This moment in time marks a new beginning for creators in 360 video. The earliest adopters in VR content cobbled together low quality content stitched together with seams that Dr. Frankenstein would have been embarrassed by. Awkward balls of GoPro’s atop poles at conferences, a strange solution, were the least expensive setup and still started at around $5,000.00. This doesn’t even factor in the time and effort of multiple SD cards, softwares and soul shattering screen/editing time to meld it into something that was passable… or watchable.
With the advent of a competitive market we, as photographers, cinematographers, cutting edge directors and hobbyists now have the opportunity to not only shoot but to find our voices through trial and error with a new generation of cameras. The cameras that are available now represent a change in the landscape of entertainment and of the direction that we’re going. The important things to look at when buying a camera are as follows:
When my wife, Lynette, had our first child, Poppy, she purchased a nice Nikon camera. Lynette shopped and found a good deal and dropped $800.00 plus tax. It was a camera that sat comfortably between professional and consumer and I’m glad we bought it. Lynette took wonderful pictures and even started to go to photography classes. It was fun to watch her learn.
We are at a similar time in which low-end 360 cameras begin at a cost of around $200.00 and top out at about $80,000.00. These, of course, are extremes and I believe that we all fall somewhere in between those price points depending on where our desires lay as creators. Personally, I can’t justify purchasing a camera for over 2K. If I need a camera with those capabilities I’ll just rent one.
There are two main things that I see as important in 360 video: monoscopic vs. stereoscopic video and spatial audio.
Monoscopic video is, quite simply, the use of two cameras stitching together into one sphere. It is the cheapest solution (which is good) but lacks dimension and depth (and yeah… that’s bad). Trees do not stand out, characters seem plastered on a flat canvas and a true sense of immersion is not achieved. The Ricoh Theta and Samsung Gear 360 are the best examples of this type of camera. As always cheap costs come with concessions.
Next we have stereoscopic video represents multiple cameras spaced apart in a way to mimic the human eye. It gives more information to the viewer and a sense of presence that can’t be accomplished otherwise. The highest quality productions (think BMW, The White House, anything Jaunt, Felix and Paul etc.) use stereoscopic cameras to produce the best content.
Spatial audio adds another layer of presence to immersion and VERY few cameras come equipped with this from the factory. If a dog barks to direct your attention to a new action within a 360 video then that activity can add to the story. If two characters a talking from across a field then viewers will know how to direct their attention accordingly. Sound ends up being the best cue for where viewers should focus.
Last year the word “stitching” was the worst cuss word in my vocabulary. It represented grueling work in a dark computer until your eyes fill with blood and your desire to live was sapped… or paying someone upwards of $500.00 per hour to do your dirty work. Stitching video is something that takes away from shooting, from family and from the creative process. Stitching is the damn devil.
Enter auto stitching.
For almost any creator starting out up to the professional content creator you no longer need to get into a dungeon and grind your soul away. These softwares have now been created to make the hardware go more seamlessly (see what I did there?) into shooting to editing. Hell yes.
In the market we produce a prosumer 360 stereoscopic camera with spatial audio at a price point of $800.00 (it also autostitches). The Vuze camera was built to be a portable and durable solution.