Sphericam conducted a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 to develop the “world’s first 360º video camera for consumers”. The team is now back with what is on-track to be another successful Kickstarter campaign to launch the Sphericam 2. Sphericam 2 is a spherical camera that allows the user to capture their entire surroundings in high resolution and to do so without any blind spots. The videos produced by Sphericam are intended to be watched on a VR headset but it also can be viewed on a tablet, PC or smartphone.
The assumptions made by the team and that underlie their decision to develop the Sphericam products are based on two points.
The first is that, while several major consumer electronics companies are working to create VR viewing devices, the means for users to create high quality VR content remains insufficient to match the need.
The second starting point is the assumption that many creators of cinematic VR may be reluctant to invest in the learning curve associated with perfecting the operation of a multiple camera system and the difficult post processing needed to make a quality video.
Addressing these issues, the six cameras in the Sphericam 2 are intended to work seamlessly together to capture the surrounding world with a resolution of 4096 x 2048, at 60 frames per second, 10 bit color and do so “straight out of the box”. This is consistent with the resolution and frame rate of currently available VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Gear VR.
In professional applications, Sphericam 2 can capture huge files at a very high bitrate, with ‘nearly lossless’ quality. In less demanding applications, Sphericam 2 can output files that are smaller but still of very high quality. Further details are as follows.
Six individual videos, with a capacity of up to 60 FPS in Cinema DNG, up to 2.4 gigabits per second bitrate total (300 megabytes per second) are possible using the fastest type of memory card (Sandisk Extreme Pro). At 60 FPS, it is slightly lossy, but in practical terms, it is claimed, that the user will still have maximum freedom in post-production for color grading. At 30 FPS, the system is entirely lossless.
Using a micro USB to Ethernet adapter, it will be possible to stream either 6 unstitched videos compressed in H.264 (in an mp4 file) at up to 600 megabits per second (100 Mbit/sec per camera). Alternately, it is possible to stream a single stitched panoramic video, at a bitrate of up to 100 Mbit/sec.
One single, stitched panoramic video can be written to the internal memory of the camera in real time.
With built in Wi-Fi and streaming, viewing and sharing content on the user’s smartphone or desktop is planned to be simple. The system’s mobile app allows the user to start/stop recording and monitor the view while recording as well as transfer, view and edit the video.
Other features of the Sphericam 2 include the following:
- High dynamic range and multiple exposures will be available.
- Time lapse and other frame rates are available. It will be possible to shoot 1 frame per second/minute/hour, as well as other frame rates in normal video such as 15 fps, 24 fps, 25 fps.
- It will be possible to take still photos with a resolution of approximately 4100 x 2150. DNG or 16-bit tiff quality will be possible with still photos.
- Includes a GPS system.
- Automatic image stabilization.
- Built in microphones.
- Recording time is 60-90 minutes.
Sphericam 2 is constructed of anodized aluminum. The system offers a variety of mounting options. This includes mounting with a tripod, monopod or magic arm/clamp. Sphericam’s removable legs (which are invisible to the camera) can be added and serve to protect the camera against impact.
It is currently possible to reserve a Sphericam 2 on the company’s Kickstarter page. – Arthur Berman