Nikon Key Mission
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Nikon Challenges GoPro With 360/VR Capture

GoPro created the action camera segment. Many others followed but, with the exception of Sony, all have met with limited success. With today’s announcement at CES, Nikon enters the fray and brings something entirely new to the table … 360 degree video.

Named the “Key Mission” (KM), Nikon’s first action cam is scheduled to deliver 360 degree, 4K video, the backbone of Virtual Reality (VR) capture. Technical details of the new camera remain vague, including battery life, price, recording codecs/formats and a delivery date.

Slightly larger than the GoPro Hero Session 4, Nikon’s KM is built to be flown on a drone. It is also shockproof to 7m, waterproof to 30m (100ft) and offers onboard vibration reduction. With that feature set and form factor, I expect the Key Mission to be found in many professional production kits, not just mounted to kayaks, base-jumping helmets and mountain bikes.

The biggest question mark remains the field of view (FOV). 360 capture implies a minimum of 180 degree FOV covering the X & Y axes, which will allow viewers a panning 360 degree POV (think looking left to right) in their VR rigs. If the KM also captures the Z-axis, it will add a head tilt to the POV, which creates much more immersive video.

The other open question is the post process. Will the KM somehow write 360 files natively? Or, will the two cameras capture two synced files which require stitching in post? I expect the latter, but the former would be a truly disruptive game changer. If files are written/assembled inside the camera, the post process for VR will get dramatically shorter and more robust.

Is 360 VR “a thing”? Yes, absolutely. Obvious early adopters are the adventure sports enthusiasts that made GoPro a household name. But, the real market is much larger. Real estate already offers 360 virtual tours most often built off of static images which have been stitched together. This sort of camera will reduce the cost and increase the ubiquity of this sort of virtual tour. We’ll see it expand well beyond real estate into all sorts of sales walk/fly-throughs. The commercial applications are limitless.

I have peers looking at using VR in live streams, wedding cinematography and sports performance analysis. Our company has already been asked to bid on two VR jobs with the end-products intended for the mobile space. And, the documentary/narrative film space has its eye on VR as well. Last fall, IFP Week 2015, dedicated an entire day of programming to transmedia and VR project development. Over the last several years, 360/VR has been steadily growing at NAB as well. I expect that trend to continue for years to come.

360/VR is more than “a thing”; it is an emerging market. Nikon entering the space – with such apparent strength – underscores that point.

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