The problem with the traditional technique of texturing the inside of a sphere with a 360 equirectangular image or video to form a background in a virtual scene is that it looks like a painting of reality when viewed in a VR headset. What’s missing is a sense of depth. The Samsung 360 Round looks like it could solve that problem by live streaming a 3D 360 feed with 4096 x 2048 resolution per eye. Hopefully this would mean that the background would merge better with virtual objects in the foreground.
The downside is the cost ($10,500!) and the PC requirements for live streaming – a couple of GTX 1080 Tis (total about $1500) and an i7-6950X CPU (around $1500) makes for a pretty expensive setup. And I am not sure if I understand this correctly but you might need two PCs with that setup. Yikes.
One of the things I have come to realize with 360 degree cameras is that it’s tough to hide anything in the video. You can get a good view of my shredded jeans in this fairly surreal snap.
This was captured from the VIRB 360 HDMI feed by a Blackmagic Pro 4K using the SDK. This took longer than expected as for some reason the captured image seems to be 1920 x 2160 but in a 3840 x 2160 buffer. Not sure what’s going on but obviously it would be nice to find the source of this problem so that the full spatial resolution is available. I cheated for the moment just by doubling each pixel in the horizontal direction.
The screen capture above shows what the output looks like using the CapturePreview sample that’s part of the Blackmagic SDK. Maybe it’s a driver issue of some sort. The right hand side has in the past contained previous captures at other resolutions. It’s very odd.
Incidentally, while working on this the battery on the VIRB 360 died because it was on for quite a while and I have now discovered that you can indeed fit a USB cable and HDMI cable at the same time if you are prepared to break things :-). I might actually file down the plastic covers on the cables so that they fit nicely. This will make software development a lot easier!
The micro-HDMI cables turned up so I was finally able to try out the Garmin VIRB 360 HDMI port. The photo above shows the result although it is a photo from the screen of a 4k monitor and there is a bit of reflection – the real quality is much better than this. The stitching really isn’t noticeable in this 3840 x 2160 video sample and it seems like the HDMI output is going to be perfect for my projects. The VIRB Mobile app makes it pretty easy to set up and control the camera which is very handy.
One thing that is noticeable unless the camera is modified is the door that covers the HDMI port!
Without this high tech modification, the spring on the door ensures that the door is in the frame.
Another thing that is a shame is that you cannot connect a USB cable to power the camera at the same time as an HDMI cable. However, Garmin do have a powered tripod mount that would solve this problem. I guess there is going to be one of those in my future. Also in my future is a different tripod system so you can’t see it as clearly as in the first photo!
Next step is to get it working with the Blackmagic video capture card.
360 degree video is all the rage right now so I cannot be left behind! One of the things I like about the Garmin VIRB 360 is the in-camera stitching and very high resolution. It is also incredibly small. Judging by my photo though keeping the dust off will be a challenge :-).
Typically I forgot to order a micro-HDMI cable so I can’t test live capture to a PC but I can create videos on the SD card. Great fun!
Cable will turn up tomorrow with any luck. I am eager to see how usable the HDMI is for live 360 videos.