Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Review: The VUZE - 360 3D VR PROSUMER CAMERA
A TERRIFIC 360 3D FULL SPHERICAL
360VR VIDEO CAMERA
360VR VIDEO CAMERA
The VUZE is a terrific camera for FULL SPHERICAL 3D VR video photography (ie XRography). It produces high quality, state-of-the-art, 360VR format videos. For several reasons, discussed below, this may be the most consumer-friendly VR camera for full 360 3D VR.
It costs only about $799, making it the least expensive high-quality full 360 camera for 3D VR photography. This could be the camera that brings full VR XRography to a mass audience.
It uses a 4 pairs of fisheye lenses (ie 8 in total), two in each quadrant, to photograph the entire sphere in 3D. Because the lenses are parallel, there are no stitching errors in the front, back, or sides (but stitching is needed at the corner directions). The camera has 4 microphones.
It looks like a flying saucer, or an eight eyed robot. About 12 x 12 x 3 cm. It comes with a clamshell carrying case.
The camera comes with software that can extract the raw video to a computer, then render the video to a 3D .mp4 at resolutions roughly 4K per eye. It will be a while before most people have a viewing headset capable of displaying this resolution. So the videos produced by the camera will be state-of-the art for some time, even as viewing options continue to improve.
It has a fixed, rechargeable battery. Photos and videos can be stored in a removable micro SD card. THE MICRO SD CARD MUST BE RATED U3 OR BETTER AND HAVE A SPEED AT LEAST 90 MB/SEC. In my experience U3 cards of 64 GB or bigger from SanDisk and Samsung have worked well. (Smaller, slower, cards have not worked.)
The VUZE can connect with Wi-Fi to a smartphone App.
The camera has a mini USB port and a slot for a micro SD card. (It is NECESSARY to use a fast card: 90 MB/second or faster.) Content on the microSD card is read by putting the micro SD card in the adapter and placing that in the SD card slot of the computer, then using VUZE software to import it.
The controls for shooting with the camera are very simple: there is a button on top of the camera to turn on the camera and another to start and stop the video. Video can also be started and stopped by the smartphone app.
I’ve dropped it and it still runs, so it seems pretty sturdy. It is a good idea to keep the camera covered when not being used, and to protect the lenses from dirt and scratches. The lenses are recessed which helps protect them. But the camera's flying-saucer shape does facilitate the camera's flying off your lap. (Hold it carefully.)
Processing and showing the videos is not hard, and we’ll discuss that below, along with shooting suggestions. This is a simple, convenient solution (and currently the least expensive) for shooting state-of-the-art 360 3D VR videos.
Support, both through the VUZE facebook group, and direct mail to firstname.lastname@example.org is very responsive.
The VUZE is a first-generation product and it does have some problems. These are mostly annoyances that can be dealt with. Moreover, even with the current hardware, the supporting software is continually changing and improving.
The camera captures 4 tracks of ambisonic audio. However, some special processing is necessary to extract all the tracks. Without processing and optimizing the sound in the direction of the important audio, ambient noise can interfere with the clarity of the sound you want to hear most clearly.
The microphones are tiny, and not capable of recording great sound. For high quality sound an external microphone should be used and then manually synced to the video.
The software supplied by VUZE stitches the video automatically. However, as mentioned above, the stitching in the corners is difficult. Best practice is to avoid important objects (especially moving objects and multiple objects at different distances) in the corners. To the extent possible, put the action at the front, back, and sides.
It sometimes requires several tries (or practice) to get the Wi-Fi connection established between the camera and the smartphone.
The indicator lights are hard to see when shooting in broad daylight. It is sometimes necessary to cup your hands around the lights to block the sunlight in order to determine the status. Using the smartphone can sometimes avoid the need for looking at the lights. However, sometimes it is difficult to handle both the camera and the smart phone at the same time.
At launch, the VUZE only supported Windows. I believe the software now supports MAC, but I have not tested it.
Using the VUZE is very easy. Turn on the camera, press the button to turn video on and off. Import the result to the computer with VUZE software. Render the video with VUZE software. The software allows you to trim the start and end of the video, to restrict the Field Of View (FOV), for example to avoid the camera operator behind the camera, and to choose where the center of the rendered image will be, if, for example, you want to start with a view which was off to one side when you shot the video.
The VUZE records in constant frame rate, and can be edited in Premiere Pro and other editors.
It is not a good idea to let the camera wobble, or move randomly. Also, set it level to the horizon.
Be careful: avoid ledges and cliffs, cars, tripping hazards, and biting hazards (insects or bigger animals). Also, avoid copyright infringement (audio, video, and content); and get releases (when you need them) before you shoot. Remember, the camera captures everything in every direction.
For best results, use a selfie stick, or tripod, or monopod, to support the camera.
Speak clearly and naturally but reasonably loudly; make sure unwanted sounds (airplanes, music in the background, other people talking) are soft.
Often, keeping the camera at eye level with the subject is the ideal placement. With a single subject, keeping the camera at roughly an arm’s length works well. Since the camera has a fisheye lens, objects get much smaller very quickly as they get further away. (A herd of deer, for example, at the other end of a field may look like squirrels with short tails.)
Moderately long takes – longer than you would use with a standard movie camera – are recommended. Letting the user settle into experiencing the scene at their own pace helps provide the user the feeling of immersion and presence, the two most extraordinary aspects of Virtual Reality video.
Among the many fabulous uses of the camera are: recording life’s memories, and making creative fiction and non-fiction movies (which become more real and alive by using the exciting, realistic, and immersive presence of 3D images and a very wide field of view). Experiment with new applications!
Enjoy the VUZE!
VUZERS FACEBOOK GROUP
(Note: Vuzers is the "official" term for people who use the VUZE)
BLACK FRIDAY SALE
DIRECT FROM VUZE
BLACK FRIDAY SALE
DIRECT FROM VUZE
VUZE (black, also available in red and blue) ON AMAZON
[*] These links seem to be functioning as this article is being prepared for publication. The state of change and of hacking being what it is these days, everything online is subject to change or to hacking. Links are provided “as is”, with no guarantees. Treat every link with care and a protection plan.
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