If you love oceanic videography or just want to experience deep sea diving without getting wet, you’re going to love Hydrus VR, a submersible 8K virtual reality video system designed for professional filmmakers. The unit uses a total of 10 cameras — eight in a horizontal circle plus two vertical — to capture 8K, 4K, or stereoscopic 4K imagery, notably with impressive low light capabilities.
Developed by Marine Imaging Technology (MI Tech), the system looks like a large metal can ringed by lens bumps. Weighing 75 pounds with neutral salt water buoyancy, it’s depth rated for 300 meter submersion, so it can be connected to a metal control arm or underwater robots, depending on the filmmaker’s needs.
Inside the can are Sony ultra-high sensitivity UMC-S3CA cameras equipped with SLR Magic lenses, plus enough storage capacity and battery life to record continuously for two hours. A subsea control module enables the recording time to be expanded to eight hours. Users can remotely monitor nine of the cameras in real time during shooting.
Sony’s camera sensors enable the system to capture video at a minimum illumination level of 0.004 lux (ISO 409,600), which is especially important when recording in places without their own lighting sources — a challenge that increases video noise and grain. While the sensors have a normal ISO range of 100–102,400, the four times lower “expandable” ISO gives filmmakers the option to accept additional noise where necessary to capture an underwater scene with particularly poor illumination.
You can see the camera’s performance yourself in this Cayman Islands panoramic YouTube video, which can be boosted using the Settings button up to 4K resolution, and turned 360 degrees horizontally using the controller. Hydrus VR creates the videos by stitching together multiple cameras’ output using a 60 percent image overlap, resulting in such a low-distortion composite that seams aren’t visible. Users can choose from 8,192 x 4,096 spherical output at 30 frames, 4,096 x 2,160 output at 120 frames, or stereo 4K for VR viewing purposes.
The result of all this technology is going to be spectacular underwater videography of the sort that will likely appear in movies and upcoming VR applications. MI Tech’s raw recordings are high enough in resolution to exceed the capabilities of virtually every current VR headset out there, but between downscaling and the march of technology, that won’t be a problem for filmmakers.
“We are very excited to help tell interesting stories and work with our partners to create an unforgettable experience,” said MI Tech founder Evan Kovacs, “an experience that will make audiences feel inspired to cherish, save and protect — and even one day visit — these underwater environments.”