During the keynote address at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, the social media giant announced Facebook Surround 360: an open-source 3D-360 camera aimed at the professional marketplace.
Surround 360 is not a toy. This rig boasts 17 cameras all contained in specially designed housing to prevent overheating. The images from these cameras are then cobbled together via the Facebook-created stitching software in order to become a seamless 360-degree film.
Facebook will not be mass producing and shipping these cameras on its own. Instead, the plans and software will be released free online and made available to anyone who thinks they could put the device to good use. Facebook explained this in greater detail in a blog posted shortly after the product’s announcement:
The system includes a design for camera hardware and the accompanying stitching code, and we will make both available on GitHub this summer. We’re open-sourcing the camera and the software to accelerate the growth of the 3D-360 ecosystem — developers can leverage the designs and code, and content creators can use the camera in their productions.
Free can be a misleading term here since completing one of these cameras will cost you around $30,000. That price tag is certainly high, but only when taken at face value. If you compare it to the other, similar pieces of technology then it is a much more mid-range purchase. For example, Nokia’s Ozo camera – which also targets professional filmmakers – costs $60,000 and GoPro’s Odyssey Camera will run you around $15,000.
The official specs for a completed Surround camera are as follows:
-Resolution: 2048×2048 – 4.1 Megapixel
-Frame Rate: 60 FPS Max
-Interface: USB 3.0
-Top and bottom fisheye lens
-Focal length: 2.7mm
-Manual iris range: F1.8 – F16
-Angular FOV: 185° x 185°
Wide Angle Lens Ring
-Focal Length: 7mm
-Mass: 90 Grams
-Fixed Iris F2.4
-Top Plate: 1/4″ thick Mic-6 aluminum alloy black anodized finish
-Bottom plate: 3/4″ thick Mic-6 aluminum alloy black, anodized finish
-Top and bottom shell 18 gauge SS powder coated
We had the chance to see videos produced by the Surround camera on the F8 showroom floor. And, while very impressive, the results did not seem significantly better than those provided by other cameras of a similar design. We don’t expect average viewers to easily recognize Facebook Surround-created video more than any other high-quality 3D-360 camera system. That said, it will be interesting to watch what people do with the technology after Facebook lets creators access it this summer.