In a surprise announcement at SDC, Samsung revealed Project Beyond, a 360 degree 3D camera for filming virtual reality content. We got to take a look at the unit first hand and experience the VR video that it captures.
After trying the out videos provided by Project Beyond, the content shown was pretty neat. There was a series of videos that were mashed together during the demo giving a quick glimpse into what the camera can do.
One of the experiences shows a windy beach day where salty ocean waves continuously slapped up against the shore. This was filmed at Pescadero Beach on the western side of Northern California. The following scene was located at Pidgeon Point Lighthouse where a collection of people watch the water nearby. Being that this was mostly a static environment, details of the fence surrounding the camera could be seen. Looking closely, I could see the chipped paint that has been assaulted by the wind and waves. Another video features the San Francisco art museum where the I could check out the area surrounding the building. After the art museum was a fun clip of a Halloween party were people in costumes joyfully moved and circled around the camera in an office room. Some wore Power Rangers outfits, and another was wearing a Pikachu costume.
The Project Beyond website describes the footages captured by the camera as “stunning high-resolution 3D,” though we were left wanting. At times, it seemed like segments of the footage were blurry when dealing with moving objects. Items that remained still allowed details to be seen, but trying to view the specifics while something flew across the screen was difficult. Some objects seemed to be captured much more impressively than others; particularly in the lighthouse scene the fence seemed very detailed, though less defined patterns like grass seemed blurry.
The stitching, the alignment of overlapping camera views, seemed good for the most part but could be seen somewhat when there were well defined objects passing over the stitching boundaries.
A representative noted that the footage on display had to be compressed in order to run on the Gear VR headset, so it’s possible that we’ve yet to see the full capture quality of Project Beyond.
While on stage at the SDC keynote, Pranav Mistry, Vice President and Head of Think Tank Team, said, “What we’re talking about is live streaming videos. It captures more than 1GB of 360-degree 3D content every single second.” If the camera can stream content, the stitching and depth are presumably processed in real time. There is no info yet on whether the camera will be used for commercial or consumer use, but the design lends us to guess the latter. The Project Beyond website notes, “This is the first operational version of the device, and just a taste of what the final system we are working on will be capable of.”
Additional details for the rig shows that it contains 16 full HD cameras embedded around the outside of the device. There is another camera on top looking up as well. A plastic body holds all the electronics inside together. An image sensor and controller sits within the middle of all the cameras. The system processing and storage circuit lies underneath. There is an internal power source too which means that this setup can likely power itself when taken on the road. Currently the camera has no audio capture.
Although the camera itself won’t be available for purchase immediately, content generated from Project Beyond will be available for Gear VR.