360 Live Stream Virtual Reality Broadcast Solution

Live streaming in 360 is becoming more and more popular. The concept has a big future for delivering live entertainment to remote customers in VR. Right now there are issues with delivering 4K, let alone 8K images required to make it watchable. Generally 1080 HD is the limit for widespread streaming which is a bit soft for comfortable viewing. But it still has its applications for small audiences who can handle higher data rates. We’ve been waiting for some time to have a package of 360 hardware and software which is rock solid reliable for broadcasting which leaves no room for technical error. With a combination of two pieces of equipment, we finally have a solution which fits those needs. S1 Camera & Teradek Sphere The S1 camera is a reliable high quality 360 camera for the mid-range professional market. It records to a range of useful resolutions and frame rates, but also spits out four 1080 HD videos via mini-HDMI inputs on its base. From the S1 HDMIs, the videos feed in to a 4-port Teradek Sphere unit. The Sphere is primarily used for wireless video on-set monitoring, however it has the capability to send 360 images directly onto an RTMP server or youtube. The Sphere wireslessly sends the 4-videos encoded to an iPad Pro. The iPad pro with Teradek software is capable of a live on-the-fly stitch which can be customised to fit the build and lenses of any 360 vertically orientated camera. The iPad feed can actually put out 4K live stitched, but usually a stream would take a 1080 HD at a reasonable bitrate. Technically... read more

Z S1 360 Camera Review

We have had the S1 in action of productions for some time now. We felt it was time to report on its suitability for 360 video production. The S1 is a mid-professional level 360 camera system which integrates 4x 4K sensors and 4x 220° lenses into one small, slim unibody camera system. It records a in a variety of recording formats, but the most common are 4K30fps and 2.7k60fps. These result in 6K and 4K maximum masters respectively after stitch. Image quality is pretty good and slightly better than the GoPro omni system, resulting in slightly sharper images due to better lenses. The dynamic range is similar as is the noise sensitivity. The cameras are aligned in a much better geometry than the GoPro Omni’s diamond configuration. Vertical stitch lines are easier to manage with objects crossing. Importantly the camera sensors are pixel synced and usefully record to actual full size SD cards. No more fiddling around and losing MicroSD cards. The overlap is reasonable enough to give flexibility when needing to move the stitch line and while the body gets very hot (too hot to touch at times), the camera itself never overheats and shuts down. The small parallax distance of the cameras reduces usable minimum distance of objects to around 0.75m (in many cases 0.5m). This means it can film in very small spaces such as inside cars, or have objects cross close to camera reasonably effectively. The four sensor configuration does have one major downside and that is that the nadir and particularly zenith coverage is poor. Ceilings often need additional post GFX to clean up... read more

Acting For 360 VR

While our posts often focus on the technical side of VR filmmaking, or the crew roles, we have not yet looked at one of the most important elements in 360 videos which is the acting. In this post we are going to consider the role of the actor and how they fit into our new medium. An actor for 360 video needs to consider what it is the user is going to see. Basically unless they are hidden or off-set, they will be in shot, and this means everything they do they need to think about at every moment. They will be ‘always on’ and this has repercussions for their emotional performance. The actor needs to think about not just their close up and the emotion in their face they are expressing which is common for mono 2D filming. They also should be thinking about their physical performance, whether it be moving or just standing still but the limbs need to be making natural consistent movements both suitable for the character and feeling natural for a human being. The movements would be closer to stage/theatre acting, with the actor aware of the audience eyes that are always on them. The problem here then, is that we have a mix of both worlds. An actor needs to deliver lengthy physical performances with the emotional intensity of a film close-up throughout the course of a whole take. And this needs to be from every actor involved in the scene, for every take. A director needs to work with an actor throughout the course of a whole take, ensuring natural movements which aren’t disjointed with... read more

Why 360° Video? – Audience Data For Virtual Reality Videos

360 video sits within the emergence of Virtual Reality (VR) as a modern way for an audience to consume entertainment. Effectively a sphere of video, it enables a viewer to be transported into a world they couldn’t normally reach, able see in any direction they may choose and directly interact with the content. Audience Formats Desktop 360 360° video content can be consumed in two ways: VR headset or desktop players (PC/Mac or phone and tablet). The market audience is much larger on Desktop at this time, with Youtube having reach of over one billion users, and Facebook videos reaching up to 1.13billion users (1). Facebook revealed there are over 20,000 360° videos on their platform with hundreds more added each day. Virtual Reality Headsets (HMD) The market for VR headsets  currently sits around 16million in early 2017. There have been 10million downloads of google cardboard, with a further 6million fully featured VR headsets sold(2). The highest selling VR dedication headset (non-cardboord) was the Samsung GearVR, with sales of around 4.5million in 2016. The mobile phone VR sales figures are a crucial indicator to growth of the VR headset audience in the future. This will be by far the largest headset market in the near future for VR content consumption, expected to number in the tens of millions by 2025. Phone manufacturers are including VR headsets and VR capable software in their products, ensuring anyone who upgrades their phone will have easy access to VR by default. 360 Video Engagement Views are 28.81% higher with 360 videos, and twice as many viewers watch them to 100% completion(3). At the... read more

The Role Of The 360 VR Production Designer

In traditional film-making, a string of positions have been laid down with a well-recognized hierarchy. Chief among those being the Director, followed by Cinematographer and then Production Designer. With new ways of working in 360 VR, we wonder now whether the production designer has become a more important creative element to production than the cinematographer. It is clear with 360 production, there is not a set window to design for. The user can see around them in any direction, thereby requiring the creative team to think about the space in its entirety. Any and every corner needs to be considered, especially if the team is ensuring every element ‘on screen’ is geared towards giving the audience a completely controlled story. A 360 Production Designer should be considering how to build a set or manage the art direction of a location down to the smallest detail. Does a detailed painting on the wall offer distraction from the Director’s intended focal point of story, or enable the user to find other separate stories and details in a fulfilling and well conceived world. We are now looking at a platform where a user can choose to focus in places other than the main actor or objects of the storyteller’s intent, enabling multi-stories and layers of texture to the narrative experience away from the main story. The Production Designer should be thinking in the normal ways of colour, and context for the set and props, but now the work volume is increased tenfold. Colour theme and tone should be tied in to every element, with the wisest and most talented designers making the... read more

Which 360 VR Camera Do I Need?: Updated Early 2017

This post is an update from one two-thirds of the way in to 2016. We get asked which camera does a client need for their job often. Should they go multi-cam, or 2-cam and what are the benefits and cons? As the field moves so quickly, we decided an update was needed.   The Beginner If you are starting out and want the easiest and simplest system with auto-stitch then you need to be looking at the Gear360. Like all out recommendations, it outputs 4K which is the minimum resolution required for watchable 360° video. It autostitches onto an S7 phone via WiFi, from which you then take the card on to a Mac/PC and upload. There is desktop software for Windows based machines, but it actually renders slightly more compressed images than the on-phone auto-stitch. While we list this system as for those starting out, it actually is out current main on-set monitoring device and the image resolution is actually very good. The Entry-level Professional The Kodak Pixpro SP360-4K is the system for those wishing to take a step up. It’s a great professional level entry point mainly due to the exposure of image stitching. It has free image stitch software which is restrictive and rough around the edges, but does just enough to delivery an understanding of the image stitch process and how to operate in production with stitches. The lower cost also means it is relatively easy to try things out with. The Standard Professional (UPDATED) The GoPro Omni rig is the most common professional system available today. 6 GoPros deliver resolution and flexibility. This system will require... read more

Six Camera VR Arrays: Cube Vs Diagonal Orientation

Often with multi-cam setups, we arrange 6 cameras in a cube configuration to cover each side of the cube. When we need to mount this on a pole/monopod, we often have to sit the cube at a 45-degree angle so that the bottom camera is offset and space is made for a thread can fit on to the pole. Sometimes changing this offset can be useful which we are exploring in this post. The diamond configuration is the most common way to shoot a 6-cam setup. Its flexibility to mount without affecting any single camera reduces post time greatly. It allows the mounting pole to usually be hidden within the parallax of the three cameras with coverage facing downwards. At the very least, the space taken up by the pole at the nadir is reduced greatly. The downside of diamond configuration is the orientation of stitch lines. They offset at 45-degrees as per the angle of the camera. This means that anything crossing through the stitch line is travelling along a stitch at a different angle to how it works in the real world. Due to gravity, we know that objects tend to travel horizontally to the Earth, such as a person walking around the camera. (45-degree stitch lines) With a 90-degrees offset cube configuration, we can re-orientate the mounting position so that all cameras face in vertical or horizontal arrangement in relation to the world around them. The benefits of this are clear in the square shapes during stitching. As a person or a travelling object crosses a stitch, they do so all at one single time with... read more

Fight For Falluja – Good 360º Narrative

Sometimes great 360º video content makes its way online which really just blows us away. We like to highlight the best so that we and others can learn from it. There isn’t a lot of narrative content, but this film Fight For Faluja which was produced by New York Times in partnership with KonceptVR, really shows how good Voice Over, tone, music and creativity can come together to make a powerful and compelling story come to life.... read more

Moving The VR Camera: 360° VR RC Vehicle

  We have looked at ways to move the camera previously and recently completed a Christmas commercial for Xbox using a couple of systems on our 360° VR RC vehicle. This post is going to look at some of the things we learnt from the project. The commercial is fairly straightforward in concept – have a 360° camera travel through a shopping center beneath Christmas light panels depicting a story from the game. We found out that the vehicle route was not straight due to the limitations of the location and the minimum distances were somewhat uncontrollable. The RC vehicle we use is designed to work with a stabilising gyro which is required to minimise horizon shifts and keep the footage steady. We chose two camera systems for this work – GoPro Omni and Z4XL. The GoPro was chosen for its smaller parallax, and therefore smaller minimum distance of 1.5m, and also its smoother 60fps in motion. The Z4XL was chosen as an alternate second system for its much greater light sensitivity and colour representation. (VR RC Vehicle with Omni 360° Camera System) We had a number of takes on each system, albeit heavily limited by the time allowed for filming in this public space. We aided the feeling of 360° by hiding a number of brand-related objects around the location, ensuring repeat viewing as users searched for the many Easter eggs. In terms of movement, we chose a shot weaving between and under the panels, rather than directly straight down the side as it felt much more involved and dynamic. Getting close to subjects or objects of interest in... read more

Z4XL 360° VR Camera System: The Latest & Greatest

Like everyone else in the 360° video filmmaking community, we strive for better tools to help us record more satisfying images. By keeping a close eye on emerging technologies and camera suppliers, we have a good understanding of what systems are coming which may serve our needs. The Z4XL is an example of a camera system advancing our capabilities in a number of good ways.   The Z4XL consists of four micro 4/3rds size sensors with custom 220° wide angle lenses. Due to its large sensor size, it captures detail with greater sensitivity than standard GoPro systems. The sensor, coming from a DLSR orientated Panasonic GH4 camera, has a much greater dynamic range and much more accurate colour science than a GoPro sensor. Where white highlights blow out in a GoPro, you often get more detail on the Z4XL. It does have a tendency to adjust shutter mid-shot if the camera is moving so you have to keep an eye on highlight areas. The Z4XL sensors feature bigger pixels, meaning it is more sensitive to low light situations. While this doesn’t mean perfectly clean noise-free images, it does mean the system will pick up lit areas in a dark image far cleaner than a GoPro system. The lens is physically much bigger, however it is much sharper than an off-the-shelf GoPro lens, resulting in sharper, more detailed images. Yes, we are restricted by the common 4K display limit of 360° at the moment, but you can still see a noticeable improvement in the image quality and sharpness of detail. There are no over-heating issues or camera shutdown occurrences which... read more