At Facebook’s F8 developer conference, the company and RED Digital Cinema announced they are teaming up to build a professional VR camera. No further details on price, release date or technical specs were made available. Previously, Facebook demonstrated its depth reconstruction, which enhances 3D imagery, and its prototype Surround 360 cameras. Facebook director of engineering Brian Cabral described RED as an “ideal partner” because the company’s high-dynamic range cameras work well with its depth reconstruction technology.
Variety quotes Cabral as saying that, “depth reconstruction is only as good as the image data that you can capture … the pixel quality matters a lot.” By partnering with RED, Facebook also will be working “with a company that is already an established partner for Hollywood, which should help to get the camera into the hands of filmmakers.” In doing so, Facebook “squarely aims for the upper end of the market — studios and professional cinematographers looking to produce high-end VR for experiences with the ability to lean in, which is in the VR world also known as six degrees of freedom.”
In contrast, Google’s partnership of its Jump cloud-stitching platform with camera companies such as Yi is intended to “automate the production of high-quality 360 3D content, potentially opening it up to a wider group of creators.”
The Verge reports that Cabral said that, in searching for a hardware partner to deliver on its 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) technology, Facebook also wanted a “workflow that would let creators easily capture necessary photography and video on set, and be able to transfer that to the necessary software that would then stitch it together and help create VR-ready experiences,” which Cabral dubs a “photon to photon” experience.
For potential camera partners, Facebook previously released the Surround 360’s “open-source spec sheet and hardware design document for a device with a 17-camera array for VR capture.”
The goal, says The Verge, was to “jumpstart VR creation so consumers actually had content to consume if they bought an Oculus Rift headset or wanted to access 360-video posts or other social video products on mobile.” The Surround 360 team later “released an updated VR camera design with a 24-camera array, as well as a lighter six-camera array model,” both capable of 8K video in 6DoF.
“We’ve taken all of our learnings over the past two years and all of our cameras and algorithm development to … inform a lot of our decisions on both our partnerships and the design of the cameras,” said Cabral. “We’ve also listened to a lot of people who use our prototypes and others to incorporate all the learnings in the industry to shoot with VR cams. A lot of the feedback we get is how easy to use it on set.”
Facebook Partners With RED Digital Cinema for Volumetric VR Camera, Road to VR, 5/1/18