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Streaming Media East [7-8 May 2019]
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Is Virtual Reality Streaming Ready for Primetime?

Virtual Reality is poised to revolutionize many industries including live video streaming. Join us as we cover the techology and possibilities of it opening the door to new markets.

DIY 360º Cameras Rigs

When it comes to camera systems, you can either assemble a Do-It-Yourself rig or purchase a manufactured one. One thing you will realize is that many of the manufactured rigs have either not yet been released and are extremely expensive. So if you want to start capturing and streaming live VR video now at a lower cost, you need to look into putting together a DIY rig.

One of more popular DIY camera solutions for 360º VR is combining multiple GoPro 4 Black cameras into a single rig. Typically, these rigs are based on arrays that hold multiple GoPro cameras in 6, 10, 12 and 14-camera configurations. The manufacturers of these harnesses include Freedom360 and Hero360.

While Freedom360 mounts (Figure 1, below) start as low as $499, complete DIY rigs can cost around $3,000−$5,000, since you need to first purchase the array, the GoPros, necessary cables, USB power hubs, media, tripods, and other accessories.

Figure 1. The Freedom360 DIY VR camera rig. Click the image to see it at full size.

Unfortunately, the main issue with GoPro cameras is that they tend to overheat, which generally limits your recording time. They perform poorly in hot environments and can sometimes shut down after several minutes of use. Operating GoPros in close proximity to each other on a VR mount compounds this problem. You can overcome these issues if you keep cameras properly ventilated, and adding fans does help.

Manufactured 360º Camera Rigs

There are more than 30 different types of VR camera systems either available no or releasing soon. They come in all different shapes and sizes and, as you might expect, each manufacturer touts its offering as the best solution out there. These cameras are manufactured by major companies, by startups, and even as Kickstarter-funded projects.

Since there are too many products to mention, I’ll cover the ones that strike me as the most interesting. Ultimately, you’ll need to weigh your options in light of your projects and expectations and choose the system that would work best for you, whether you decide to purchase or rent a turnkey solution, or build one yourself.

GoPro Odyssey and Six-Camera Rig

Understanding the applicability of its popular HERO action/POV cameras to VR applications, GoPro recently announced the availability of the Odyssey (Figure 2, below), with an MSRP of $15,000. The Odyssey consists of 16 GoPro HERO4 Blacks, 16 Array Bacpacs, 16 Micro SD cards, a microphone, power cables and accessories, and Pelican carrying case. It also features GenLock camera syncing, multicamera group settings control, and extended batteries.

Figure 2. GoPro’s $15,000 16-camera Odyssey VR rig. Click the image to see it at full size.

Odyssey was created to streamline the VR content production process for Google’s Jump platform, which puts content creation and consumption under one umbrella. After a video is captured, the platform automatically stitches videos into a single panoramic VR video. GoPro is selling the device only to “select creators” who apply via its website. GoPro will be releasing a simplified six-camera rig as well, but pricing and details have not been released yet.

IM360

Immersive Media is one of the more high-profile VR production companies. Immersive Media’s IM360 is responsible for providing the technology behind the VR stream of the red carpet event at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Immersive Media is offering solutions that are based on their custom packages, which consist of a pairing a camera and streaming encoder for approximately $60,000.

Samsung Project Beyond

Samsung’s Project Beyond (Figure 3, below) is a saucer-like camera that captures 360-degree images and video footage that can viewed on their Gear VR headset. It has 17 HD cameras and can capture 3D still panoramas, record video, and stream live video with built-in high speed connectivity.

Figure 3. Samsung’s 17-camera, streaming-ready Project Beyond. Click the image to see it at full size.

Project Beyond also features fully automated stitching technology.

Nokia OZO

The OZO (Figure 4, below) is Nokia’s first foray into commercial VR. It’s targeted toward the professional content creator market. The orb-like camera captures stereoscopic 3D video with eight synchronized global shutter sensors and spatial audio with eight microphones.

Figure 4. The orb-like Nokia OZO. Click the image to see it at full size.

Nokia will provide various tools that will help producers create videos with a built-in playback system. It will be compatible with various headsets like the Oculus Rift as well. OZO is slated to ship in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Radiant Images

Radiant Images is pushing the limit in VR cameras with a variety of intriguing-looking systems. The company’s offerings range from cameras that rent from $895 per day (including two VR 360° models in an underwater housing) to other systems that cost nearly 10 times as much. Radiant is focusing on the high end of the market; the big-budget film industry is one of their primary markets.

The company’s most compelling system is the Mobius head-mounted POV camera, which rents for about $7,500 per day and has a brace built in to enable steady first-person shots. One drawback is that Radiant’s cameras are available only for rental, but the rental includes at least one technical support staff to help you configure and operate the units.

Related Articles
In this series of articles, I will discuss the tools and workflows that I used in a recent testing project to see how VR compares to 2D video and audio as an educational tool.
VR remains a niche market at this writing, but it's a growing one with huge potential. Here are the latest developments and what it means to adoption in the live production and streaming world.