An announcement came at Facebook’s F8 developer conference stating that the company is partnering with camera maker RED to develop a professional-grade virtual reality camera system capable of capturing high-resolution imagery in so-called six degree of freedom (6DoF) allowing it to be viewed in real time within virtual reality. The rig, is a result of the internal efforts of Facebook on its Surround 360 platform. The upcoming VR camera is what Facebook will be suggesting to filmmakers and other creators who want to make the most hi-fi, immersive entertainment and art.
A director of engineering at Facebook specializing in computational photography said that, “A year ago we set out to find a hardware partner to help us deliver this technology.” Facebook required not just “the image quality we wanted,” but also the workflow that will give creators ability to easily capture necessary photography and video on set and transfer same to the appropriate software that will stitch it together and help create VR-ready experiences, what Cabral calls a “photon to photon” experience.
According to Cabral, “We’ve taken all of our learnings over the past two years and all of our cameras and algorithm development to… inform a lot of our decisions on both our partnerships and the design of the cameras. We’ve also listened to a lot of people who use our prototypes and others to incorporate all the learnings in the industry to shoot with VR cams. A lot of the feedback we get is how easy to use it on set.”
With the partnership that Facebook currently has with RED, it appears that Facebook has at last found a company with a reputation in Hollywood and indie filmmaking circles for its technical mastery to push high-end VR video closer to the mainstream. Cabral stated that the camera is designed for professional storytellers. He added that, “The idea is to enable the best storytellers and give them the best equipment.”
There is no information on the price of the camera as of yet, but given that the products of RED are always scaling between $5,000 to $15,000 and even up to $50,000 so it’s safe to assume that the camera will be very expensive. The benefit for Facebook, is, the more high-end VR content that available, the more attractive its Oculus and video-centric Facebook Watch platforms will be.