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Moving into 360-Degree Cameras

Camera technology is constantly changing and it’s about to the point where we’re wondering. . . What do we want next? We have ultra-high megapixel digital cameras like the Canon 5Ds R and the Pentax 645z medium format camera, amazing low light cameras like the Sony A7s Mark II, great action sports and underwater cameras with the GoPro Hero 5, high frame rate cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon 1Dx Mark II… the list can go on and on.

More of what we’re seeing now comes in the form of one body, multiple functions. Stills cameras that shoot video, have plenty of megapixels and are small enough to carry in your pocket.

There’s also a new category of camera in the market and a lot of people are unsure what to do with it. 360-cameras have been surprisingly popular in the past year. The increased availability of VR headsets and 3D-capable viewers have made it possible to see what we create in 3D space. Major manufacturers are releasing cameras or rigs that can shoot 3D content, like the GoPro (multi-camera rig, that pairs 6 GoPros stitched together), Samsung Gear VR with a 3D camera and 3D goggles to view the content, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Nikon’s KeyMission 360 camera, Ricoh Theta 360 (yes, from the printer company), and so much more.

Nobody knows what kind of content we’re supposed to create with these cameras. That’s what makes it so much fun. Photofocus contributor Ron Pepper started playing with the Ricoh Theta camera at Photoshop World a few years ago and would take group photos in 3D, with everybody standing in a circle around the camera, rather than in a straight line. Our publisher, Rich Harrington, was in China earlier this year where he captured interesting sculptures and monuments in 3D. Then there is social icon Casey Neistat who captured this daring selfie with the Samsung 360 VR camera at the end of 2016.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOQFoEFBaJN/

Where can you view 360-degree content?

Facebook has a great viewer for 360-degree photos and video. When you’re viewing the photo or pano, you can rotate your phone to look around. They also have a great starter website that gives an intro to 360-degree photos, cameras, and best practices here: https://facebook360.fb.com/360-photos/.

Video creators are experimenting with 360-degree video on YouTube, but there’s so much more than just shooting to worry about. Editing 360 content is more complicated and processor-intensive than HD or 4K content. For best sound, 360 content requires spatial audio, which sometimes requires multiple microphones pointing in different directions. This makes the sound in the environment change when the viewer moves around as if they were actually there. YouTube has a few support articles detailing the recommended specs here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6178631?hl=en.

Here’s a video that National Geographic put out about brown bears on YouTube:

Have you experimented with 360 content yet? It’s not easy thinking about a 360-degree background all around the camera, but it does offer a unique perspective when looking at travel photos or videos and reliving experiences. I’ve only dabbled into 360, but it’s been fun to play with new tools and creating interesting images. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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