Just a few short years ago Virtual Reality could be found in the lowest valley of the “Trough of Disillusionment” on Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle. The initial hype surrounding the rebirth of this new medium had worn off and consumers were ready to write it off as just another passing fad.
Numerous technical challenges and a lack of quality content continued to be a boon for detractors who exclaimed proudly that VR just wasn’t ready for primetime and it was too difficult (and costly) to create quality content.
Undeterred by the seeming onslaught of doomsday prophecies we (content creators and developers) pressed on with the understanding that given the enormous financial backing of Facebook (Oculus), Google, HTC, and others, the technical challenges would likely be overcome in short order. Headsets would soon become more affordable, wireless, and comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The same could be said for content creation tools and the democratization of such tools. Our focus in the meantime then, would be on the exploration and refinement of the tools and processes that would help us create the most immersive, engaging, and compelling content.
Enter Primacy Studios. During a typical VR project at Primacy, the Studios team is tasked with concepting, capturing and editing 360-degree video footage used within our VR experiences. While there are some similarities to the traditional photo and video production pipeline, there are also several glaring differences. These include:
Video resolution typically needs to be higher in VR than on a standard monitor or mobile device due to the fact that it’s ultimately stretched around a 360-degree surface.
In short…fewer pixels need to cover more space. A 4K video looks great on your new iPhone, but that same video viewed in a VR headset is going to look significantly less sharp (even pixelated in some cases). This means filming in resolutions up to 12K and adapting resolution accordingly during playback to accommodate a range of devices.
Effective video compression is critical to delivering an experience that’s not nausea-inducing when viewed.
While the video needs to be very high resolution, it also needs to be compressed significantly in order to stream and play-back properly on mobile chipsets – which power today’s standalone VR headsets. This could mean compressing a video that was originally well over 24GB down to 120MB while retaining quality.
360 videos need to be “stitched” together.
This is unique to 360 footage since multiple cameras are required to capture a complete scene. Software is then used to compile the footage from each camera and effectively “stitch” the footage together to produce what looks like a single 360-degree scene. Poor stitching will result in noticeable seams in the image/video where the footage from two different cameras overlap. In an effort to reduce the painstaking effort of manual video stitching, camera manufacturers are developing cameras that can stitch automatically. Some do this pretty well, but there’s more work needed to refine this approach.
There is no one size fits all solution.
Lighting/exposure, motion, weather, and other factors impact which type of camera(s) will perform best. The trade-offs can be noticeable if you don’t have a keen understanding of the strengths of each device.
Over the years we’ve invested in an arsenal of 360 cameras to ensure we’re using the right tool to tell visually-pleasing and compelling stories.
When portability is paramount (eg: mounting on the helmet of a snowboarder), a dual-lens Garmin Virb can do the trick:
For high-quality, stationary projects, a custom printed 10-camera GoPro rig was our go-to.
In an effort to enhance video quality, we’ve invested in a $20,000 8K 360-degree camera system. This rig is comprised of seventeen cameras and utilizes algorithms that help us attain a perfect video stitch. Resolution-wise, this puppy is capable of capturing monoscopic/stereoscopic 8K video at 30fps – or 6K video at 60fps. In layman’s terms, we can capture 360 video with superb clarity and precision so the final product looks amazing across multiple platforms.
Old 360 Video Quality:
New 360 Video Quality:
As we continue to produce immersive and engaging VR stories, we’re compelled to stay at the forefront of the VR revolution. Utilizing new trends, techniques and technologies, we strive to deliver the highest quality VR experiences for our clients.
Learn more about Primacy’s work in emerging technology here.