It’s become clear that 360º video, along with 360° video cameras, is here to stay. If you attended the NAB Show in Las Vegas this year, it was obvious. Exhibitors, large (e.g. Nokia) and small presented many new technologies to help fulfill the growing desire to produce content in this space. This “360º boom” is creating advancements in capture technology, as creators rush to find the perfect end-to-end workflow.
However, when compared to traditional video, the technology is still very much in a nascent stage. Whereas new technologies for traditional video are all about improving on already great capture technologies (e.g. 4k moving on to 8k, HDR and beyond), new technologies for 360° are more about fixing flaws and fundamental problems.
For example, for years capturing 360° video involved capturing footage from several cameras and stitching it together with external platforms like VideoStitch or Kolor, adding laborious hours to the process, and often preventing us from being able to live stream. Stitching was as much art as it was science, and so results were often hit or miss. Look at much of the 360° content prior to 2017, and the chances are that the average person could identify stitching and/or parallax issues.
As of NAB 2017, and slightly before, multiple companies are offering the ability to either stitch in real-time (e.g. Orah 4i) or stitch for you (Google Jump). It’s a tremendous prospect for creators and tech geeks alike, bringing a new level of reliability to 360° content creation.
These new stitching capabilities are a step in the right direction. In an industry where creators can ill afford the risk of adopting unreliable tools, we are starting to see an uptick in reliability.
That in mind, our team at Marching Penguin (gomarchingpenguin.com) put together a short list of our 4 favorite 360° cameras for NAB Show 2017. They are rank ordered, with #1 being our favorite.
4. Jaunt ONE
You may be familiar with Jaunt as a publisher of premium 360º content. One of their main selling points is the high standard they hold their content to, pushing for cinema-level quality in everything they publish. The Jaunt ONE is their own answer to this requirement, boasting some of the most beautiful looking footage that we’ve seen from a 360º camera. It has stereoscopic capabilities for creating immersive 3D content, and can reach 8K by 4K resolution using its 24 camera modules. Automatic stitching for your footage is available through Jaunt Cloud Services.
As impressed as we are by the Jaunt ONE, the price is equally impressive, coming in at a cool $100,000! This is the sole reason for ranking it at #4 on the list. That fact that, comparatively, you could go out and buy a Tesla Model S for 10k less, was surprising to us. Yes, that’s totally an apples to oranges comparison, but it provides a point of comparison. Bottom line: the price point makes this one of the least accessible 360º cameras for today’s content creator.
Nokia’s OZO is similar to the Jaunt ONE in their aim for cinema-quality 360º. However, the OZO is offered at less than half the price of the Jaunt ONE, coming in at $40,000. With only 8 cameras, it’s lighter on its feet, offering 4K resolution.
The OZO also has a shortcoming that the company has repeatedly underplayed in the past. It has a stereoscopic blind spot in the rear. Nokia claims that most 360° capture is for seated experiences, and so the need for stereoscopic in that area is limited. However, for $40,000 we expected more. It’s like buying a luxury car and not getting GPS. Sure, you can use your phone for navigation, but didn’t I buy a luxury car?
That said, one of the key things that makes the OZO impressive is its live streaming capabilities via the OZO Live software. While this is an extra feature (not free), you’d be hard pressed to stream footage that matches its quality with any other camera or service.
2. Orah 4i
When it comes to accessibility, VideoStitch’s Orah 4i is likely the biggest “bang for your buck” 360° video camera out there. While it doesn’t offer stereoscopic capture, it still maintains a high level of quality with 4K resolution on each of its 4 camera modules. What’s also nice is that it offers live stitching locally, rather than using a cloud-based service, cutting out any potential delays from connectivity issues. The Orah is packaged with a “stitching box” that attaches to the camera. This makes it the first camera with live streaming capability totally built in, without requiring you to configure any additional services. For that reason, we feel it’s a strong play for creators that want to livestream on Facebook or YouTube.
1. Yi HALO (Google Jump)
Our top pick goes to the Yi HALO. Created in partnership with Google Jump, this 360° video camera is a bit pricier than the Orah 4i, but far more accessible than the OZO or Jaunt ONE. It offers a solid set of features, including stereoscopic capability and high resolution (between 5.8K and 8K) using its 17 cameras. As part of Google Jump’s lineup (the other key camera being GoPro’s Odyssey) it includes access to the Jump Assembler service, offering automatic stitching of your footage through the cloud. Like the Jaunt ONE, the HALO does not offer a livestream capability. All the same, its other features manage to rival Jaunt’s for a fraction of the price.
But probably the biggest reason for ranking the Yi HALO as our #1 360° video camera is the quality of the experience. We were able to view footage through a regular Google Daydream (as opposed to a Vive or Oculus) and we were blown away. The stitching was seamless and the experience felt immersive, which is rare for a smartphone-base experience. This definitely made it the winner for NAB in our books.
Want to know more?
If you’re not through geeking out with me on these new technologies, we’ve also put together a comprehensive chart of 360° video camera detailing the features and prices of each one. We get into the more techy aspects, like frame rate, and give you the ability to compare side by side.
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