Today in this article, we are going to be discussing on action cameras specifically 360˚ ones as it is really popular now and will continue to.
If you are reading this post, you would have probably asked yourself “what are 360˚ action cameras”, “are they worth it?” or “how do you make 360˚ videos?” , if not, I guess you simply want to know more about it. Hopefully, by the end of this post, I can clarify some of your queries and doubts.
What is a 360 Degree Action Camera?
360˚ cameras also known as Virtual Reality (VR) Cameras are capable of filming the whole horizontal plane, ie. (360˚) and although the first ones were made a few years back (about 2014), only recently has it been popularised and people have found it useful due to the advancements in VR technology, which require the use of 360˚ action cameras and simply can’t thrive without it. You should have already realised that by now because of all the latest hype about it.
How 360˚ cameras are made
Many of the 360˚ cameras now actually consist of 2 lenses, one on the front and the other on the back.
The field of view of the majority of them are 220˚ x 220˚ and 360˚ x 360˚.
These lenses are able to record a full 180˚ on the horizontal plane and both of them when properly stitched (will talk more about that later), can form a 360˚ video. This also means that they are omnidirectional cameras, capable of 360˚ view in the horizontal plane.
Both of these lenses will then create a video resolution of 2:1 which you can see from the sample above.
If you are wondering why it is so expensive as compared to normal action cameras, this is because the processor that is responsible for handling, compressing and storing the footage has to be powerful and reliable. Furthermore, most of the cameras have 2 lens, which increases the manufacturing cost by a huge amount.
If you have followed VR cameras closely, you would also have realised that there is another type that requires usually about 6 cameras or so (but 24 for Yi Halo!), which is held together by an external holder. Although this is definitely much more expensive than buying one dual lens 360˚ camera like the one above, the quality produced by combining these cameras is way better.
Even if you are looking for the cheapest decent alternative, it will still cost $500, consisting of 6 Yi Action Cameras and the panoramic holder, not mentioning the amount of work to stitch all of them together too (if you want to do it with a free software).
How 360˚ Videos Are Made
Making a 360˚ video is definitely way more complicated than a normal video mostly because it is still a relatively new technology and tech companies aren’t customised to it yet, but it will be a matter of time before they do.
Most raw footage from 360˚ cameras I have seen are in 2:1 video resolution, dual spherical view like the picture sample I showed above, which is technically unusable because everything is very distorted and looks like a mess. That’s why post-editing is required.
Steps to Stitch 360˚ Videos
- Stitch them together using editing software
- Insert 360˚ video metadata using injection software.
The 1st step is to convert it from the dual-spherical view to a rectangular form and the 2nd step is for the social media like Youtube, Facebook, etc to know that this is a 360˚ video so that people are able to view it properly like turning around to look around in the video. Hence both steps are very important.
There are many software out there in the market that you can use but many of them do not come free and thus I highly recommend a free software called the Symax360 Player which you can download here and is available for Windows and Mac.
After you download and open it, import your raw media file into the app using the button on the bottom right. Afterwards, click on the bottom left button to convert and click on the option for rotation that you want (depends on how you mounted it) but usually, I use the second option. After that, change the video quality to high and click the triangle convert button.
After you convert, you would have the correct type of video although it will still look a little weird.
2. Injecting Metadata (If use with other editing softwares)
If you used the Symax360 player, there would be no need to do this step and you can proceed to post your video online. However, if you have used other software, this step still has to be done.
All you have to do is just download the Spatial Media Metadata Injector that is available here (Windows or Mac). Open your media and once done, click the first option only (My video is spherical (360˚) ). Click the second option only if you have 3D in your video. Once it is done, any social media will recognise that it is a 360˚ video and you are good to go and can post it online for your friends t o see.
List of Good 360˚ Cameras
This is the list of the 360˚ cameras that I found are really worth for the value they are offering. Included below are also some of the 360 camera prices.
This is one of the most affordable 360˚ action cameras that I found. The video quality is sharp enough and the colour is really vibrant. It has dual lens just like the other cameras at a higher price range and also comes with many mounts and clips to mount to where you need it to be.
Slim and Portable
Although this camera isn’t an action camera, is still very durable and very ideal for holidays, sightseeing and travelling. It is very slim and portable and can be easily put into your pocket to whip it out instantly. It offers a 5.1 surround sound recording, 13MP photos and 2K video recording.
Social Media Freak
Insta360 – Nano/Air
If you are into social media and the world of live broadcasting, you may want to consider this. It is able to be clip onto your phone and both the software and hardware integrates really well with the phone, giving you the convenience and hassle free experience. Also, it films in 3K resolution at 30fps.
It connects to your phone either via Micro-USB for Android or USB-C for IOS which are 2 separate models (Nano – IOS, Air – Android). The nano version is also more expensive because it is slimmer and newer than the air.
Overall, I feel 360˚ and VR technology will keep getting more popular as time goes and before you know it, everybody owns a device which is capable of viewing and recording full 360˚ videos.
And because of that, competition will surely increase and as you know, when that happens price has to drop. An example that I have observed is the Samsung Gear 360. It originally retailed at $300+ but now I can easily find one on Amazon which sells at about $190.
As for the quality of the camera, I have to be honest, most of the lower price point cameras aren’t that great. Even though they claim it to be 1080p, most of the times since the video is so wide and covers so much detail, the quality won’t be as clear when compared to cameras having the same recording resolution, so you’d would have to bear that in mind. But most have 2K resolution and above which is nothing much to worry about.
Another thing especially for those of you who are looking for a 360˚ camera, would be to buy a good SD card, at least a UHS Speed Class 3 ,because you wouldn’t want your camera to lag because of the SD card. You can check out my recommendations if you are interested here.
That’s all for this article. If you have any queries of have any camera models that you’d want me to look at specifically, I’ll really appreciate if you drop a comment so please feel free to do so! With that, thanks for reading and have a nice day! 🙂