with four built-in mics and additionally supports an external mic. Here are some other features to consider:

  • Real-time image stabilization is another of the features of the Insta360 Pro. The Insta360 Pro also employs a precise optical flow stitching process that minimizes seam lines.
  • Capture 360 videos and stills in 8K and 3D
  • Live stream 4K video with H.264 and H.265 compressions to a variety of 360-supporting platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and the Insta360 server
  • Six 200° fisheye lenses (selectable - use all six or less)
  • Adjustable shutter speed
  • High-resolution 100 fps slow-motion effect with post-processing

Vuze 4K 3D 360 Spherical VR Camera

The Vuze 4K 3D 360 Spherical VR Camera features eight image sensors allowing you to record 360° spherical VR videos and photos in stereoscopic 3D, capturing one UHD 4K image for each eye. Then, one can watch it with a VR headset (not included) or on 360 platforms like YouTube 360 for a full spherical VR experience. The camera captures audio via four onboard microphones.

The compact camera comes with a proprietary stitching software (Mac/Win) called Vuze Studio that enables stitching the separate images together into a spherical format, and it also includes the Vuze Mobile App (Android/iOS), which can be used to remotely control the camera and manage files. The camera records everything to a microSD card (sold separately), from which the files can be played back as well as shared.

  • Record 360° spherical VR videos and photos in stereoscopic 3D
  • Features eight image sensors capable of capturing an Ultra HD 4K image for each eye
  • Multiple IMUs (inertial measurement unit) for camera orientation control
  • Four microphones record uncompressed 16-bit PCM audio
  • Includes Vuze Studio proprietary stitching software (Mac/Win)
  • Includes Vuze mobile control app (Android/iOS)
  • IP64 dust-tight and splash-proof (this might be one of the best features)

Samsung 360 Round Camera System

Having seen this camera up close and personal, I can tell you that it really does a lot of amazingly cool things. I can see this camera in-game use and also in a surgical setting. 

Live stream or record 4K 360° video with the Samsung 360 Round Camera System. Using 17 cameras—16 in 8 stereo pairs positioned horizontally and one skyward-facing—the 360 Round can record or stream video of everything going on around it. Video can either be recorded to internal memory, to an SD card, or to an external SSD attached via the USB Type-C port as well as streamed live via the Ethernet LAN connection. Video from the 360 Round can be hosted or streamed by well-established platforms, such as Facebook or YouTube, and Samsung's own platform, Samsung VR. Whether recording or streaming, high-resolution is always maintained. 2D video can be stitched to a 4096 x 2048 frame size, while 3D video maintains the same resolution spec, per eye.

One drawback to the Samsung 360 Round Camera System is that it's more expensive than the others, but I think one has to decide how they view VR and 360 and how they are going to position themselves in their respective markets. All three units make pretty cool images.

 

Some Honorable Mentions

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a ton of other VR Camera makers and gaming developers that I hope we can get to later this year. Most notable are Facebook, Playstation and Oculus. So much fun to be had. Not nearly enough time.

The Parting Shot

It always pains me to run out of words when talking to you guys about outstanding gear and productions but this last release was so cool I just couldn’t leave it out. When the legendary Eminem decided to tell his story of Detroit and growing up there, it had to be an immersive experience.

15-time Grammy winning musician Eminem, EMMY® award-winning immersive entertainment creators Felix & Paul Studios, and Facebook’s Oculus today launched Marshall From Detroit. The cinematic VR experience is now available for Oculus Go, Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR.

“In Marshall From Detroit, we sought to explore the city impressionistically: Detroit as a memory, a feeling, a dream,” said director Caleb Slain. “With a front row seat down memory lane alongside Marshall and Sway, this lyrical experience offers an unprecedented glimpse into its eponymous titans. We all have a home. And the extent to which it shaped us is one of life’s great mysteries. But as any native would tell you, Detroit, Michigan is one hell of a place to call home.”

Marshall From Detroit is a 3D 360-degree virtual reality experience featuring Marshall Mathers (Eminem) and Sway Calloway and directed by Caleb Slain in collaboration with Félix Lajeunesse & Paul Raphaël. The 21-minute immersive VR experience, produced by Felix & Paul Studios in conjunction with Facebook’s Oculus, invites the viewer to join Eminem on a nighttime ride through Detroit with an up-close-and-personal view into the rapper’s thoughts and views on the city he has always called home. Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg and his producing partner Stuart Parr executive produced the experience via their Shady Films banner.

“It was a remarkable experience to collaborate with Marshall on this project,” said Paul Raphaël, co-founder and creative director of Felix & Paul Studios. “Marshall and the place he calls home are deeply intertwined — a motif we have explored with virtual reality since we produced the Nomads series, Through the Ages, and The People’s House. Here we used VR to tell a new side of Eminem’s story, one where audiences will get closer than ever before to this musical icon.”

Marshall From Detroit recently premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is now available for free on the Oculus Store for Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, and the Gear VR. The virtual reality experience was captured and produced using Felix & Paul Studios' full-spectrum VR platform, including the studio's proprietary, state-of-the-art cameras, and pre- and post- production software suite. Spatial audio capture, design, and processing was provided by Headspace Studio. 

Watch the trailer: 

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About the Author

Mark Foley
Mark Foley
Mark J. Foley, MBA BA is an award-winning producer and director and the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB.com. He is on a mission to provide the best in new equipment reviews, along with exclusive analysis and interviews with the best, the brightest and most creative minds in the entertainment and production business. Have a suggestion for a review? Email Mark at mfoley@productionhub.com.

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