Cutting-edge video camera maker Red Digital Cinema has partnered with Facebook and Oculus for a premium VR camera, the companies announced at 2018’s F8 developer conference. Red expects to release the first commercial recording device based on Facebook’s Surround 360 technology, a camera capable of capturing volumetric video that can be explored with six degree-of-freedom (6DOF) movements, using premium VR headsets.

The premise behind Surround 360 is to go beyond a traditional 2D video recording, which might capture a flat 90- to 120-degree image for display on a TV, monitor, or portable device. Using a spherical shape with multiple lenses pointing in all directions, Surround 360 cameras are capable of capturing stereoscopic 360-degree videos that are processed into a Lytro camera-style light field, enabling viewers to move left, right, up, down, backward, forward, and on tilted or rotated angles throughout the video.

While no pricing or release date has been offered, Red’s particular implementation of Surround 360 is expected to be expensive enough that only professional video producers will be able to afford it — but capable of producing premium-quality VR videos. According to RoadtoVR, an Oculus spokesperson confirmed the following details about the Red camera.

  • It will optimize pixel quality and count for pro-grade image quality, using 16 stops of light to provide depth estimation and color accuracy.
  • Full 3D information will be captured using the cameras in combination with Facebook’s depth estimation technology, enabling complete 3D reconstructions of captured scenes.
  • Red will offer the first end-to-end solution with all 360-degree 3D VR workflow elements in a single package, plus editing and production tools from Adobe, Foundry, and Otoy.

Sample video footage above highlights the camera’s impressive low-light and depth map-capturing capabilities, instantly enabling moving people and flames to be separated from background elements.

Originally announced at the 2016 F8 conference in a 17-camera “flying saucer” form, Facebook debuted large (X24) and small (X6) spherical Surround 360 reference designs at F8 in 2017, claiming at the time that they would be available later that year. Given Red’s track record of producing superb products that are subject to engineering delays, it’s unclear whether its as-yet-unnamed Surround 360 camera will be available this year or next, but we’ll be looking out for additional details.

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