Make no mistake, 360-degree videos are huge. Since acquiring Oculus, Facebook has bet big on 360-degree videos, VR and live streaming. It’s been pretty much skewed towards consumption of VR content (Facebook supports VR content directly) but things are about to change. The world’s biggest social network has just revealed its 360-degree camera solution – Surround 360.
At first glance, Facebook’s Surround 360 camera looks like a flying saucer. The impressive rig houses 14 cameras around the edge, one fish-eye pointing up, and two cameras pointing down.
This set-up enables it to produce “truly spherical video.” It also captures stereoscopic images needed for 3D content.
Facebook’s web-based software will stitch together images in 4K, 6K and 8K resolution for each individual eye.
Spherical rigs aren’t new. But they are hugely expensive. Pro-level rigs like Nokia’s Ozo can cost a jaw-dropping US$60,000. GoPro’s 16-camera Odyssey can cost up to US$15,000, although its latest Omni rig brings prices down to more earthly standards.
On the consumer-level front, we have the Samsung Gear 360, and LG’s 360 Cam, both unveiled at MWC 2016. Those however utilize a dual-camera set-up, hardly any match for aforementioned pro-level equipment.
Facebook’s open source system will help keep costs down for content creators, since they won’t need to buy expensive proprietary software and camera mounting. However, they will still need to buy those cameras.
There’s no official pricing, but it will cost around US$30,000 to buy materials necessary to build the Surround 360.
Facebook won’t put any open-source designs on Github until sometime in summer.