During my recent visit to BVE, an annual media and entertainment technology tradeshow in London, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar hosted by 360 Designs CEO and founder Alx Klive. The keynote was about Virtual Reality cameras (VR cameras) and the impact they’re having within the creative industries – an effect that is already massive and continues to grow at a fast pace.
Not surprisingly it’s a technology that’s also being followed closely by many involved in undergraduate media and communications courses. In our BVE poll, VR was high up on many university and college attendees’ dream shopping lists, coming only second after some of the top digital motion picture cameras on the market.
A few years ago if you wanted to create an immersive video experience you would firstly have to purchase the correct professional equipment, obtain powerful computers and buy the appropriate software; acquiring all this gear would certainly of meant dipping into your savings! However, in 2017, the first consumer VR cameras are becoming affordable for general use. Soon you will now be able to put one of these cameras into your bag and capture your next family event, birthday party or your travel experiences.
So you might be wondering, what exactly is a VR camera? In its simplest form it’s a camera that allows you to obtain a 360 degree video. This is achieved by using multiple cameras that record all angles of a scene. Once filming is complete, the next step will be to ‘stitch’ the individual visuals into a single, high resolution, seamless panoramic video.
If you haven’t yet experienced a VR video, you’re in for a treat. Platforms like YouTube have started to allow content creators to upload 360 degree VR visuals. Let’s have a look at an example – have you ever wanted to see the perspective of a Formula One driver whilst he’s driving round the racetrack? Well, thanks to VR technology here is your opportunity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClAuhgFQpLo&t=8s (N.B. don’t forget to click and move your mouse around to get the full effect!)
So what’s currently available on the market? Out of all the VR cameras right now, the Ricoh Theta S is probably best for personal and educational use. Its perks include live streams to YouTube, 1080p HD video capture quality and the footage is transferable to your phone without the need of a PC. Prices start at $300 but there are also cheaper options available with the Theta m15. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more professional the GoPro Odyssey is available at $15,000. The Odyssey is one of the ‘premier’ cameras around. It’s used widely within industry and has the financial backing of YouTube and Google services. The rig itself takes 16 GoPro 04 Black edition cameras and links their internal microphones for panoramic sound and video capture, and since the cameras are all fully synced together there’s no need to purchase expensive stitching software.
It’s funny to move onto the topic of the future of VR cameras since we’re only in the technology’s infant stage. However, as an avid movie goer, I would love to have my movie experience enhanced with the help of VR cameras. And luckily for myself, it doesn’t seem that this technology will be far from the future. This year the IMAX Company announced a $50 million fund for VR content, with plans to finance more than 25 VR experiences over the next three years; this will be done by working closely with studios, directors and fans.
Hopefully in the future, it will be us sitting in the Millennium Falcon flying through hyperspace! But if you’re like me and cannot wait for the experience, have a look at the specially filmed VR trailer from the 2016 horror smash ‘Don’t Breathe’. Try watching this with the lights off!
Good news is that with the NAB Show in Las Vegas just around the corner, there'll soon be lots more opportunity to get a thorough update on how this fascinating technology is evolving in production, content creation and education.