VFX Studio Hive Division Shows off Their Custom VR Camera Rig ‘Panoptikon’

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Hive Division, an Italy based VFX studio, have teamed up with VR multimedia and marketing solutions provider InVRsion to create a very curious looking custom VR camera rig.

With Google Jump, a 16-GoPro rig made in partnership with GoPro, and Jaunt’s newly unveiled Neo lightfield camera on the horizon, content makers who want to make VR now are filling the gap with their own solutions.

The Italian partnership calls it Panoptikon, and although admittedly not the most compact or attractive of 360 rigs we’ve ever seen, it boasts off-the-shelf parts that aren’t outside the budget of small but motivated team to produce. The rig’s 14 GroPro Hero Black cameras—at $499 MSRP for each GoPro totaling just under $7,000 for the cameras alone—may sound expensive, but considering professional-level sensors can cost upwards of $31,200 (Epic-M Red Dragon) for a single unit, the off-the-shelf approach is the obvious choice for Hive Division’s 4-person team.

The Panoptikon rig not only creates quality stereoscopic videos, but does it in a unique way that lets them power the device and transfer video through two centrally located USB hubs—completely eliminating the time-consuming need to remove the cameras’ SD cards or charge them separately.

Although there are third-party stitching solutions available, VFX Supervisor Erik Caretta says that they “…prefer to go with a manual approach [because it] allows us to reach a far better quality.” CEO Giacomo Talamini told us that the processes of stitching the videos, which at times even involves rotoscoping elements as they cross the stitches, is a delicate and time-consuming process that must be handled on a case-by-case basis to get the best results.

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VR headset owners can download a sample of stereoscopic 360 video taken with the Panoptikon, which features a quick glimpse at the serene fountain (Fontana Maggiore) in the picturesque Northern Italian city center of Asolo.

Hive Division’s next step is to create a short sci-fi film with Panoptikon, an effort that will ultimately show what is possible when a small and flexible team come together to create film for VR. Talamini maintains that Panoptikon is an internal project only at this point, but support for it may persuade the team to potentially create a limited run for a hypothetical crowdfunding campaign.

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