Fisheye to Spherical Conversion using After Effects

fisheye-to-spherical-conversion-of-kodak-pixpro-sp360-4k-footage

Lately I’ve been shooting with the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k camera for both VR and the planetarium dome. Shooting with dual cameras is great for capturing 360°, but shooting with a single camera is sometimes easier since the footage doesn’t need to be stitched. Also a single camera captures 235° which is a surprisingly huge FOV. Yet it’s necessary to warp the footage from fisheye to spherical so that it can be experienced in VR or Youtube 360.

The ‘Pixpro SP360 4k’ software is actually capable of warping a single camera from fisheye to spherical. But it’s not intuitive (here is a tutorial) and the Kodak software can only export footage to MP4… And seeing as how the raw camera footage is an already heavily compressed MP4, I wasn’t thrilled about this added lossy step. So I figured out a simple technqiue.

If you’re wondering… the terms Spherical, Equirectangular, and LatLong refer to the EXACT same thing.


Tutorial using After Effects without plugins

— This technique is a hack and the warping isn’t ideal for all occasions. Yet it really depends on whether your fisheye lens is equidistant or equisolid angle. Equidistant fisheye lenses can get a near perfect conversion using this technique. But equisolid angle fisheye lenses are unique and therefore this technique cannot provide an accurate conversion. The technique still works for equisolid angle fisheye lenses but parts of the image will look slightly stretched or squashed vertically when viewed in VR or Youtube 360. For instance, the SP360 4k camera has an equisolid angle fisheye lens and yet it’s the camera I used in this tutorial and achieved decent results. On that note, I actually haven’t been able to confirm from any official Kodak specs that the SP360 4k camera indeed uses a equisolid angle fisheye lens, but it seems pretty obvious when comparing renders from this After Effects technique against the ‘Pixpro SP360 4k’ warping software.
— You cannot use gaussian blur, sharpen, or such effects since they would create very obvious seams when viewed in VR or Youtube 360. But you could instead use the Skybox 360 Post FX since they are seamless VR effects.
— If you need to adjust the horizon level, then you’ll need to instead use the RE:Lens plugin which provides much better controls and proper conversion tools.

DOWNLOAD: Fisheye FOV Guide
required to complete tutorial

convert-fisheye-to-spherical-using-after-effects-no-plugins




Spherical to Fisheye Conversion

Or if you need to convert spherical to fisheye (so it can be watched in a dome) then the same process can be applied in reverse. But you’ll need to scale up the footage to crop out some of the unwanted FOV and unfortunately it’s a lossy conversion since it’s being uprezzed. Also you cannot change the FOV accurately, it’s just a very basic conversion. Although a perfect conversion can be achieved using a plugin from this list.

Upcoming Special Events in the Planetarium


EinsteinsPlayground-ASlowerSpeedofLight
Image Source: A Slower Speed of Light

Einstein’s Playground

— Thursday, February 11 /// 7:15pm
— Admission $10
— Gerd Kortemeyer, PhD, associate professor of physics at Michigan State University

Have you ever wanted to experience the complete distortion of time and space as we know it? The Charles Hayden Planetarium has partnered with the MIT Game Lab to immerse you in a virtual special relativity playground where you’ll witness the laws of physics in a completely new way. Using the power of video games, we’ll turn Einstein’s most famous theory from an abstract concept into something you can encounter yourself right here at the Museum of Science. Experience the effects of movement, time, and space as you’ve never been able to before!

Tickets on sale beginning January 28 /// (January 26 for Museum members)



AWorldUnderwater-TheReefsofBelize-KeithEllenbogen_5309952
Image Source: Keith Ellenbogen

A World Underwater: The Reefs of Belize

— Thursday, March 24 / 7:00pm
— Admission Free
— Keith Ellenbogen, award-winning underwater photographer and 2015-16 CAST Visiting Artist at MIT | Allan Adams, PhD, theoretical physicist, associate professor of physics and member of the Creative Art Council at MIT

Take an underwater journey to Glover’s Reef Research Station in Belize and immerse yourself in coral reefs! With images and cutting-edge immersive video captured during their January 2016 expedition, Keith and Allan will tell the story of the Mesoamerican reef ecosystem, the researchers working hard to conserve it, and the innovative MIT course behind the expedition in which students from across the institute (chemists, civil engineers, historians, physicists, and poets) learned the art, technique, and technology of underwater conservation photography. Under the Planetarium’s fulldome expanse, experience the thrills, challenges, and serendipity of wildlife photography and explore the role of visual culture as a catalyst for positive social change on our tiny blue planet.

Advance registration beginning March 10 /// (March 8 for Museum members)



StoriesUnderTheStars-Ari-Daniel-Hubble-2013-17-a-large_web-cropped
Image Source: NASA, ESA, CXC and the University of Potsdam, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

Stories Under the Stars

— Wednesday, April 20 / 7:30pm & 9:00pm
— Admission $12
— Ari Daniel, science reporter

Come to the Charles Hayden Planetarium for an evening of live storytelling, radio, and music under the stars. You’ll hear true stories, both personal and inspired by science, that explore the theme of “Light in the Dark,” all unfolding beneath the canopy of our cosmos. Join the search for light during the earliest moments of your life and from the outer reaches of our universe to the inner reaches of the human heart.

Tickets on sale beginning January 28 /// (January 26 for Museum members)
Hosted by science reporter Ari Daniel and co-produced by Ari and the Museum of Science as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.



SpaceStation-ISSCupola-cropped
Image Source: NASA

Space Station

— Thursday, April 21 / 7:30pm
— Admission $10
— Jared Sorensen, game designer

You wake up inside the cramped confines of a cryosleep chamber. You feel weak and dizzy from a prolonged period in cryonic suspension. What will you do next? Join game designer Jared Sorensen and the Charles Hayden Planetarium team as we break new ground in the Planetarium dome. Inspired by the text-parsing games of the ’80s, Space Station allows the entire audience to play a single character trying to survive a dangerous situation… in space! Give commands, explore rooms, examine objects, and try to escape the Space Station, if you can!

Check out the Parsely website for more information about their series of text-based adventure games.

Tickets on sale beginning January 28 /// (January 26 for Museum members)
Part of the Cambridge Science Festival.



CosmicLoops-IanEthanCase
Image Source: David Rabkin

Cosmic Loops

— Wednesday, May 18 / 7:15pm
— Admission $15
— Ian Ethan Case, acoustic double-neck guitars, fretless guitar, live looping | Stephanie Case, live sound design | Bertram Lehmann, percussion | Jeff Willet, gongs and percussion

As you soar through nebulas, galaxies, and star systems in the immersive space under the dome of the Charles Hayden Planetarium, live music with simple beginnings builds layer upon layer into an intricate universe of musical loops created by masters of an evocative style. Acoustic double-neck guitarist Ian Ethan fluidly combines a staggering variety of self-invented playing techniques necessitated by his multilayered compositions, further expanded using real-time live looping technology. Indulge in this rare quartet performance in which gongs and exotic percussion instruments from around the world take Ian’s latest compositions into new dimensions, with the Planetarium team’s transcendent visions overhead.

Tickets on sale beginning January 28 /// (January 26 for Museum members)

Collection of 360° Video Rigs

360-video-rig-collection

360° video is growing by leaps and bounds. No doubt about it.

And it’s fascinating to see all the different approaches to capturing 360° video. So I surveyed the current 360° video rigs being offered and then organized every serious option into this epic listing. The results are telling…

If you’re new to 360 video, then you have much to wrap your mind around. I suggest checking out my blog post: 360 Video Fundamentals. Or to gain a comprehensive understanding check out the Making360 open source book.

CATEGORIES
Comparison of 360° Video Rig Categories
360° Map Projection
360° Video Rigs: Multi Camera
360° Video Rigs: Single Camera Body
360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic
360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic / Single Camera Body
360° Video Rigs: Scuba
360° Video Rigs: Scuba Stereoscopic
360° Video Rigs: Invisible Drone
360° Video Rigs: First-Person POV
360° Camera Motion: Remote Control Cars
360° Camera Motion: Gyro Stabilization
360° Video Streaming Hardware
Partial 360° Video Rigs
Partial 360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic
Cylindrical Video Rigs
Cylindrical Video Rigs: Stereoscopic
Cylindrical Video Rigs: Parabolic Mirror
360° Light Field Rigs
360° Photography Rigs
Fisheye Video Rigs
Fisheye Video Rigs: Stereoscopic
Fisheye Lens: GoPro or MFT Cameras
360° Video Rigs: Less than 30fps
360° Video Rigs: Wild and Unique
360° Video Rigs: DIY 3D Printing
Unsuccessful Kickstarter Projects
History of 360° Film

Updated with latest 360° cameras on February 22, 2017


Comparison of 360° Video Rig Categories

There are many different types of 360° video rigs, but not all of them capture the full 360×180° field of view (FOV). And so I’ve placed each rig into a specific category. Sometimes you don’t need to capture absolutely everything. It all depends on how you’re going to use the footage.

For instance, if you’re using a tripod then perhaps you could ignore that footage zone (partial 360°). Maybe the main focus is happening along the horizon, then you might not need to capture the sky and immediate ground (cylindrical). Or maybe you just need to capture the events happening directly in front of you (fisheye). Or maybe you want the big challenge, capturing 3D depth (stereoscopic).

Below I’ve outlined the typical FOV coverage of each rig category: 360°, partial 360°, cylindrical, and fisheye. But these are just averaged examples of each category, sometimes there are outliers which have much higher or lower FOV.

comparison-of-360-video-rig-categories-20170202
Source Image by Andrey Salnikov: “Climbing Volcano Teide”


360° Map Projection

Equirectangular, LatLong, Spherical, 360°… All of these terms refer to the same exact format: the Equidistant Cylindrical Projection. It is currently the most widely used format for stitched 360° video.

So how does it work? This is a precise geometric method for converting a sphere into a flat image with a 2:1 ratio. So this format can be seamlessly wrapped onto a sphere and back again.

360×180° is the standard for expressing a complete spherical capture. But why not 360×360°? Because we are measuring an arc for the latitude, not a complete circle.

360x180_explanation


360° Video Rigs: Multi Camera

These multi camera rigs capture monoscopic 360° video. A majority of producers are currently shooting with these type of rigs.

GoPro: Omni
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— genlocked
GoPro-Omni

Freedom360: Freedom360 Classic Mount
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
Freedom360-Freedom360-Mount

Freedom360: F360 Explorer
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— all weather
Freedom360-F360-Explorer

360Rize: PRO6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
360Heros-Pro6

360Rize: Uni360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 cameras (compatible with: GoPro Hero2, Hero3, Hero4, Hero5 Black, Hero5 Session, YI 4K Action Camera)
— all weather
360rize-uni360

360Rize: 360H6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— all weather
360heros-360h6-rig

Varavon: VR-GH6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 8 GoPro cameras
varavon-vr-gh6

360Rize: PRO7
— full coverage: 360×180°, 7 GoPro cameras
360Heros-Pro7

360Rize: PRO10HD
— full coverage:  360×180°, 10 GoPro cameras
360Heros-H3Pro10HD

Varavon: VR-GH12
— full coverage: 360×180°, 16 GoPro cameras
varavon-vr-gh12-rig

SimplifyVR
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— all weather option
SimplifyVR-Rigs

iZugar: Z2X
— full coverage: 360×180°, 2 GoPro cameras with custom 194° fisheye lens
izugar-z2x-armor

iZugar: Z3X
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 GoPro cameras with custom 185° fisheye lens
iZugar-Z3X

Freedom360: Freedom360 Trio
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 GoPro cameras with Back-Bone Ribcage to allow for custom fisheye lens
freedom360-broadcaster-3x

iZugar: Z4XC
— full coverage: 360×180°, 4 GoPro cameras with custom 185° fisheye lens
izugar-z4x-armor

iZugar: Z4XL
— full coverage: 360×180°, 4 Z-Cam E1 cameras (with 220° fisheye lens)
izugar-z4xl

Back-Bone: 360 VR Mounts
— full coverage: 360×180°, GoPro cameras with Back-Bone Ribcage to allow for custom fisheye lens
BackBone-360-VR-Mounts

360 Designs: Mini EYE 4
— full coverage: 360×180°, 4 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360-Designs_Mini-EYE-4

360 Designs: Mini EYE 3
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360-Designs_Mini-EYE-3

360Rize: 360Helios 3
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with 190° fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360helios-3

360Rize: 360Helios 6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with 190° fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360helios-6

360Rize: 360Helios 7
— full coverage: 360×180°, 7 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with 190° fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360helios-7

360Rize: 360Helios 8
— full coverage: 360×180°, 8 Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras or Blackmagic Micro Studio cameras (with 190° fisheye lens)
— can be genlocked
360helios-8

Mooovrig
— full coverage: 360×180°, 5 Canon mirrorless cameras (with 180° fisheye lens)
Mooovrig

Kodak: PIXPRO SP360 4k – Dual Pro Pack
— full coverage: 360×180°, 2 Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k cameras
Kodak-PIXPRO-SP360-4k-Dual-Pro-Pack

Elmo: QBiC Panorama
— full coverage: 360×180°, 4 Elmo QBiC MS-1 cameras
— all weather
Elmo-QBiC-Panorama

Freedom360: Elmo360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 4 Elmo QBiC MS-1 cameras
— all weather
Freedom360-Elmo360

Casio: Exilim EX-FR200 – (using the 360 mount: EAM-8)
— full coverage: 360×180°, 2 detachable lens modules (185° fisheye lens)
— all weather
Casio-Exilim-EX-FR200-360-rig-using-EAM8

Embrace Cinema Gear: VR 360° Camera Rigs
— full coverage: 360×180°, various camera rigs
embrace-cinema-gear_vr-360-camera-rigs


360° Video Rigs: Single Camera Body

These cameras capture monoscopic 360° video through the use of a single camera body with multiple sensors/lenses. Since it behaves as a single unit there are less problems that can arise. But they cannot currently obtain the same high resolution as a multi camera rig.

Sphericam 2
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 6 sensors
— global shutter, genlocked
sphericam-2-camera

Samsung: Gear 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (195° fisheye lens)
— underwater depth rating: 40m or 131ft (with case accessory)
Samsung-Gear-360

Nikon: KeyMission 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
— 4k & 1080 resolutions limited to 24fps
— underwater depth rating: 30m or 100ft
Nikon-KeyMission360

Kodak: PIXPRO Orbit360 4k
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (with lens covers: 235° & 155° fisheye lenses / without lens covers: 244° & 163° fisheye lenses)
— 4k resolution limited to 24fps
kodak-pixpro-orbit360-4k

Ricoh: Theta S
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
teardown of camera
Ricoh-Theta-S

Ricoh: R Development Kit
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
ricoh-r-development-kit

Ricoh: Theta SC
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
— limited to 5 minutes of video recording
ricoh-theta-sc

LG: 360 Cam
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (200° fisheye lens)
LG-360-Cam

Insta360: 4k
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (230° fisheye lens)
Insta360-4k

Detu: Twin
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
detu-twin

Idealoeye: C2
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
idealoeye-c2

Luna
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
Luna-360-camera

Indiecam: nakedEYE
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
Indiecam-nakedEYE

Zmer: Sports Camera
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
zmer-sports-camera

Orah: 4i
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
— genlocked?
Orah-4i

Bublcam
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
Bublcam-Rig

GO6D: Trie
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 3 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
GO6D-Trie

Z-Cam S1
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
z-cam-s1

Z-Cam Radius
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (FOV of MFT fisheye lens unknown)
z-cam-s1-pro

Idealoeye: C4
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (185° fisheye lens)
idealoeye-c4-camera

Detu: F4
— full coverage: 360×170°, single camera body with 4 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
detu-f4

Sphericam: Beast
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 4 sensors (190° fisheye lens)
— genlocked?
sphericam-beast

Absolute Zero
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 12 sensors
— genlocked
absolute-zero

Smartphone attachment cameras

Insta360: Air
— full coverage: 360×180°, Android attachment with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
insta360-air

Insta360: Nano
— full coverage: 360×180°, iPhone attachment with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
Insta360-Nano-iPhone-attachment

Giroptic: iO
— full coverage: 360×180°, iPhone attachment with 2 sensors (195° fisheye lens)
giroptic-io

Dunkam
— full coverage: 360×180°, Android attachment with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
dunkam

Zmer: Live
— full coverage: 360×180°, Android attachment with 2 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
zmer-live


360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic

Stereoscopic rigs allow for 360° video to be captured for both your left and right eyes, so a true sense of depth can be achieved in VR. 360-3D is the ultimate dream, but there are many challenges that make it difficult to shoot in 360-3D and not give the viewer a very frustrating experience. (Example problems include: parallax error differences between eyes, exposure differences between eyes, genlocking cameras, getting complete stereo coverage without ignoring the poles, and such big headaches.) The terms stereoscopic, 3D, and S-3D can be used interchangeably.

Facebook: Surround 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 17 Point Grey cameras (one 185° fisheye lens facing up and two 185° fisheye lenses facing down)
— global shutter, genlocked
open source stitching softwaremore info
Facebook-Surround-360

360Rize: 360Orb
— full coverage:  360×180°, 24 GoPro cameras
360Heros-360Orb

360Rize: 3DPRO12
— full coverage: 360×180°, 12 GoPro cameras
360Heros-3DH3Pro12

360Rize: 3DPRO12H
— full coverage: 360×180°, 12 GoPro cameras
360Heros-3DH3Pro12H

360Rize: 3DPRO14H
— full coverage: 360×180°, 14 GoPro cameras
360Heros-3DH3Pro14H

iZugar: Z6X3D
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras with custom 194° fisheye lens
iZugar-Z6X3D

NextVR
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, 6 EPIC-M RED Dragon cameras
— global shutter, can be genlocked
NextVR-Digital-Cinema-Camera

HypeVR
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, 14 EPIC-M RED Dragon cameras
— collects LiDAR data with the Velodyne HDL-32E
— global shutter, can be genlocked
HypeVR-Rig

Cinegears: Hex VR Rig
— coverage: FOV varies based on setup, 6 to 14 digital cinema cameras
cinegears-hex-vr-rig

Radiant Images: Codex ActionCam VR 360 Blossom
— full coverage: 360×180°, 17 Codex ActionCam cameras
— global shutter, genlocked?
Radiant-Images-Codex-ActionCam-VR-360-Blossom

360 Designs: EYE
— full coverage: 360×180°, 8 to 42 cameras depending on configuration: Blackmagic Design Micro Cinema Camera (self-contained) or Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4k (wired operation)
— can be genlocked
360-Designs-EYE

WeMakeVR: Falcon VR Camera
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 14 sensors
WeMakeVR-Falcon-VR-Camera

Panocam3D: POD
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 18 sensors
Panocam-HMC


360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic / Single Camera Body

These cameras capture stereoscopic 360° video through the use of a single camera body with multiple sensors/lenses. Since it behaves as a single unit there are less problems that can arise. Stereoscopic rigs allow for 360° video to be captured for both your left and right eyes, so a true sense of depth can be achieved in VR. 360-3D is the ultimate dream, but there are many challenges that make it difficult to shoot in 360-3D and not give the viewer a very frustrating experience. (Example problems include: parallax error differences between eyes, exposure differences between eyes, genlocking cameras, getting complete stereo coverage without ignoring the poles, and such big headaches.) The terms stereoscopic, 3D, and S-3D can be used interchangeably.

Jaunt: ONE – J1-24G
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 24 sensors
— 24G: global shutter, 24R: rolling shutter, genlocked
The Cinematic VR Field Guide
Jaunt-ONE

Nokia: OZO
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 8 sensors (195° fisheye lens)
— global shutter, genlocked
Nokia-OZO

Insta360: Pro
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 6 sensors (200° fisheye lens)
insta360-pro-camera

Vuze
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 8 sensors
vuze-camera-on-tripod

Samsung: Project Beyond
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 17 sensors
Samsung-Project-Beyond

Live Planet
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 16 sensors (180° fisheye lens)
— genlocked
live-planet-camera

Hubblo
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, single camera body with 6 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
hubblo-camera

Idealoeye: P21
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 21 sensors
idealoeye-p21


360° Video Rigs: Scuba

To take a 360° video rig underwater, you can’t simply put it within a glass box… The lens optics would be affected by the refraction of the water. So these rigs have built-in compensation and allow you to capture 360° without any problems.

360Rize: 360Abyss
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— underwater depth rating: 1000m or 3280ft, negative/positive/neutral buoyancy (anodized or poly carbonate versions)
overview of the v4 redesign
360Heros-360Abyss

Kolor: Abyss
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— underwater depth rating: 150m or 492ft
Kolor-Abyss-Rig

Varavon: VR-MARINE 6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras with Entaniya 220° fisheye lenses and Back-Bone Ribcage
— underwater depth rating: 300m or 984ft
varavon-vr-marine-6

360Rize: H3ScubaH6
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
— underwater depth rating: 61m or 200ft
360Heros-H3ScubaH6

360Rize: 360SeaDak
— full coverage: 360×180°, 2 Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k cameras
— underwater depth rating: 130m or 426ft
360rize-360seadak

Boxfish 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 Z-Cam E1 cameras (185° fisheye lens)
— underwater depth rating: 150m or 492ft
boxfish-360

Varavon: VR-MARINE 3
— full coverage: 360×180°, 3 GoPro cameras with Entaniya 220° fisheye lenses and Back-Bone Ribcage
— underwater depth rating: 300m or 984ft
varavon-vr-marine-3

360bubble
— polycarbonate globe for suitable for Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360, Nikon Keymission 360, LG 360 CA
— underwater depth rating varies based on model: 4m (13ft) / 10m (33ft)
360bubble-underwater-housing


360° Video Rigs: Scuba Stereoscopic

Taking a 360° video rig underwater is a serious endeavor. And shooting in stereoscopic makes it even more difficult.

Vrtul: AquaTerra
— full coverage: 360×180°, 30 GoPro cameras
— underwater depth rating: 40m or 131ft, neutral buoyancy
vrtul-aquaterra-rig-underwater


360° Video Rigs: Invisible Drone

Attaching a 360° video rig to a drone is easy. But allowing the drone itself to be hidden within the shot is a special trick.

3DR Solo Drone Quadcopter: 360 Mount for the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k
— full coverage: 360×180°, 2 PIXPRO SP360 4k cameras
3DR-Solo-Drone-Quadcopter-and-360-Mount-for-the-Kodak-PIXPRO-SP360-4k

Drone Volt: Drone Janus 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 10 GoPro cameras
DroneVolt_Drone-Janus-360

360Rize: 360 Orb
— full coverage: 360×180°, 12 GoPro cameras
360Heros-360Orb

Spherie
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
Spherie-Drone

Queen B Robotics: Exo360
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 5 sensors (210° fisheye lens)
Queen-B-Robotics-Exo360

Custom Drone Rigs
Pictures Fabryc: Alta8 VR 360 Drone with stabilization
NS VR Gimbal
Ammergauer Alpen: 360 video droneexample footage
Intel Realsense Drone
VR-Eye Cam – Drone Camera
Viooa – Drone Camera
Thanics: Halo
DJI Mavic Pro: Dual Gear 360 / DJI Mavic Pro: Gear 360 & Kodak SP360 4k

Stabilize 360 footage from a drone
How to Stabilize 360 Drone Footage in After Effects using the SkyBox Studio plugin


360° Video Rigs: First-Person POV

To tell the story from a first-person point of view, you have to be within their head. These rigs allow you to see though the actors eyes and capture their body movements too.

Radiant Images: Mobius POV VR 360
— full coverage: 360×180°, 17 GoPro cameras
Radiant-Images-Mobius-POV-VR-360

Varavon: VR Helmet
— full coverage: 360×180°, 17 GoPro cameras
varavon-vr-helmet

ADAPA: Nimbus VR
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, amount of GoPro cameras unknown
adapa-nimbus-vr

ADAPA: Pulsar VR
— full coverage: 360×180°, 23 GoPro cameras
adapa-pulsar-vr

Panocam3D: HMC
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 24 sensors
— stereoscopic
Panocam3D-HMC

Custom Helmet Rigs
360 Video Helmet Rig
Homemade Helmet Rig
Making a POV 360 Camera Rig


360° Camera Motion: Remote Control Cars

By using an R/C car, you can be hidden from the shot and also capture smooth motion. These options specifically include 360 video rigs.

Motion Impossible: Mantis 360°in the field photos
VRoomCam
Fly Through Films: Freefly Tero R/C Carvideo of rig
Miami 360 VR: Freefly Tero R/C Carphoto of rig
— 360 Virtual Tourist: HPI Savage Flux HP R/C Car – photo of rig
10 Camera Canon Vixia – Freefly Tero R/C Car
Dolly360


360° Camera Motion: Gyro Stabilization

Relying on a gyroscopic stabilizer is the best way to capture smooth motion while walking, driving, or flying. These active and passive stabilizers are specifically designed for 360 video rigs.

Kenyon Gyro Stabilizer
WenPod Tarzan-G & Tarzan-Aelectronic stabilization demo
TG20 360VR Stabilizer Gimbal
SkyEdge 360: active stabilization system
Ricoh Theta S and The Beholder gimbal rigexample footage
Polar Effect: Philon 360 stabilized camera rig (working prototype)video
OwlDolly: Guru 360° Camera Stabilizer


360° Video Streaming Hardware

Streaming live 360 video is a tricky challenge and requires special hardware to make it reliable. But with these specialized boxes you can easily monitor the video feeds, stitch, and stream to the web.

Teradek: Sphere
— Monitoring and streaming solution for up to 8 GoPro cameras
teradek-sphere


Partial 360° Video Rigs

These rigs are definitely thought of as 360° video because they capture the entire sky and horizon, but the ground isn’t captured (often the tripod).

Freedom360: F360 Broadcaster
— partial coverage: 360×140°, 6 GoPro cameras
Freedom360-F360-Broadcaster

360Rize: PRO6L
— partial coverage: 360×120°, 6 GoPro cameras
360Heros-H3Pro6N

Radiant Images: Dark Corner
— partial coverage: 360×155°, 4 Sony A7S MKII cameras (180° fisheye lens)
radiant-images-dark-corner

Totavision: Fulldome Camera
— partial coverage: 360×110°, 11 Toshiba IK-HD1 cameras
— cameras are placed around a virtual center. This arrangement allows parallax-free image stitching of distances larger than ~3 meters.
Totavision-Fulldome-Camera

Sphericam 1
— partial coverage: 360×138°, single camera body with 4 sensors (170° fisheye lens)
Sphericam-1

Immersive Media: Hex
— partial coverage: 360×144°, single camera body with 6 sensors
— 15fps at full resolution / 25fps at half resolution
Immersive-Media-Hex

Giroptic: 360cam
— partial coverage: 360×150°, single camera body with 3 sensors (185° fisheye lens)
Giroptic-360-Cam

PanoptikonVR
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, 14 GoPro cameras
— stereoscopic
PanoptikonVR


Partial 360° Video Rigs: Stereoscopic

These stereoscopic rigs are definitely thought of as 360° video because they capture the entire sky and horizon, but the ground isn’t captured (often the tripod).

Varavon: VR-GS3D
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, 8 GoPro cameras
varavon-vr-gs3d


Cylindrical Video Rigs

These rigs only capture the horizon. So the sky and the ground are not captured. (But there are some tricks to fill in these empty areas, such as heavily blurring some of footage and stretching into this zone. Or taking a still photo prior to the shoot and patching it in later.)

360Rize: H3Pro7HD
— partial coverage: 360×120°, 7 GoPro cameras
360Heros-H3Pro7HD

Immersive Media: Quattro
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, single camera body with 4 sensors
— 15fps max
Immersive-Media-Quattro

Fraunhofer HHI: OmniCam-360
— partial coverage: 360×60°, 10 Micro HD cameras
— global shutter, genlocked?
— cameras are placed around a virtual center. This arrangement allows parallax-free image stitching of distances larger than 1 meter.
Fraunhofer-HHI-OmniCam360

Totavision: Cylindrical Camera
— partial coverage: 360×37°, 8 Toshiba IK-HD1 cameras
— cameras are placed around a virtual center. This arrangement allows parallax-free image stitching of distances larger than ~3 meters.
Totavision-Cylindrical-CameraPalace of Versailles footage / making-of


Cylindrical Video Rigs: Stereoscopic

These rigs only capture the horizon in stereo. So the sky and the ground are not captured. This approach makes dealing with stereo challenges much easier to swallow.

GoPro: Odyssey / Google Jump
— partial coverage: 360×120°, 16 GoPro cameras
— genlocked
— custom stitching service in the Google cloud: The Assembler
GoPro-Odyssey_Google-Jump

Intel: Voke VR
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, 12 custom cameras
— global shutter? genlocked?
voke-vr-camera-rig

Fraunhofer HHI: 3D OmniCam-360
— partial coverage: 360×60°, 20 Micro HD cameras
— global shutter, genlocked?
— cameras are placed around a virtual center. This arrangement allows parallax-free image stitching of distances larger than 2 meters.
Fraunhofer-HHI-3D-OmniCam360


Cylindrical Video Rigs: Parabolic Mirror

This technique has been around for a while. Basically one camera is precisely aimed at a specially crafted parabolic mirror. And so the mirror warps the whole horizon into the camera lens. But the sky and the ground are not captured. Since it only uses one camera, your end resolution is limited… But you don’t have to do any stitching. (Other major problems include: dust magnet, mirror surface quality, irregularly warping of image, image sharpness, and flares.)

(sphere) Pro
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, lens for a digital cinema camera or DSLR
sphere-pro

VSN Mobil: V.360
— partial coverage: 360×60°, single camera body with 1 sensor
VSN-Mobil-V360

Pano Pro MKII
— partial coverage: 360×120°, lens for a DSLR
Pano-Pro-MKII

0-360 Panoramic Optic
— partial coverage: 360×115°, lens for a DSLR
0-360-Panoramic-Optic

Eye Mirror
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, lens for a DSLR
Eye-Mirror

GoPano: Plus
— partial coverage: 360×100°, lens for a DSLR
GoPano-Plus

Eye Mirror: Wet Lens
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, lens for a DSLR
— underwater depth rating unknown
eyemirror-wet-lens

ActionCam360
— partial coverage: 360×90°, attachment for GoPro housing
— all weather
ActionCam360

Eye Mirror: GP 360
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, attachment for GoPro housing
— can go underwater up to 50m or 165ft
eye-mirror-gp360

Kogeto: Joey
— partial coverage: exact FOV unknown, single camera body with 1 sensor
Kogeto-Jo

Kogeto: Lucy
— partial coverage: 360×100°, single camera body with 1 sensor
in-depth experimentation
Kogeto-Lucy

Kogeto: Dot
— partial coverage: 360×63°, attachment for iPhone
Kogeto-Dot

BubbleScope
— partial coverage: 360×62°, attachment for iPhone
BubbleScope

GoPano: Micro
— partial coverage: 360×82°, attachment for iPhone
GoPano-micro

Remote Reality: Hummingbird360
— partial coverage: 360×70°, attachment for PointGrey Flea3 or Grasshopper
Remote-Reality-Hummingbird360

Interesting Research
Panoramic Stereo Videos Using a Single Camera and a 3D printed coffee-filter style mirror


360° Light Field Rigs

A 360° light field camera enables virtual views to be generated from any point, facing any direction, with any field of view. Meaning that you can experience Six Degrees of Freedom (6DoF), and you can actually lean into the shot and change your perspective. It is the holy grail of VR.

Lytro: Immerge
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, dense light field camera array
presentation by Jon Karafin (Head of Light Field Video for Lytro)
Lytro-Immerge

Interesting Research
OTOY 360 light field experiment
Axial-Cones: Modeling Spherical Catadioptric Cameras for Wide-Angle Light Field Rendering


360° Photography Rigs

There are a bunch of techniques to capture a 360° photo. But here are some photography rigs which automate or simplify the process.

Panono
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 36 sensors
Panono

NCTech: iSTAR Fusion
— partial coverage: 360×137°, single camera body with 4 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
nctech-istar-fusion

NCTech: iris360
— partial coverage: 360×137.5°, single camera body with 4 sensors (FOV of fisheye lens unknown)
NCTech-iris360

Ocam: Staro
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 17 sensors
ocam-staro

PanoHero
— full coverage: 360×180°, 1 GoPro camera
— stereo version available
panohero-pro-h

Squito
— coverage: exact FOV unknown, single camera body with 3 sensors
Squito

GigaPan: Epic
— motorized drive which automatically captures multi-gigapixel panoramas
GigaPan-Epic

Roundshot: VR Drive
— motorized drive which automatically captures multi-gigapixel panoramas
Roundshot-VR-Drive

BubblePod
— motorized turntable for smartphones, optional clip-on 120° lens
BubblePod

Pivotsphere
— tripod mount for manually shooting 360 photos with smartphone
pivotsphere-tripod-mount

Lomography: Spinner 360° / Motorizer
— 35mm still film camera for slit-scan photography
Spinner-360

Lomography: Fisheye One / Fisheye Submarine
— 35mm still film camera with built-in 170° fisheye lens (cropped fisheye image)
— underwater depth rating: 20m or 65ft
lomography-fisheye-one-camera

Fisheye lens attachments for iPhone/Android
photo mode: partially cropped fisheye image
video mode: mostly cropped fisheye image (video crop amount differs between iPhone & Android)
— lenses such as: Beastgrip, CamKix, iPro, iZZi Gadgets, Mobi-Lens, Olloclip, Optrix, Photojojo, Ztylus

And then there is this!
Guinness-2003-Worlds-Most-Useless-Invention


Fisheye Video Rigs

Shooting with a fisheye lens means that you’re capturing at least 180° and it’s being projected onto the camera sensor in a circular format. Fisheye footage can be projected directly into a dome and be instantly immersive. But the footage can easily be warped into the spherical format too.

Kodak: PIXPRO SP360 4k / PIXPRO SP360
— PIXPRO SP360 4k has built-in 235° fisheye lens
— PIXPRO SP360 has built-in 214° fisheye lens
— underwater depth rating: 60m or 197ft (with case accessory)
kodak-pixpro-sp360-4k-camera

360Fly 4k / 360Fly HD
— camera with built-in 240° fisheye lens
— 360Fly 4k – underwater depth rating: 10m or 33ft
— 360Fly HD – underwater depth rating: 50m or 165ft
360Fly-4k

iZugar: Z-Can E1 using MKX22 Lens
— Z-Cam E1 with a 220° fisheye lens
izugar-zcam-e1-using-mkx22-lens

Casio: Exilim EX-FR200
— camera with detachable 185° fisheye lens
— all weather
Casio-Exilim-EX-FR200

Dome3D: GP185
— GoPro camera with custom 185° fisheye lens
Dome3D-GP185

Beon
— camera with built-in fisheye lens (FOV unknown)
beon-wrist-camera

MySight360
— camera with built-in 240° fisheye lens
— all weather
mysight360

CyclopsGear: Cyclops 360°
— camera with built-in 220° fisheye lens
— underwater depth rating: 50m or 165ft
cyclopsgear-cyclops360

Tamaggo
— camera with built-in 240° fisheye lens
Tamaggo-camera

Entaniya: Entapano C-01
— camera with built-in 183° fisheye lens
— all weather (with case accessory)
Entaniya-Entapano-C-01

Entaniya: Entapano2
— camera with built-in 250° fisheye lens
Entaniya-Entapano2

Camorama
— camera with built-in 230° fisheye lens
Camorama

Detu: Sphere S / Sphere 800
— camera with built-in 236° fisheye lens
detu-sphere-s

Oncam Evolution-12 Outdoor
— camera with built-in 185° fisheye lens
— 12fps at 9.6MP / 30fps at 2MP
— all weather (typically used as a security camera)
Oncam-Evolution12-Outdoor

Digital Cinema Camera Options
— RED Scarlet with fisheye lens experiments: Paul Bourke & Home Run Pictures
— below is a slide from the presentation: “Seeking the Ideal Fulldome Camera” by Jim Arthurs – (IMERSA Summit 2013)
IMERSA2013-SeekingTheIdealFulldomeCamera-JimArthurs

Cheap but Unproven Fisheye Cameras
Eken H8 – 170° fisheye lens
AMKOV AMK-100S – 220° fisheye lens / underwater depth rating: 30m or 100ft
CUBE360 GVT100M – 190° fisheye lens / max 28fps
Sunchip Panorama XDV360 – 220° fisheye lens
HDKing V1 Pro – 220° fisheye lens
X360 camera – 190° fisheye lens


Fisheye Video Rigs: Stereoscopic

Shooting with a fisheye lens means that you’re capturing at least 180° and it’s being projected onto the camera sensor in a circular format. But if you shoot with fisheye lenses that are higher than 180°, then you will see the lens itself within the edges of the shots. There are tricks to deal with this, but it’s an interesting challenge.

TwoEyes VR
— single camera body with 4 sensors (180° fisheye lens)
Kickstarter project
twoeyes-vr

Lucid Cam
— single camera body with 2 sensors (180° fisheye lens)
prototype adapter allows for 360° stereoscopic video
Lucid-Cam

IX Image: Omnipolar Camera Rig
— 3 cameras with fisheye lens
custom stitching solution to enable stereo stitching without pole region issues
— potential to create 360° video (3 cams facing up, 3 cams facing down)
IX-Image-Omnipolar-Camera-Rig

Tutorial
Building a 3D Camera: Wide-Angle Stereoscopic Video for Cinematic VR


Fisheye Lens: GoPro or MFT Cameras

360 video rigs can greatly benefit from using a fisheye lens to increase the amount of footage overlap, which allows the seams to be better hidden when stitched. A fisheye lens captures at least 180° and is projected onto the camera sensor in a circular format. Due to the necessary compact nature of 360 video rigs, only lenses which support GoPro cameras or MFT cameras (Micro Four Thirds) are listed below.

Entaniya: GoPro Fisheye Lenses
— 220°, 250°, 280° fisheye lenses for GoPro cameras using Back-Bone Ribcage
entaniya-gopro-fisheye-lenses

Entaniya: Fisheye Lens for MFT Cameras
— 250° fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras
entaniya-fisheye-250-lens-mft-mount

iZugar: MKX22 Fisheye Lens for MFT Cameras
— 220° fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras
izugar-zcam-e1-using-mkx22-lens

iZugar: Fisheye Lenses for GoPro Cameras
MKX13: 185° fisheye lens
MKX19: 194° fisheye lens
izugar-rigs-using-mkx13-and-mkx19-fisheye-lenses


360° Video Rigs: Less than 30fps

For VR and domes, a capture rate of at least 30 frames per seconds is an absolute requirement. Anything less and it’s simply too hard of an experience for the viewer.

ALLie
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (188° fisheye lens)
— 20fps
allie_camera

Ricoh: Theta m15
— full coverage: 360×180°, single camera body with 2 sensors (180° fisheye lens)
— 15fps, 5 minutes max of video recording
teardown of camera
Ricoh-Theta-m15

Point Grey: Ladybug5
— partial coverage: 360×162°, single camera body with 6 sensors
— 5fps uncompressed / 10fps compressed
— global shutter, genlocked?
in-depth experimentation
Point-Grey-Ladybug5

Point Grey: Ladybug3
— partial coverage: 360×144°, single camera body with 6 sensors
— 6.5fps uncompressed / 16fps compressed
— global shutter, genlocked?
Point-Grey-Ladybug3

Point Grey: Ladybug2
— partial coverage: 360×135°, single camera body with 6 sensors
— 15fps uncompressed / 30fps compressed
— global shutter, genlocked?
Point-Grey-Ladybug2

VideoPanoramas
— partial coverage: 360×162°, single camera body with 3 sensors
— 10 FPS at 5MP / 15 FPS at 3MP / 30 FPS at 1.3MP
VideoPanoramas


360° Video Rigs: Wild and Unique

In my research I’ve stumbled across many unique camera systems. Many of which are fascinating but are either not being used anymore, defy categorization, currently a prototype, or perhaps was a singular creation.

Immersive Media: Mapping Presentation 2012
Immersive Media: Dodeca 2360more info
The original cube from Freedom360
Elphel Eyesis4Pi
Canon Vixia / 24 camera rig
Overview One
Panoptic Camera
FullView Camera Rig
The Mill – Custom Red Dragon Camera Rig
FascinatE’s Omnicam ARRI Alexa M Rig
IC720
Social Animal: SA9
Sensocto
IPIX Media360
Occam Omni Stereo
Panasonic Dive
Pentax Prototype
Live Capture Using Panoramic Photography with One Camera
6 GoPro Cameras with six Entaniya fisheye lenses
360 video using five Canon M cameras
Calibration of Omnidirectional Cameras in Practice
TENGO2VR Q-1 Mark II
Pi Of Sauron – 3D Printed, Raspberry Pi 360 Video Rig
Making VR Video with the Kodak PIXPRO SP360
Spherecam
GoPro Session Rig
Aposematic Jacket
Nodal Ninja Multi-Cam Pano bracket system
3D printed Xiaomi Yi Rig
GoPro Session: 3D printed rig
Shooting 360° Video in 48K Using 12 Sony Xperia Z5 Smartphones
Nikon Multi-Ball (prototype)
Custom 3D 360 Rig using 13 Xiaomi Cameras
360 rig using six Flare 4KSDI cameras
Tripletcam
ALLie Go
Genlocked GoPro Rig – tested with fast moving footage
GoPro Omni announcement
Handmade 360 rig using SJ400 cameras (x13)
Brahma 360
Fisheye lens rig
Quantum Leap Pro
Shuoying PDV3600
GO6D: nine new 360 cameras planned
Insta360 Nano – 360 camera attachment
Handmade 360VR 2D/3D Rig
Condition One Reveal ‘Bison’ Cinematic VR Camera
The Open 360 Camera Hardware Repository
Ricoh WG-M1: 360 rig
Prototype Back-Bone GoPro with sensor & fisheye lens attached via ribbon cable extension
Prototype iZugar GoPro rig with sensors & fisheye lens attached via ribbon cable extensions
Using the iPhone front and rear cameras to capture 360 video (with fisheye lenses)example footage
Yezz announces Sfera smartphone with a 360-degree camera
Android phone owners can record 360-degree VR video with NeoEye
— Visual Effects Society: VR Post Production (includes camera discussions) – p1, p2, p3
Open-Source Panoramic Video: Bloggie + OpenFrameworks & Processing
LV2 rocket 360 camera
Bivrost 360 rig
SmartPano 360
Water cooled GoPro blocks for battery compartment
UCVR Eye: 3D 180 video or fold camera to capture 360 video
I-mmersive VEYE
Nico360
Orb VR
TwoEyes VR
Back-Bone Modulus Sensor Housing – enables you to use a sensor extension ribbon and place the image sensor away from the camera body
Canon 360 rig using five ME200S-SH super35mm CMOS cameras
Alcatel 360
Yi Jump rig
— UW Guerrilla: Rigs 1 & Rigs 2
Kodak SP360 4k with Entaniya 280° lens installed
Google Jump rig using Xiaomi cameras
GoPro Omni teardown and used to create a genlocked custom rig
Go!PanoS1
Briskeye
Panasonic Prototype 360 Camera Rig
Aleta S2
Kandao Obsidian
360 light stick concept
DKvision Aura: Cinematic VR Camera
Hacking Samsung Gear 360 for 8K 360 timelapse
Cinegears: Helius 6Intervideo: Helius rigs
Drexel Digital Media Department: 360° Studio Camera Rig
GoXtreme WVR20, VR27, WVR21, VR40 Live
GoPro is developing a consumer spherical camera
VantaVR – Red Epic Dragon 360 rig
XL Catlin Seaview SVII camera
Boxfish 360 rig with clever underwater lighting system
PMast – rig using spherical lens with fiber-optic strands – more info
iZugar Z8XL prototype
Iliad Syncbox Dual GoPro Fisheye Rig
Interesting combinations of 360 video cameras to enable dailies previewing
Polaroid R360
Occly – wearable personal safety device
Ebeeii PE-1 & Ebeeii ME-1
TE720


360° Video Rigs: DIY 3D Printing

So 360° video isn’t hard enough for you? You want to 3D print your own rig too?

Purple Pill VR – 3D models for 360 mono, 360 stereo, Google Jump
Thingiverse: Cylindrical Stereo Mobius Rigin-depth experimentation
Thingiverse: Collection of 360 video rigs
Thingiverse: search for 360 video rigs
Shapeways: search for 360 video rigs
Sumo360 Rig
SJ4000 360 Rig
IncreDesigns
Cardboard 360 video rig
Mirrored light bulb for super cheap cylindrical video capture

Custom Mounting Base for the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k rig
Stereoscopic 360 Mounting Base
Dual mounting base & bracket (includes USB & HDMI access port)
Dual mounting base (includes USB & HDMI access port, tripod mount)
SP360 to GoPro mount converter
3 Camera Mount for Underwater Housings


Unsuccessful Kickstarter Projects

Sadly these Kickstarter projects weren’t funded since they didn’t reach their goal. But they are unique and deserve to be recognized.

Blocks Camera
— modular camera rig with 4 sensors
Blocks-Camera

Centr Cam
— partial coverage: 360×56°, single camera body with 4 sensors
Centr-Cam

Shot
— iPhone attachment with dual 235° fisheye lenses
Shot-iPhone-attachment

Occube
— full coverage: 360×180°, 6 GoPro cameras
Occube

Lensbaby Circular 180+ for GoPro camera
— GoPro housing attachment with 185° fisheye lens
— plug and play (no camera modding required)
Lensbaby-Circular-180-for-GoPro-Camera


History of 360° Film

The concept of capturing a huge panoramic perspective isn’t a new one. There are been some fascinating projects early in film history. And only now is that dream being fully realized.

Early Cylindrical Film History
Cinéorama (1900 Paris Exposition)
Lumière Photorama (1902)
Circarama (Disneyland)

Early 360° Video
Page of Omnidirectional Vision
Dynamic Surround Video
Shooting 360-degree video with four GoPro HD Hero cameras
Canon 5D Mark II fisheye rig

Spherecam
— Dual 35mm film fisheye rig – More info

360Heros-HungryShark
Photo Source

Interviews at IMERSA 2015 – Recent Challenges

The IMERSA Summit 2015 was intense, fascinating, and gave me a fresh breath of air of where fulldome is headed. Each of the presentations/panels were well prepared and technical problems were solved quickly. And the amount of attendees is just at that equilibrium where you can still meet a fair amount of people.

I ran into many people that are clearly passionate about fulldome and it was inspiring to hear their unique perspectives and experiences. So I realized that I should document a slice of these conversations with one interview question:
What challenges have you recently faced?

  • AJ Christensen – Visualization Programmer / Advanced Visualization Lab, National Center for Supercomputing App.
  • Matthew Mascheri – President & CEO / Dome3D
  • Aaron Bradbury – CG Supervisor / NSC Creative
  • Brad Thompson – Lead Animator / Spitz Inc.
  • Mike Schmitt – Digital Media Supervisor / California Academy of Sciences
  • Ron Proctor – Production Supervisor / Clark Planetarium
  • Michael Daut – Director of Show Production & Marketing / Evans & Sutherland
  • Tom Casey – Creative Director / Home Run Pictures
  • Nina Wise – Producer & Director / The Kepler Story
  • Jim Kachelries – Animator / Morehead Planetarium
  • Dominic St-Amant – Video Lead / Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT)
  • Ka Chun Yu – Curator of Space Science / Denver Museum of Nature & Science
  • Maciej Ligowski – Program Coordinator / Creative Planet
  • Ty Owen – Manager of Theater Programs / COSI Planetarium
  • Jenny Shipway – Planetarium Manager / Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium
  • Carolyn Sumners – Vice President of Astronomy and Physics / Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Gord Harris – R&D / Christie Digital Systems

Update: May 13, 2015 – Check out this excellent video of the IMERSA Summit 2015 Highlights, which showcases clips from many of my favorite talks. It gives a really great synopsis of what the conference is all about. You can also watch the direct video recordings from the conference.

IMERSA Summit 2015: Panels

IMERSA-logo

We have been asked to participate on several panels at the upcoming IMERSA Summit 2015. So I’ll be apart of the Future Immersion Panel and share some of the techniques we used to shoot 360 video while on location at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Planetarium director David Rabkin will be involved in two panels: Immersive Media Strategies and Challenges and New Directions in Alternative Content.

I’m also excited to announce that From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA has been selected to be screened during IMERSA. It will be shown directly after the Future Immersion Panel, which is perfect since you’ll have just seen behind the scenes.


IMERSA Summit 2015 – Agenda

Thursday February 26, 1:30-2:30 pm
Producers’ Panel: Immersive Media Strategies and Challenges (prerendered fulldome production)
We’ve seen creative and excellent fulldome work in recent years. But we’re still at the beginning of our understanding of experiences made possible via the fulldome medium. With each new concept, we experience new challenges. So we’re early on a steep learning curve. To encourage us to keep moving along it, let’s take on several overlapping-yet-different viewpoints – educator, producer, artist, and visualizer – and explore what’s possible in the fulldome medium and ponder some of the creative and technical challenges that together we face.

Thursday February 26, 8:30-9:30 pm
Future Immersion Panel
From high-resolution camera rigs for live-action capture to innovative immersive spaces; from branded content to breakthroughs in science education programming, this session will give you a front row seat for where immersive media can go next.

Thursday February 26, 10:00 pm
Fulldome film screening – From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA
Experience the excitement of today’s space missions as you journey from NASA’s test facilities all the way to Pluto. Immerse yourself in the adventure and extremes of spacecraft engineering – from the design of missions like the James Webb Space Telescope and New Horizons, to the rigors of testing, launch and space operations. When humans dare to dream we create truly amazing things.

Saturday February 28, 3:30 pm
New Directions in Alternative Content
Update: Watch a video recording of this talk
Since fulldome is capable of displaying essentially any content, what are some alternate uses of the medium that theaters are using now, and what are other potential uses to delight and engage future audiences

DavidRabkin-JasonFletcher
David Rabkin (Planetarium Director) & Jason Fletcher (Science Visualizer)

Interactive 360 Video – NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

12940278065_559bfffdf9_o

A while back we visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to shoot 360 video for our recently released planetarium show From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA. So when 360Rize approached us about writing an article to look behind the scenes, we realized that we could share an interactive video where you can control the perspective.

Watch the Interactive 360 Video

Experience it within a Web browser, iPhone, Android phone, Google Cardboard, and Oculus Rift.

If you’re curious to learn more about my experience in shooting 360 video while at Goddard, then be sure to check out the interview too. I share some details about why shooting 360 video for a planetarium dome requires a unique approach. You can also view the whole photo album from our trip to Goddard.

360° Video Fundamentals

I have always been excited at the possibility of 4k video in a planetarium dome. And so I was captivated with the recent introduction of a 360° video camera rig with 8192×4096 resolution. (Which translates to 4k domemaster resolution.) It also meant that I could increase the fisheye FOV from 180° to 220° and see the immediate ground surrounding the camera. In my opinion this makes for a heightened immersion experience. So I have spent the last two months experimenting and learning directly about the intricacies of shooting 360° video.

The 360Rize PRO10HD is a 3D printed object. Meaning it’s one solid piece of plastic that is precisely engineered to fit 10 GoPro cameras into the smallest possible space. It’s printed using aircraft grade plastic, so it’s durable and has been through a strenuous bend test to prove it’s strength over time.

Currently the 360° video community is tiny and little documentation is available. So I was on my own to figure out the potential problems, shooting subtleties, and overall workflow. This can be a tedious and nerve-wracking process. After all, with 10 GoPro cameras shooting in unison, something is bound to go wrong at some point. So alas, plan within plans within plans, theorize contingencies, and take notes of your experience. And now for you brave souls remaining, below are my own findings, tips, and thoughts.

Update: December 13, 2015 – Recently I have been contributing to the Making360 open source book. It’s a collection of solutions and illustrations of common problems in producing immersive video experiences. So if you find this blog post helpful, then Making360 will give you a comprehensive understanding.


Hardware Rundown

Camera & Memory
— PRO10HD Rig
— 360Rize Aluminium Mount
— GoPro HERO3+ Camera – Black Edition (x10)
— Lexar 32GB microSDHC 600x [LSDMI32GBSBNA600R] (x10)
— Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head with Quick Release
— ALZO Ball Head Camera Tripod (the included ball head isn’t great, hence the Manfrotto ball head above)
— Manfrotto 200PL-38 RC2 Plate

Extra Batteries & Charging
— Wasabi Power Battery [2-Pack] and Charger (x10)
— PowerSquid D080B-008K (x2)
— 7-Port USB Charger (x2)

Transport
— Pelican 1550 Case with Foam
— Fotodiox GT-H3Lens-Cap GoTough (x10)

Stitching & Rendering
— Autopano Giga & Autopano Video Pro [known as AVP in this blog post]
— GeForce GTX 770 4GB
— 360Rize File Data Manager


Big Picture Workflow

There are different mindsets and considerations depending of what action you are performing. So I’ve split up up this information into 4 main sections.


Setup the Rig

  1. Remove lens caps
  2. Check lens for dust
  3. Put camera’s into rig (matching camera # to rig #)
  4. Press wifi-button on each camera
  5. Check that each camera’s recording settings are correct: Example Display

It’s a bit of a trick to get all the GoPro cameras installed without touching the lenses. But having the plastic rig locked onto a tripod helps. I chose to permanently install the aluminium mount so that 7 of the GoPros are looking at the horizon. Since I shoot for a dome, this can ease stitching pains later on since often the objects of interest are in these camera zones. This leaves 1 camera pointing straight up and 2 pointing down at the tripod. Interestingly, if a camera fails then I can trade it out for 9 or 10 and still not lose any essential zones. So there is some redundancy there. I could also remove 9 & 10 altogether and still capture 280° of footage.

NASAGoddard_SetupRig

Also, removing the cameras from the rig is difficult due to the tightness of the plastic camera clamps. But this isn’t a complaint, it’s actually a good sign that everything is snug and won’t wobble during shooting. So to remove the cameras you must use a small flathead screwdriver (included with 360Rize rig) to softly wedge the plastic tab up from its locked position.

It’s important to number each of the cameras and the memory cards with a sharpie. If a camera begins to act strangely then I can easily trace it back to the source. It also allows me to understand exactly where a camera is within the rig, which can be helpful for when the automatic stitching doesn’t work. This is rare, but can happen if the video frame is of a pure blue sky with no overlapping content to match up.

The first time you setup the cameras, you will need to setup the default video recording settings for each camera by hand. From that point forward the cameras will remember those settings. (unless you remove the battery overnight, then the settings will reset to default!) It is absolutely vital that each camera has the exact same settings.

Camera Settings for Best Resolution (with the PRO10HD Rig)
— Protune: On
— Resolution: 2704×1524
— Aspect Ratio: 16:9
— FPS: 30
— Low Light: Off
— White Balance: Cam RAW

360VideoSettings_FullSetup


Shooting Workflow

  1. Power ON the cameras with the wifi remote
  2. Check each camera for corrupt symbol (rare occurrence)
  3. Press Record on wifi remote
  4. Quickly check each camera for red blinking recording lights
  5. Motion sync the cameras. Twist tripod stem quickly. VERY IMPORTANT!

Whats the need for motion sync? Well the wifi remote doesn’t trigger all the cameras at the same moment. So instead AVP must sync each of the video clips itself, otherwise your footage could be offset on the timeline and look terrible. There are two options: audio sync or motion sync; but motion sync is more precise. All you have to do is quickly spin the whole rig back and forth to provide the necessary data calibration for AVP to use later. The audio sync needs a sharp fast snap to sync to, like a dog training clicker.

A wonderful aspect of using GoPro cameras is that one wifi remote can trigger all 10 cameras. So they can be remotely powered ON/OFF and record start/stop. The remote indicates how many cameras are connected.

Because each of the camera lenses are not at the same nodal point, you’re undoubtedly going to see parallax errors when stitched. There are some techniques to address this in AVP, but it’ll take time and hand polishing. But to combat this upfront, it’s wise to constantly be thinking about parallax when planning a shot. My suggestion is to keep the camera rig at least 10 feet away from everything. That can be tricky and not always an option, but it’s the guideline I try my best to follow. Know that the larger the environment that you shoot, the easier your stitch job will be.

The most difficult aspect of shooting for a dome is keeping the camera movement buttery smooth. Any subtle bumps in the footage will be greatly amplified on the dome. I tested a wheelchair and the motion was smooth but not perfectly parallel when moving forward. I also tested a motorized wheelchair and that produced satisfying results when used at the slowest setting. But the real perfection is with the use of a tracked dolly. Yet then you run into the issue of seeing the track within the 360° shot. So I used the Singleman Indie-Dolly with 12 feet of track and that was just short enough to not show within 240°-ish of the footage. It’s incredibly smooth and the smallest movement forward looks stunning in the dome.

NASAGoddard_TrackedDollyShot

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect are the GoPro cameras themselves. GoPro’s are not exactly known for their dependability. Some things to watch out for:

  • Camera battery life leaves me wishing for more. 1h 30m of shooting time is pretty good, but I haven’t timed it when continually turning ON/OFF the whole rig. So I have a total of 30 batteries charged and ready. I definitely turn off the cameras when not recording, as they eat battery life when in stand-by mode. I’ve heard that changing the settings from the default 3 red blinking recording lights and instead seeing only one red blinking recording light can help to save some battery life too. Leaving on the wifi overnight (blue blinking lights) will drain a battery life in 24 hours.
  • Be sure to use microSD cards that are recommended by GoPro. Some of the other brands don’t write as fast as they advertise and this can lead to the camera stopping recording randomly due to a full buffer. I’ve had good results with the Lexar 32GB microSDHC 600x and the footage files have a constant data stream of 45mbits/sec, with no skipped frames. But in the future I’d suggest the 64GB version. Recording with 2.7k settings will allow you to record 1h 30m of footage. So using a 64GB card would double that. Dumping footage takes about 1h 30m of diligent work, so if you’re in the middle of a big shoot, the last thing you want to do is be interrupted. I’ve had absolutely no problems with the microSD cards. But if you have an “SD error” on the GoPro, accidentally deleted footage, or the microSD card is unreadable, then check out Test Disk.
  • Occasionally a video file will corrupt. You’ll know because the camera display will show the corrupt symbol and you must push a button to continue. So this is something that I’ve added into the shooting workflow. It’s not entirely clear what causes this, other than the fact that these high resolutions have a high data rate and sometimes the header doesn’t get written to file. Luckily the video data can be repaired when transferred to a computer. I’ve yet to have a case where the video data is lost.
  • The cameras are not up to par when it comes to long duration shots. A continuous shot of 30 minutes would make me nervous. I had one occasion where a camera froze; meaning the firmware froze up and the battery had to be removed to reset it. And you’ll know it’s frozen, as no buttons will function. Either it won’t power on, won’t begin recording, or stops recording mid-shot. So as a precaution, I am always checking for the red blinking recording lights at the beginning and ending of a shot. Upon freezing, the red recording lights stop blinking and then it is no longer recording video. But any footage prior to the freeze is retained (though it might be corrupted).
  • If the footage count on the front camera display isn’t identical between all of the camera’s, then that camera wasn’t recording during the shot and so that channel will be missing for stitching. Either one camera didn’t trigger via the wifi remote or the camera firmware has froze. So again, always check for the red blinking recording lights at the beginning and ending of a shot. It’s obviously wise to keep notes in your shot log of these mishaps.
  • Even with all that said, they perform pretty well. For example, out of 57 total shots: 4 shots had corrupted files which were all later repaired in full. 1 essential camera had a battery die and lost half the shot. Twice a camera wouldn’t sync with the remote, but it was a non-essential camera facing the tripod and recorded fine without it (it needed a battery reset). And once an essential camera froze up after I had started recording and the shot is unusable. So obviously, get multiple takes of each shot!

Shooting for a dome means that I don’t actually need the complete 360° of footage. So I use a tripod to increase stabilization. Some people use a monopod that has tiny tripod legs. That is useful to capture as much FOV as possible and actually opens up the possibility of complete 360° with some trickery in post-production to hide the monopod itself. But in moving shots, a tripod is required.

Keep a shot log while shooting on location! It will be invaluable since you will undoubtedly forget the shot locations, problems, noted bumps/wobbles, bad takes, reminders, and such. Be diligent about this, as having a shot log will make your importing process much smoother.

Each of the cameras are locked to auto-expose. And I mean permanently locked off from user control. It’s just the way GoPros have always been. But luckily AVP is extremely powerful in its exposure/color correction. Yet it can be difficult to deal with when you’re very close to a bright light source and only one camera has a wildly different exposure value. Even still, AVP can correct between pretty serious exposure differences since the GoPro cameras have excellent latitude.

An exciting option is to shoot in slow motion at 240 FPS. Using this FPS will reduce your end output to 1k fisheye (2x1k spherical). Or shoot at 120 FPS and output to 2k fisheye (4x2k spherical).

The bottom of the 360Rize aluminum mount has an 3/8″ screw hole. (Contrary to the typical 1/4″.) So you will need to get a special quick release plate to put it on any tripod.

Battery Runtime Test
— Official battery, using wifi remote, recorded 2.7k footage for 1h 32m
— Wasabi battery, using wifi remote, recorded 2.7k footage for 1h 19m


Import & Check the Footage

Wherever you shoot, you’re going to need a laptop and external hard drive to dump the video data. For each hour of video taken, you will need about 340GB of free space.

Using an external USB 3 microSD memory card reader is an absolute requirement. Since each card can hold 32GB, you’ll want to be able to dump the data quickly. So dumping the files straight from the GoPro cameras isn’t an option since the USB 2 speeds are too slow. Even with USB 3 speeds, it still takes about 1h 30m to dump all the micoSD cards to disk.

Since each camera creates footage with similar filenames, it’s imperative that the you rename the videos files as they are copied to your computer. Otherwise the possibility of overwriting data is quite possible. But renaming by hand isn’t needed if you use the 360Rize File Data Manager to easily dump the video files for you. I underestimated the usefulness of this command line tool. It automates the process of appending the camera number and project name to the video filename, and then it dumps the footage into a folder. Here are the quick instructions of its use. Don’t worry, although it doesn’t have a GUI, all you need to know is how to CD via the command line prompt.

Since writing this article, there is now software which automates the process of copying the video files from multiple SD cards and organizing them into folders for each take: Action Cam Importer & 360CamMan

Finally it’s time to see how the footage actually turned out. Hopefully you have kept a shot log to help inform this process. But I always create a spreadsheet and keep track of the following per shot:

  • Concatenate needed? Due to the FAT32 memory card format, any shot that reaches 3.8GB will be automatically split into separate video files. This tool makes it MUCH easier: iFFmpeg (Mac), myFFmpeg (Windows)
  • Corrupted video file? Infrequently a video file will corrupt; meaning the header won’t write to file. Luckily the video footage can be repaired.
  • Missing channels? Rarely a GoPro camera will freeze up. Either it won’t start recording or freeze up during a shot. Hence the need to check for the blinking record light in the beginning and ending of a shot.
  • Shot length match between cameras? If a camera battery dies in the middle of a shot, then you’ll still get the footage up to a certain point for that camera. But obviously the rest of the cameras will continue recording.
  • Shots organized? Each collection of 10 related video files will need to be placed into its own file folder to best keep individual shots organized for stitching. So from the huge list of dumped files you must figure out which cameras are related to one particular shot. This is definitely tedious and especially confusing with files that need to be concatenated. My shortcut is to organize the files by Date Modified and have the Length attribute visible.


Stitch & Render

Finally you have all your shots organized and ready to stitch in AVP. What’s amazing is that you don’t need a AVP template for the specific camera rig layout. Just drop all the videos into into AVP, synchronize, and stitch. It uses the overlapping content between each video to automatically create a 360° projection. It’s not always perfect, but it’s damn good most of the time.

Here are a few sources that were helpful in learning Autopano Video.
Autopano Video Wiki Documentation
Autopano Video 101
Autopano Video Forums
360Rize FAQ

Final Render Resolution
AVP can render whatever type of projection you need to a frame sequence. Full resolution examples below. (These are not polished renders, just the initial automatic AVP stitch.)
— Spherical: 8192x4096px
— Fisheye (FOV 180°): 4096x4096px
— Fisheye (FOV 220°): 5000x5000px

I was happily surprised with the fact that upon increasing the FOV to 220°, then the final render resolution increases to 5k. This is possible because more footage is viewable at a higher FOV, and so you are effectively “squishing” more pixels into the fisheye image. So when I project it onto the dome at 4k, then I have the added benefit of increased sharpness since the video has been downscaled.

I render using the spherical projection because often I want to add slow movement to the virtual camera in After Effects with the Navegar Fulldome Plugin.

The only difference between Autopano Video and Autopano Video Pro is the GPU render option. Which makes a huge difference in render times. When rendering at these high resolutions, you need a graphics card that has lots of memory. So the GeForce GTX 770 4GB has a decent amount of cores, lots of RAM, and at a good price point.

Final Render Statistics at Full Resolution (Spherical)
— CPU: 0.05 render fps – takes 12 hours to render 1m 30s of video.
— GPU: 1.5 render fps – takes 1 hour to render 1m 30s of video. (GeForce GTX 770)

Right when you get the footage, you’ll just want to see a 1k preview quickly. The good news is that fisheye rendering at 1k in AVP is quite fast at 10fps on the GPU.

As of AVP 1.6, they have implemented a stabilization algorithm to help smooth out bumps. It definitely reduces any bumps by 50% and I read that will be improved in the next few versions. They are also adding a timeline which can keyframe cameras and color; which means that you can interpolate between stitches. That is powerful when trying to fix parallax on a moving dolly shot. It’s also very helpful when trying to fix an unruly camera whose exposure is way off from the others (such as a camera pointing at the ceiling).

When using GoPro cameras, the stitching can be optimized since the camera sensors aren’t perfectly aligned/centered with the lens and therefore each have their own lens distortion model. So you can pass AVP this information in the the Lens Distortion Correction settings. As of version 1.6 the settings have been moved and updated.

The video and render examples showcased in this blog post do not yet have their stitches hand polished in AVP. They only use the initial automatic stitch because I just wanted to see the results quickly. So any obvious seams and parallax errors you see could be fixed with some hand polishing. I’m still learning how to best use the software. But you need to run alot of experiments to get polished results and possibly even composite multiple AVP renders in After Effects to get the most seamless results.

The GoPro cameras do a great job of capturing color and have excellent exposure latitude. But a photo filter in After Effects is often needed to color correct for tungsten lights or daylight. Then the colors need a big saturation boost to look optimal in the dome. And the use of curves can enhance dark colors instead of using contrast. And maybe a slight touch of sharpening.

This AVP explanation could easily be a whole write-up of its own. Perhaps in the future I’ll share my experience once I’ve learned more. I’m currently in the process of stitching 57 shots (900GB total unprocessed) taken at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It was an intense 3 day shoot and we got some amazing 360° shots that I can’t wait for you to see in our upcoming planetarium show production.

Lastly, if you’re shooting with the stereoscopic 360Rize rig, then you will have a slightly different workflow in AVP. I don’t even want to fathom the bizarre difficulties with 3D 360 video.

Both the normal and stereoscopic 360 videos can easily be experienced on the Oculus Rift (using Kolor Eyes, which is free).


And that’s the Gist of it

As you can see it’s not the faint of heart, as it demands a pretty wide range of technical knowledge. But the results can be simply stunning. This is a newborn medium and there is alot of room to grow. But it’s an exciting time for fulldome show producers, hyperdome possibilities, and the Oculus Rift community. 4k video in the dome has long been a dream and I think this is an bold step into a fascinating frontier.


Scuba Diving with a 360 Video Rig
Update: January 19, 2016

360Abyss-Rig

I’ve recently been working with Allan Adams (Associate Professor of Physics at MIT) and Keith Ellenbogen (Acclaimed Underwater Photographer) to create a planetarium experience of their underwater scuba dives. They have been using 360 video as a way to immersive audiences in these majestic underwater worlds. So we had been discussing some of the problems they experienced while during a test dive inside the Giant Ocean Tank of the New England Aquarium. There were two main problems: triggering the cameras to record and then the cameras overheating. So I did some testing and came up with a specific shooting workflow for scuba diving with the 360Rize 360Abyss rig. These tips are probably specific to the older plastic core housing version, not the recently released v4 redesign which has an aluminum core housing.

Triggering the Cameras to Record
Preparing the rig for a shoot is not to be rushed. It takes about 20 minutes to install the cameras, screw in the dome doors on the rig, and be ready to go. And since the scuba rig has many small screws, delicate domes, and electronic cameras… Well once you get in the boat, the last thing you really want to do is open up the scuba rig. Just imagine the rocking of the boat, cramp space, busy people, weather and mist and splashing water. So that really limits how you can trigger recording the cameras themselves.

Built into the 360Abyss rig there are physical buttons which allow you press the power button and turn on the cameras even while underwater. And on the GoPro cameras there is the useful ‘QuikCapture’ feature that allows for one-press-of-a-button to power on the camera and automatically start recording. And with the GoPro Hero 3+ you could hit the power button and it would power on the camera and automatically start recording. But with the GoPro Hero 4, the feature was changed to only function by hitting the record button, not the power button. So if you’re using the GoPro Hero 4 then you must completely rely on the wifi remote (since the scuba rig only allows us access to the power button). Luckily the wifi remote is rather reliable, even when the cameras are installed within the scuba rig. Through even if the wifi remote was in a special housing, I doubt that its signal would be powerful enough underwater. So we are really left with one style of shooting: hit record on the boat and then jump in the water.

But first I did a specific test. I started the 6 cameras recording with the wifi remote. Then walked across the building with just the remote, until it was no longer linked through wifi. The cameras continued recording even though the wifi link had broken. So this confirms that you can safely power on the cameras when you reach the diving point, hit record, jump in the water, and you can leave the wifi remote on the boat without worrying.

Overheating Cameras
In the test dives, the cameras were overheating prematurely to the batteries dying. Which makes sense, as the cameras are shooting at very high resolutions (2.7k 4:3, 30fps) and so they generate lots of heat. And seeing as how the GoPro cameras mainly rely on air movement to cool down, well when you put the camera in a small enclosed space… it’ll overheat and shut down. And I wasn’t thrilled of the idea of going down to a smaller resolution because of this issue.

So I investigated the two options of doors that are included with the 360Abyss: plastic and metal doors. I’m guessing that the door selection affects what kind of buoyancy you desire, since the metal doors are clearly heavier. But in reality the metal doors are absolutely vital. In my tests the plastic door definitely acts as an insulator and traps heat in. And the metal door acts as a radiator since the front face of the camera presses up against the metal door and is helping to move heat away. While testing I would periodically touch the door face and the metal door was superior in radiating heat. And underwater the heat from the doors would be cooled much more efficiently. But even without being underwater, and using the metal doors, I could record until the batteries died. Yet if I used the plastic doors then the cameras would overheat.

Scuba Shooting Workflow: Preparing for the Dive
1. On dry land: quickly check that all cameras have matching settings. Install the cameras into the scuba rig. Make absolutely sure that the wifi is on (the blinking blue light). Screw in the glass domes.
2. Jump on the boat and travel to your location on the water.
3. When fully suited up and ready to dive, then use the wifi remote to power on the cameras. It may take 1 or 2 minutes for the remote to report all 6 cameras. When ready, hit the record button. Visually confirm that each camera has the red recording lights blinking. Give the camera rig a few quick twists (for post-production syncing). Leave the remote on the boat.
4. Go scuba diving!


Addendum

Update: June 5, 2016 – I just stumbled across some excellent documentation of Camera Settings for GoPro 360 VR Rigs. It includes excellent examples of different camera settings and some solid tips.

Update: January 23, 2016 – I recently updated the firmware on each of my GoPro Hero 3+ cameras (x10). And during the process one of the cameras failed and it has since been unusable. It’s officially bricked (not stuck). Upon powering on the camera, the both red LED’s illuminate solid (no flashing) and the display remains blank. From that moment onward no buttons function and the only way to shut it down is by pulling out the battery.

I should note that this specific camera hadn’t been completely reliable when shooting on location. Sometimes it would ignore the wifi remote or it would freeze rarely. It was a camera that we would particularly keep an eye on since threw problems more often than any other. So it seems there were some early warning signs. But it’s still surprising for it to be usable one day and the next utterly unresponsive.

I’ve tried all sorts of tips of how to un-brick a GoPro camera. Suggestions from forums, tutorials, and even GoPro customer service acknowledges that the camera is dead. And it’s past the on year warranty, so I’m out of luck. So I’m sharing this for others to be aware that updating your firmware can be a potentially scary process.

Update: January 12, 2016 – After much 360 shooting and traveling, our PRO10HD rig is starting to get weathered. Recently one of the weak points on the arm clamp has snapped. Yet the clamp is still functional and is able to maintain a secure hold on the camera. But seeing as how we have many more plans for 360 video, we decided to upgrade to the new version of the PRO10HD.

The upgraded PRO10HD features include:
— 3/8″ solid brass threaded inserts (the prior version just had straight 3D printed plastic that could easily be stripped)
— New stronger 3D printed material (hopefully this solves the broken arm clamp issue)
— Stronger holder arms for securing cameras (seems like the arm clamps are now slightly thicker)
— Larger GoPro port access to access the HDMI and USB ports (will be useful for extracting the microSD cards)
— Unit now compatible with HDMI cabling (not useful for me, but essential for those wanting to do live streaming)
— For the two cameras facing down (#9 and #10), they have been given an added tilt. This can easily be seen within the PRO10HD comparison. This makes sense as the cameras now have more coverage and less unnecessary overlap. I have always wondered about this and am happy to see this change implemented.
— Lets say the worst happens and you have a camera completely die while shooting on location. Well the upgraded PRO10HD rig has an added tripod mount that allows you to instead shoot partial 360 video (coverage reduced 360×120° instead of full 360×180°) and only be missing the tripod area. This is possible by removing camera #1 and then using the revealed mount that is typically hidden by that camera. This been a great fail-safe solution to have, just in case. And I’ve even had to fall back on this option once.

Update: December 1, 2015 – Recently I have been contributing to the Making360 open source book. It’s a collection of solutions and illustrations of common problems in producing immersive video experiences. So if you find this blog post helpful, then Making360 will give you a comprehensive understanding.

Update: November 17, 2015 – It’s fascinating to see all the different approaches to 360° video. So I surveyed the current 360° video rigs being offered and then organized every serious option into an epic listing: Collection of 360° Video Rigs. The results are telling…

Update: October 3, 2015 – Disney Research Zurich has been doing some very interesting experiments into optimized stitching of 360 video. (Or read the full paper.) Though I would really like to see their algorithm perform against 360 video with some major parallax errors, including objects within 6 feet of the rig WHILE having the rig moving. Even still, it’s pretty impressive results. Hopefully we can see this implemented into commercial software soon.

Update: June 17, 2015 – Some interesting news! GoPro has acquired Kolor. So 360 video is definitely maturing into something interesting. Perhaps GoPro will eventually release their own 360 video equipment, but that’s my own pure speculation.

Update: March 27, 2015 – Kolor has created a video explaining the complete 360 video workflow. It covers everything from camera setup, shooting, stitching, and rendering. It is an introduction to much of the necessary knowledge for creating 360 videos.

Update: February 19, 2015MewPro is an Arduino Pro Mini board which can reprogram/control almost all of the GoPro3+ functionalities. The Orangkucing Lab has been experimenting with an interesting solution for automatically syncing GoPro cameras. By hooking the MewPro to Gopro Dual Hero System, you can genlock multiple cameras. (Genlocking is a technique where the video output of one source is used to synchronize other video sources together.) So the jello effect might soon be a thing of the past. The jello effect happens when there is a sudden bump or vibration and since the GoPro cameras aren’t strictly hardware synced then each camera is recording a slightly different moment in time. So to simplify it, the FPS isn’t globally locked. And when you later stitch it all together you will see briefly see the seams between the video sources during the moments of bumps/vibration. Hence each of the video sources look like jello. And up till now this hasn’t been addressable.

Update: November 21, 2014 – Looking for a simple description of 360 video and how it works? David Rabkin and I wrote a paper that was presented at the 2014 GLPA conference: video of the presentationpaper (2014). Also here is David’s updated paper (2016) with our latest work. So if you want the basics without getting too technical, then this is your best bet. Full cost assessments: PRO10HD or PRO7.

Update: November 20, 2014 – Here is an interesting roundup of 4k video cameras in the marketplace. So it seems that 360 video is still the best option for creating 4k domemasters, especially since 4k video cameras still don’t have sensors with at least a 4k vertical. So we are still a number of years away from 8k video cameras being mainstream. Yet it’s quite interesting to see 4k become a standard within video camera equipment.

Update: October 30, 2014 – If you are wondering about the new GoPro Hero4 camera… Having each camera shoot at 4k 30fps is amazing, but it comes at a cost. Results from the 360 video community suggest that you can only shoot for 30 minutes before needing to cool down the cameras. And sometimes the Hero4 camera will forcefully shut down due to overheating.

Update: March 12, 2014 – The GoPro cameras have a firmware update available that allows you to shift the automatic exposure through the iPhone app. I’m curious to experiment, though I’m cautious of the added workflow of getting the optimal exposure and updating ALL cameras settings for each shot. Also, while it’s too crazy for me (since it voids your warranty), there are ways to hack a GoPro camera to truly lock down the exposure (AutoexecHack scripts).