Friday, February 26, 2016

Vuze Camera: First 360 3D Virtual Reality Camera for Consumers



The Vuze Camera aims to be the first 360-degree 3D camera available to consumers.  It uses 8 cameras in a flat configuration to provide a full photosphere in 3D.


The Vuze is capable of taking both photos and videos, either in 2D or in 3D.  The video resolution will be 4k at 30 fps (H.264 format).  The company posted sample 3D 360 videos on its website in anaglyph (red-cyan) format.  However, you can use the included VR Headset to play the 360 videos in stereoscopic 3D format.



The Vuze is relatively compact, about the size of your palm.  It has a simple interface with only one button.  It can be controlled with an iOS or Android smartphone with realtime preview.  However, the videos need to be processed on a desktop for viewing and sharing.

It uses removable MicroSD storage.  A 64GB card can store 1 hour of video. 

The Vuze VR kit will include:
  • the Vuze Camera (available in blue, red, yellow, or black)
  • the VR Headset (designed in collaboration with Homido, and works with your smartphone)
  • a custom tripod/selfie-stick
  • a smartphone app, and
  • Vuze Studio, a full-featured desktop video editing software, with 3D effects, audio and titles.
The VR kit is projected to be below $1,000 for pre-orders.  The company expects to take pre-orders starting in March 2016, with delivery in Q3 of 2016.


Here is the official website.

Using Rollworld to Share 360 Photos and Videos on Instagram




Although there are now many apps that allow users to share 360 photos and videos, such as Facebook and Youtube, there are still platforms that don't support 360, such as Instagram.  Fortunately, you can still share a 360 photo or video in a way that conveys to your audience that the image is 360 degrees.  One way to do that is by creating a short clip of your 360 photo or video, like the one above.



There are several apps for making such a clip.  The one I used here is Rollworld for iOS.  To use Rollworld, all you have to do is load a 360 photo or video, then choose a preset animation such as "spin" which I used in the clip above.

Here is how it looks on Instagram:

It is also possible to do a custom animation.  First, I set the starting point of the video clip, use the sliders to change the point of view, then Rollworld will create a clip from the start point to the chosen end point.



The process for 360 videos is the same.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

MettaVR: a platform for 360° videos


MettaVR (www.mettavr.com) is a new social media platform for user-generated 360° videos.  This video explains what MettaVR is about:

Metta Demo Day NYC from Matter Ventures on Vimeo.

MettaVR allows users to explore videos using a map interface, similar to Google Earth.  This makes it easy to find videos based on locations that you are interested in.  You can also follow users to subscribe to their content.

Although MettaVR is positioning itself as a platform for user-generated 360 videos, MettaVR has also gained the support of companies such as Associated Press, Ryot (a studio specializing in 360 documentary films), NPR-member station KQED, and the news publisher McClatchy.


MettaVR runs on browsers (including smartphone browsers), although the developers say that they are also working on an app.  It supports Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.  MettaVR is currently in beta but they are accepting signs up for their waitlist at beta.mettavr.com.

Ricoh Theta Mutes Shutter Sound



One of the most common complaints from Ricoh Theta users had been its loud chirping shutter sound, which can be distracting in some circumstances.  Theta users had been requesting this feature since the original Theta came out, but it was not addressed in the m15 or in the S.


However, in an update to its app yesterday (v.1.5.0), Ricoh finally added an adjustment to the shutter sound, allowing users to change the volume from high, medium, low and OFF.  Fortunately, once the shutter sound setting is specified in the app, it is retained by the Theta even when shooting without the app.


To change the shutter sound setting, you need to connect the Theta to the app, and go to the settings menu.





Samsung Gear 360 preview

Samsung announced the Samsung Gear 360, an orb-shaped spherical camera with two fisheye lenses that offers one of the highest still resolutions for a consumer-oriented 360 camera.  It has several attractive features for a 360 camera:
  • You can select between one or two lenses for either a hemisphere or full photosphere.
  • The still resolution is up to 30 megapixels (7776 x 3888) or 5 megapixels with one lens (3072 x 1728)
  • Video resolution is 3840 x 1920 with two lenses, or 2k (2560 x 1440) with one lens, both at 30 fps
  • bright f/2.0 lenses
  • 1GB internal memory plus removable Micro SD
  • IP53 protection (protected from limited dust ingress, protected from water sprays)
  • Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth, NFC


The sample photos and videos look promising and have good image quality (on Youtube, be sure to select the highest resolution).  Here is one of them:



The Gear 360 will be compatible with Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note5, S7, and S7edge. Samsung has not said that it will be compatible with other smartphones such as iPhones.

The official website is here.  Pricing and availability still to be announced.

LG announces the LG 360 Cam

LG announced the LG 360 Cam, a 360-degree spherical camera.  It uses two fisheye lenses back to back in a camera with a compact form factor, similar to the Ricoh Theta.  Each fisheye lens has 13 megapixels, although LG hasn't specified the resolution of the final image.

The 360 Cam (model LGR105) does have some notable advantages over some 360 cameras:

  • 4GB internal memory plus removable Micro SD storage
  • 2k video support (2560x1440)
  • 5.1 channel audio recording


At this time, LG has not yet announced pricing or availability.

Ricoh Launches Second Instagram Contest for Theta


Ricoh has announced their second Instagram contest for the Ricoh Theta.  The theme for this contest is "Show us your #squad" -- use the Theta to take pictures with your friends!  The contest period will be from February 24 to March 17. The contest rules don't expressly say that the photo itself has to be taken within that time period, but they do say you're not allowed to use pictures that you've previously posted.

HOW TO JOIN THE CONTEST:
1. You need to follow the official Ricoh Theta Instagram account (@theta360official).
2. Photos must be taken with the Theta (original, m15 or S), and must be edited on the Theta or Theta+ app.
3. You must tag your entry with #theta360 and #theta360contest.  (You may want to use the #squad tag as well, even though the rules don't say it.)

You can submit as many entries as you want.  If you're selected as a winner, they will ask you for the original equirectangular image, and the edited cropped entry.

PRIZES:
There will be 1 winner and 9 runner-ups each for photos and for videos.  The winners will receive an original Theta soft case, or a Theta strap attachment set.  Each runner-up will receive a Theta tote bag and original stickers.   Winning images will also be featured on the Ricoh Theta website, SNS and at RICOH Imaging Square.

Note: the first Theta Instagram contest had over 1,000 entries.

LEGAL FINE PRINT:
Some contests these days require you to assign your copyright to those running contest.  This one states that: "Copyright of submitted images remains with the photographer (the applicant). However, the sponsors will retain the right to display, publicize and release online and otherwise use submitted works without payment (including the right to alter such images). When displaying works, the photographer’s name, the title and the place at which the image was taken may also be displayed."

The official website for the contest is here.