NAB wasn’t just about new 3D stereo cameras. There were a range of other cameras and production kit worth noting for their release in the near future.
- Facebook Suround360
The most impressive announcement was Facebook’s latest version of their Surround360 program. Pictured above, they have teamed with a company called Otoy to develop a volumetric-based capture system (a pseudo lightfield technology). They record images from multiple angles and then build that depth information into a virtual scene, allowing a viewer to literally move around (small head movements) in what is called six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF).
The prototype cameras are in two models X6 and X24 (6sensors and 24sensors respectively). The bigger camera covers more data with 4 overlaps of information to the X6’s 3 overlaps. This means more scale, higher quality images and data, and greater movement. The key issue for volumetric recording is dealing with the amount of data, but we anticipate seeing Facebook collaborating with an established camera manufacturer on this development, with a view to a potentially releasable product at NAB 2018.
- Z CAM S1 Pro
Albeit announced prior to NAB by a few months, this was the first time we saw non-prototype cameras which are nearing release. Full micro 4/3 sensors mean higher dynamic range and more accurate colour science with better low light sensitivity. Based on Sony 2880 sensors, this is likely to be the standard Pro mono rig for a while, although heavily hindered by a maximum 30fps and also larger parallax than its smaller version the S1. (Note the lenses in this picture are not the ones on the final version).
- Panasonic 360 4K
Panasonic were showing off their oft-mooted 360 camera for professionals. The key issue is that it outputs 4K resolution, and is similar in design to the S1. We don’t know prices, but suspect that it would cost more than the Z CAM effort for lower specs.
- Yi 360 VR
Yi (Xiaomi) jump on the 360 camera for phones bandwagon with this effort. It combines with their leading phones, enabling a similar ecosystem to the Samsung Galaxy and Gear360 pairing. The specs are almost identical, although it is a larger package than the Gear360. The square shape may make it easier to mount and hold. It does feature next gen processors, meaning less compressed H.265 recording and higher resolution 5.7K.
- Digital Domain
We don’t know a lot about this camera system at the moment. What it does feature is screw on filters which sit over each lens. A great consideration as ND filters in bright sunlight are a must. Currently increasing shutter is the way this is being dealt with, but it is usually inconsistent across sensors/cameras in a rig.
- SGO Mistika
SGO announced optical flow stitching system for their Mistika platform. This is unusual as it is the first camera agnostic optical flow system we have seen announced which make it great for anyone using custom rigs. Price is unknown to us, but we guess it is probably not cheap.
Rumours persist of the Ozo+, 2nd generation camera from Nokia. After the huge disappointment of the original Ozo, we feel it has to be really advanced to justify being worth considering. Replaced sensors is a must, otherwise there are far better solutions for far lower cost. Whether the Ozo+ is a whole new camera design addressing sensor image issues, lack of framerate and poor stereo, or an incremental firmware update remains to be seen.
There are probably a range of other camera and post 360 VR announcements at NAB, but these are the ones which caught our attention most. The market for equipment changes every 12 weeks or so at the moment, especially for new 360 video cameras, so expect a continuing development and release of new productions in the coming months.