360-degree video is a fun tool for enhancing creative pieces, but it takes a while to perfect.
I’ve had a strong fascination with innovations in video and film in the past few years. The newest thing this year is of course virtual reality. With Apple’s announcement at WWDC that they would begin integrating VR and AR support into their desktop and laptop computers, it’s suddenly become more relevant to more of the world. Even though that is the latest trend, this summer I become enamored with 360-degree video. I really wanted to test out a set of cameras that were prosumer level and easy to use. So, I sought out the Kodak SP360 4K VR Camera and started working with it.
The PixPro SP360 cameras are actually action style cameras. They are designed to be able to go wherever you need them to and they fit in the palm of your hand. I would actually equate them to be the size of a GoPro. There are two cameras in the Dual Pro Pack and the video is designed to be ‘stitched’ together using Kodak’s PixPro Stitch software. Each of the two cameras has a 235º field of view and a 360º spherical lens. The PixPro system is YouTube and Facebook compatible and the stitching software actually has an option for exporting directly for those applications.
There are two main viewing modes – global and front. I recommend making sure your cameras are set to ‘front’ before shooting because it will make a more traditional looking 360 video. The standard shooting mode is ‘movie’, but there are several other shooting modes including: loop recording, time-lapse, high-speed movie, snap shot photo, and burst. Each one of these modes as a separate menu of settings and it can really take some time to wade through it all.
The PixPro SP360 is really pretty easy to use. I found the more I used it that there were more and more options to add in, but the basic shooting feature is pretty straightforward. The first step in the testing process was to shoot some video. The two camera bodies fit into an assembly that has them sitting back to back. This assembly can then be mounted onto a tripod or onto the Self Shooting Pole that is included with the Dual PRO Pack. I found that this is the easiest way to test out the cameras because the pole is essentially a selfie stick. I mounted the cameras on it and then walked around the downtown area that I was in to capture video.
The pole does extend out a couple of feet, but when you hold it above your head, you might still capture some of your head. That’s where the stitching software comes in. Kodak has a free software — PixPro 360 Stitch — that can be used to pull together the two sides of your video. The software actually does a pretty good job of stitching the two pieces of video together and it’s pretty easy to understand as well. I did notice that the software did end up using a lot of my computer’s resources when it was building out the stitched video. My computer got a lot warmer, Safari and Mac operations slowed down, and when I ran a system report, it turns out that 6.4GB of memory was being allocated to PixPro 360 Stitch. While it’s not a deal breaker for me, I wanted to be sure and note the system usage.
While the process for creating a 360 video with the Kodak system was pretty straightforward, I did get hung up on the final steps of the creation process. I had exported a video from PixPro 360 Stitch, but when I opened the video in my standard video software (QuickTime), it looked warped and very odd. I’ve included a screenshot below of my test footage in QuickTime.
At this time, QuickTime does not support 360-degree viewing on desktop computers. So, I downloaded GoPro VR Player, which does. It’s a free piece of software that allows you to view and interact with your newly created 360-degree video. It works really well and all you have to do is drag/drop your video into it and click ‘play’. In order for me to actually show the 360 video test using the GoPro VR Player, I did a screen recording using QuickTime as I interacted with the footage. I also included a demo of the 360 video that you can interact with using your mouse or smartphone. NOTE: Only certain browsers are compatible with 360 Video viewing. Playback on Desktop: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Edge. Playback on Mobile: Vimeo iOS app, Vimeo Android App, embedded videos on mobile browsers for Android.
I do want to note that the video resolution that the PixPro 360 Stitch outputs can go as high as 3840 x 1920. The QuickTime screen capture is done at 720P and the live 360 demo was exported at 1920 x 960. I found it a bit odd that the standard 1920 x 1080 resolution was left out as an option. You will notice a couple of times where my head comes into view and it’s sort of broken in two. Well, that indicates where the video streams don’t quite match up. It’s a stitch point and I purposely didn’t try to adjust it in order to illustrate what the video looks like. I was very pleased with the high-quality video that the Kodak SP360 cameras produced.
As much fun as I had playing with the 360-degree cameras, I discovered that no matter how easy the cameras are to use, or how simple the stitching software is, that in order to create a really nice 360-degree video, you have to have patience and you need to take the time to perfect your technique. Even though the cameras themselves are very easy to use, it will take time for you to get used to how the functions can enhance your videos. You can very easily get the cameras out of the box and start shooting immediately. But I don’t recommend that. You should take the time to read through the user manual and really understand all the settings. It is a nice, user-friendly set up if you are wanting to get into capturing 360-degree video, but it is a little pricey to just try it out.
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