Facebook announced a new video capture system named Facebook Surround 360 on April 12. The hardware and software video solution provides a professional, end-to-end system that automates the normally complex process of producing 360° panoramic video for 3D Virtual Reality (VR) use.
Like other 360° systems, the Surround 360 consists of an array of video cameras pointing in every possible direction. However, many basic 360° camera systems are “monoscopic” and appear flat because they lack depth. The Surround 360 is a “stereoscopic” system that uses two cameras to simulate the left and right eyes when capturing each location in a scene. This allows for a believable 3D experience because of the increased depth perception to the user.
Brian Cabra, Director of Engineering at Facebook, cited one of the most critical parts of the system to be the stitching software. Stitching video refers to the process of merging video from the various 10-20 cameras pointing in different directions to form a complete picture that appears continuous and as undistorted as possible when viewed through VR hardware. Typically, the this stitching process is done by hand and is labor intensive. The Surround 360 does this stitching process automatically through a series of imaging algorithms.
Another important feature of Facebook’s 3D-360° video capture system is that the camera and the software will be open-sourced to outside developers. Competing video capture systems tend to be proprietary, have very limited availability or be generally unreliable. According to Cabra, open-sourcing the system will:
“Accelerate the growth of the 3D-360 ecosystem… We want others to join us in refining this technology. We know from experience that a broader community can move things forward faster than we can on our own. All the software and hardware blueprints will be made available by the end of this summer. Make it faster, cheaper, smaller. Make it better. We’ll be working to do the same here. We can’t wait to see what you develop and, ultimately, what you create with it.”
The Facebook Surround 360 can produce up to 8K video and works with Gear VR. It is production-ready and is rugged and reliable. The cameras can operate for a long time without overheating.
View Facebook’s promotional video on the technology below:
Source: Facebook. Read Brian Cabra, Director of Engineering at Facebook’s announcement.