Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CES 2017: In-depth look at the Vuze camera, the first affordable 3D 360 camera


The Vuze camera is the first affordable 4k 3D 360 camera, and was the camera I was most eagerly anticipating in 2016.  Unfortunately, it was delayed for additional tests.

Our correspondent in Germany, Sven Neuhaus, got to see Vuze at Photokina 2016, but they only showed him a sample video.  At CES 2017, I met with Humaneyes' GM for North America, Jim Malcolm, who had been the President for Ricoh Imaging Americas and had helped bring the Ricoh Theta to the US market.  Jim showed me a working camera, and walked me through the entire process from capture to viewing the final video on an HTC Vive.  Here are my impressions of the Vuze.

Update: I now have the Vuze.  Here is an unboxing and my first impressions!
Here is the Vuze's retail box.

HARDWARE
First of all, a few things have changed.  Originally, the Vuze's memory was not removable.  That meant that once the memory was filled up (~1 hour capacity), you had to download everything via USB 2.0 before you could begin recording again.  For professionals covering special events, that would require them to get several cameras.

Now the Vuze will use removable Micro SD cards.  This makes it much easier to cover long events.

What's more, the camera can be powered by an external power bank via its Micro USB port.  This is another feature that would make it more attractive to professionals.  Please note you'll need a Micro USB cable with a right angle (down position) to avoid having the cable show up in the shot.

Other things, such as the eight FHD lenses, have not changed.

SHOOTING WITH THE VUZE
There are two ways to shoot with the Vuze: with or without a smartphone.  Without a smartphone, you simply press the record button and press it again to stop.

Alternatively, you can pair the Vuze with a smartphone via Wi-Fi.  The app will show a live preview of any of the lenses (one at a time).  Here is a video showing how the Vuze is used with a smartphone:
Here is a full-size video.

One thing I noted is that you cannot change the exposure, not even exposure compensation.  I am hoping that Vuze will find a way to add that feature.

During the demo, the exposure algorithm of the camera we tested was fooled by the bright lights and the white table below it into underexposing about 1.7 to 2 EV (by my estimate).  On the other hand, Jim showed me some samples with extreme contrasts where the exposure was chosen correctly.  Jim said that perhaps the camera we were using was an older version that wasn't updated with the latest software.

STITCHING

As with shooting, there are two ways to stitch with the Vuze.  The first way is a totally automated one-button process.  You just load the file, press the stitching button, and it will stitch the entire video.

Alternatively, you can edit and stitch the video.  Here are some of the edits you can make:

  • Trim the beginning and ending of the video
  • Flip it 180 degrees (if it had been used upside down)
  • Change the heading (i.e., the first part that the viewer sees)
  • Limit the field of view to a narrower FOV.  For example if you have a camera crew on one side of the camera and would like to leave them out, you can limit the video to 180.  When the 360 video is viewed, viewers who turn around will see only black.  Combined with the ability to change the heading, this means you can limit the FOV any way you want, to any part of the video.
  • Add a watermark or patch to either the zenith or the nadir, and you can adjust it to any size you want.
  • Refine the stitching.  With this function, you can identify certain frames of the video as being critical, and the software will take extra time to stitch the selected frames smoothly.

There are other editing capabilities that Humaneyes plans to add, but they don't want to overwhelm users.

After these edits, we turned to stitching.  The stitching was faster than I expected.  Humaneyes has said previously that stitching would take a 1:1 ratio (1 second of video would take 1 second to stitch).  I think that is accurate.  The laptop Jim showed me took even less time to stitch, although to be fair, it was a powerful VR-ready laptop.  But he said that even lower end laptops should be fine.

VIEWING THE VIDEO
I got to see the video using an HTC Vive running Virtual Desktop.  It was indeed 3D 360.

ACCESSORIES
I also saw some accessories for the Vuze camera such as an underwater housing and a dolly.


Jim also showed me that it's possible to mount it below a drone for aerial 3D 360 videos.

AVAILABILITY
Jim said Vuze is on track for delivery in March.  It is currently in beta mode with a few users to identify issues.  On February 21, they will send out units to the press.  Finally, the units will be shipped in March.  Overall, things look pretty good for Vuze and the changes to the memory card and power are very welcome.  My biggest concern is being able to have a little more control over exposure.  I am looking forward to getting the Vuze, and will be posting a review.  In the meantime, Vuze is available for preorder from B&H Photo for $799.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you post! Had you chance to test how Vuze quality could compare with GoPro Omni rig?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Akmal. I don't have a GoPro Omni to compare. I think they are different categories. GoPro Omni is a 2D 360 camera rig intended for the highest resolution (up to 8k), while Vuze is an all-in-one camera intended for easier 3D 360 capture, at a much lower price than Omni. A more likely competitor for Omni is the Insta360 Pro (up to 8k in 2D, or 6k in 3D), which I haven't tried.

      Best regards,
      Mic

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