Facebook is working with camera maker RED to develop a professional virtual reality camera system that can capture high resolution images in 6DoF or 6 degrees of freedom, allowing them to be viewed and explored in real time in virtual reality. The rig, for which no pricing or release data is yet available, is a highlight of Facebook’s internal efforts on its Surround 360 platform. RED’s upcoming VR camera will now be the one to suggest to Facebook filmmakers and other creators who want to make the most of high fidelity, immersive entertainment and art. The news was announced today at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference.
“One year ago we were looking for a hardware partner to help us deliver this technology,” said Brian Cabral, Director of Engineering at Facebook, specializing in computer photography. Not only did Facebook need “the image quality we wanted,” but also the workflow that allowed the creators to capture the necessary photos and videos on the set and transfer them to the necessary software, which they then put together, making them VR-ready Experiences or what Cabral calls a “photon to photon” experience.
For the past two years, Facebook has basically been advising the camera industry on what such a camera would look like. At the launch of Surround 360 in 2016, an open-source datasheet and a hardware design document for a device with a 17-camera VR array array was released. The idea was to help camera manufacturers and other companies with experience in industrial and consumer manufacturing to produce a product that these companies could then sell, and in turn help more filmmakers and creators to produce VR content.
At the time, Facebook did not want to put its name on a device or sell it directly to consumers. Rather, the company wanted to drive VR creation so that consumers could actually consume content when they bought an Oculus Rift headset or wanted to access 360 video posts or other social video products on their mobile phones. A year later, the Surround 360 team released an updated VR camera design with a 24-camera array and a lighter 6-camera array model. These cameras were able to capture 8K video and content in 6DoF, greatly enhancing the immersive quality of VR video by allowing viewers to move around in a completely virtual world.
“Wir haben alle unsere Erkenntnisse der letzten zwei Jahre und alle unsere Kameras und Algorithmen entwickelt, um…. viele unserer Entscheidungen über unsere Partnerschaften und das Design der Kameras zu informieren”, sagt Cabral. “Wir haben auch viele Leute gehört, die unsere Prototypen und andere nutzen, um alle Erkenntnisse der Branche in die Aufnahmen mit VR-Kameras einfließen zu lassen. Ein Großteil des Feedbacks, das wir bekommen, ist, wie einfach es am Set zu benutzen ist.”
Jetzt, mit der Partnerschaft mit RED, scheint es, dass Facebook endlich ein Unternehmen gefunden hat, das in Hollywood- und Indie-Filmkreisen für seine technische Meisterschaft bekannt ist, um High-End-VR-Video näher an den Mainstream zu bringen. Cabral sagt, die Kamera ist für professionelle Geschichtenerzähler konzipiert. “Die Idee ist, die besten Geschichtenerzähler zu befähigen und ihnen die beste Ausrüstung zu geben”, fügt er hinzu.
Facebook and RED do not yet have a picture of how a prototype or rendering of the product works, and RED will decide at a later date how expensive the camera will be. But given that RED cameras typically scale from $ 5,000 to $ 15,000 to even $ 50,000 – the company announced an $ 80,000 8K model last fall – we can only assume that this camera will be very expensive. But the more high-end VR content available for Facebook, the more attractive the Oculus and video-centric Facebook Watch platforms will be.