Facebook presents a 360°video capture system
CAPTURE. After the acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014 and the implementation of a video player that can display 360° videos for its site, Facebook is starting the next step in its plan to democratize virtual reality and immersive videos : facilitate the capture of content at 360°. Called Surround 360, the system is composed of 17 cameras connected together and capable of filming each in ultra-high resolution (8K). 14 cameras are arranged in a circle in order to capture a panoramic image. In addition to these, a wide-angle camera filming upwards, and a couple of two wide-angle cameras filming downwards. The two cameras located under the device are positioned so that the foot of the device is not visible in the final rendering. Although the social network would like more 360 content on its site, it does not want to position itself as a camera builder and has therefore decided to make the project open-source, so that interested companies can launch their own devices. The web giant specifies that the cost of manufacturing the Surround 360 is $ 30,000 (€26,500).
Virtual reality or immersive video ?
Although very close cousins, we can still differentiate these two technologies. Virtual reality is an interactive simulation, so the user can progress and manipulate objects in an imaginary or realistic environment. Immersive video is distinguished by the absence of interactivity with the broadcast content, often a video in which the viewer can only decide the angle of view by turning his head.
The challenge of post-production
In addition to the technological challenge of designing such a system, Facebook engineers had to deal with a major problem with 360° videos : post-production, that is, the processing of the image by an operator, its editing and exploitation. Indeed, the work of a classic video filmed in high resolution can be long and complex, so imagine an assemblage of 17 HD videos glued together and you will have an idea of the puzzle of exploiting content at 360°. Where, at present, the processing of such files requires several days, even weeks, Facebook has fashioned an algorithm capable of drastically reducing these delays and reducing them to a few tens of hours. The storage of these files during recording also required reflection so that it was possible to record live 17 video streams on a hard disk. The use of simultaneous and distributed write hard disk (RAID 5) will allow the recording of videos that can last several hours.
Intended for professionals, this camera wants to be for Facebook the missing link in the immersive video industry, allowing to multiply the content for its site, and its virtual reality headset the Oculus Rift. The project’s sources will be open access from this summer.