Saturday, June 11, 2016

Facebook Posts Detailed Instructions for Editing and Uploading 360 Photos

Facebook's Head of Immersive Imaging, Eric Cheng, posted a detailed article about editing and uploading photos to Facebook.



  • Facebook recognizes 360-degree photos based on the EXIF metadata.  Specifically, it looks at the Make and Model.  If the Make and Model correspond to a known 360-degree camera, it will present it as a 360-degree image.
  • Some editing programs can strip the metadata.  Facebook recommends the exiftool program to reinsert the correct metadata, which allows batch processing (editing a group of files instead of having to edit each file individually).
  • If you stitched the image yourself or used an unrecognized camera, you can still get the photo recognized as a 360-degree image by using the exiftool.  Just change the Make and Model  to make it look like a known 360-degree camera such as the Ricoh Theta S. (Make: RICOH  Model: RICOH THETA S).
  • For editing photos, e.g. cloning out the tripod, you need a panorama editor.  Facebook recommends a Photoshop plug-in such as Flexify 2 or Domemaster.  [My comment: I tried Flexify 2 and it works pretty well.  However, Hugin has similar functions and is free but less user-friendly.]
  • To clone out the tripod, you need to rotate the image -90 degrees latitude shift using Flexify, which puts the "bottom" of the image in the middle, where it can be easily edited.  After editing, you can restore the image orientation by rotating the image +90 degrees.
  • To edit the seam, you need to rotate the image 180 degrees longitudinally (again, using Flexify or a similar tool).
  • You can also rotate the image longitudinally to control what the viewer sees first.  Facebook will show the middle of the equirectangular image first.
I had difficulty viewing and posting 360-degree photos.  A member of the Facebook 360 Community suggested dragging a photo into a post (instead of clicking on "Add Photo"), which worked (first you have to click on the empty post, then drag a 360-photo into the empty post).

If you have Samsung Gear VR, there will be an option to view the 360 photo in VR, which makes sense because Facebook owns Oculus, which powers the Samsung Gear VR.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lenovo's 360-degree livestreaming camera

UploadVR reports that Lenovo is working on a 360-degree camera with livestreaming capabilities.  No word on specs, pricing, release date, or other features.  Check out UploadVR's post!

New aerial 360 video from Kodak SP360 4k and 3DR Solo

Kodak posted another aerial 360 video captured with the SP360 4k Dual Pro Pack mounted on a 3DR Solo Drone via the Aerial Pack.  This time, the video was taken among snowy mountains.  Check it out!

Insta360 Nano has customizable stitching!

The Insta360 Nano will feature customizable stitching during actual capture in the field (i.e., not during post-processing).

Insta360 and Laserco posted a new sample video which had impressive sharpness.

However, the video had a harsh stitching on one side:

Sometimes a stitching error is unavoidable but in this case, it appears there was sufficient overlap that it seems the software could have avoided it.  I inquired with Insta360 about whether there was a way to fix it.

The answer is yes.  According to Insta360, "You must calibrate the camera through the auto stitch function before shooting. This will remove the line where the dual camera footage joins together that appears in footage when the camera has not been auto-stitched prior to shooting.

Go to the Settings tab in the mobile APP > Select Auto Stitch > Select Accurate Stitch (about 1 minute) > Hold the camera still for 10 seconds while the camera is calibrating."

Insta360 apologized that in this case, they forgot to calibrate the camera before taking the video.

This is a unique feature not found in the Nano's competition such as the Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360, or LG 360 Cam (as far as I know).  The Kodak SP360 stitching software for the Dual Pro Pack does have customizable stitching in post production.

Exo360 Reaches Crowd-Funding Goal; New Sample Video

Exo360 (previewed here), the first drone with a built-in 360-degree capability, just exceeded their fundraising goal with 21 days to go, which means the project will be funded!

Meanwhile they posted a new sample video:

For related posts on the Exo360 or other 360-capable drones such as the 3DR Solo with SP360 Aerial Pack, please click on the tags/labels below the sharing buttons.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Correction: Facebook support for 360-degree photos is NOW LIVE

Just like the title says, Facebook will add support for 360-degree photos tomorrow June 10.  Reader Norman Lam pointed out that the Facebook support for 360-degree photos is now live! 

You need to update the Facebook app on your phone to take advantage of the new feature.

HERE is some more information about this feature, straight from Facebook itself.

Kodak SP360 4k / 3DR Solo Aerial Pack will be available mid-July 2016! See the sample video!

In July, Kodak will be offering the Aerial Pack, a bundle that includes two SP360 4k cameras, and a unique dual bracket to mount the SP360 4k above and below a 3DR Solo quadcopter, enabling a fully spherical capture while keeping it completely out of the camera's view.

Here is a sample video footage captured by the Aerial Pack:

The Aerial Pack will cost $999 (includes two SP 360 4k, the dual bracket, a selfie pole, suction cup mount, and an RF remote control to trigger both cameras simultaneously).  The bracket will also be available separately at a cost of $169.99 in the US, directly from the Pixpro store.

Official announcement HERE.  More information about the dual bracket here, including potential compatibility with other cameras.

Waterproof housing for Samsung Gear 360!

There will be a waterproof housing soon for the Samsung Gear 360.  I don't have any photos yet but it's described as completely transparent (I suppose similar to the GoPro housing) with an IP68 rating (resistant to 1.5m for 30 minutes).

The waterproof housing is Samsung part no. EF-YC200BTEGWW.   It is already being offered on some online stores in Europe, at a price of around €60, such as here.

With a waterproof housing, the Samsung Gear 360 competes directly with the Nikon Keymission 360, which had been distinguished from its competition by being waterproof but has been delayed to October.  The Gear 360 also competes with the Kodak SP360 4k which also has a waterproof housing for its Dual Pro Pack (a pair of SP360's to provide fully spherical video).

Thanks to @sn_ for spotting this and bringing it to my attention!

ELI5: What's the REAL difference between Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard?

Here is a short video summary I made of the difference between Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard which I described in my review of the Gear VR.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pre-orders for fully spherical EleCam 360

The EleCam 360 (previously posted here) will be available soon, and there's good news and bad news.

Good news: yes it's fully spherical, with two fisheye lenses (220 degrees each).  Yes it's affordable at $149.99 (pre order price).

Bad news: the previous announcement said that the sensor would be a Sony IMX117.  Actually, it will be an OV4689, a sensor used in security cameras and in several action cameras and hemispherical 360 degree cameras from China.  Here are samples of the OV4689.

The EleCam 360's video resolution is only 1080p at 30fps (similar to the Ricoh Theta S video).  The photo resolution is a rather low 3008 x 1504, slightly more than 1440p resolution.

Nonetheless, I think it is a notch above the first generation of 360 cameras from China which are hemispherical.

HERE is the product page.  HERE is the official preorder page.  A huge thanks to @MikeCane (Atomic Supermen blog) for spotting this and bringing this to my attention!

Forget room-scale VR: Free-Roam VR is what's next!

If you're reading this site, you probably know what's room-scale VR.  With room-scale VR as in the HTC Vive, you can walk around a room in virtual reality.  But that's nothing compared to Melbourne-based Zero Latency's Free Roam VR.

Free Roam VR is exactly what it sounds like: you're able to roam around freely in a 400 square meter space (4,305 square feet for us yanks).  In fact, the virtual world will feel even larger than that thanks to clever reuse of the physical space.

Multiplayer: Moreover, it will be a shared experience with up to 6 people at the same time - and you can see each other in the virtual world!  

Wireless: You won't be tethered to a desktop with long cables either.  Instead, each person will be wearing a VR-ready laptop.

Currently, Zero Latency uses a zombie survival game.  Here's the trailer:

Besides adding a sequel to its survival game, Zero Latency will be adding a space exploration experience and a puzzle experience.

Zero Latency will be opening locations in North America and Europe.  Zero Latency has also partnered with Sega to bring multiplayer FRVR to Tokyo, Japan.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sample video of Allie Camera used outdoors

Allie posted another sample video of the Allie Home being used outdoors, this time at Niagara Falls.

This is only the second outdoor video for Allie (the first was a video where the Allie was used in a race car).

The Allie Home was designed to be used indoors at a home or business, always plugged to an outlet. However, it appears Allie wants to expand to the standalone 360 camera market.  Rumor has it that they are working on an unplugged 360-degree camera.  The Niagara Falls video is not at all the way the Allie Home is normally used and therefore seems to reinforce the idea that they want to tap into the market for a standalone 360 cameras.

CyberLink confirms Gear 360 ActionDirector error with Intel HD Graphics 3000

When I experienced problems stitching photos on the Gear 360 ActionDirector, I contacted CyberLink.  They've replied and they confirmed that they are also experiencing errors based on the same platform that I have (a Dell laptop with Intel i5-2450M with integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, running Windows 10). 

Here is their reply (emphases added):

"Dear Michael ,
Thank you for writing us back.
Regarding your concern, I would like to inform you that the similar condition can be reproduced at our lab under testing platform.

As the 360 video or photos are captured/produced from the exclusive bundle hardware Samsung Gear 360, we have reported the case to our engineer team and hardware vendor (Samsung) for further technical investigation.

Currently, the root cause is unknown, there is no immediate workaround/fix available temporarily. It may take uncertain time to discover the problem.

If there are any progress of the investigation, we would inform you actively.

Please feel free to contact us back for any further clarification or for any assistance related to CyberLink Products. Use the below mentioned link to get back to us for your further queries: 
Thanks and Regards,
CyberLink Technical Support

I also could not convert either photos or videos on my other laptop running Windows 7 (an Asus with an Intel i5-2467M, also with Intel HD Graphics 3000).

The only clear solution I've found for this problem is to get a [used] Samsung Galaxy S6, which I use to stitch photos from the Gear 360.  For videos, I still use the ActionDirector (because videos stitched on the smartphone Gear 360 app are limited to 2k resolution).  Another possible solution is to upgrade my computer to a newer processor with newer graphics card, but that would be cost-prohibitive.

Samsung Gear VR Review: Why It's Much Better than Google Cardboard

I love Google Cardboard, and I think that it's one of the biggest reasons that 360/VR has become popular.  Meanwhile, there's the other mobile VR platform, Samsung Gear VR.  I thought it was just an overpriced alternative to the Google Cardboard until I tried it out and discovered how wrong I was -- it's on a whole other level of VR.

In this post, I'll review the Samsung Gear VR.  I'll cover these topics:
- a clear explanation of what makes Samsung Gear VR different from Google Cardboard
- how it works
- how Gear VR differs from HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR
- what it's like to view 360 photos and videos on the Gear VR, compared to Google Cardboard or a VR magic window
- features and specifications of the Gear VR
- some Gear VR apps
- problems / issues
- accessories and mods for the Gear VR
- alternative mobile VR solutions

A bag for your 360-degree camera

I found a bag for my 360-degree cameras that will allow me to keep my cameras attached to an iKross selfie stick tripod (reviewed here).

Monday, June 6, 2016

NeoEye: a 360-degree camera for Android and Windows smartphones

Image credit:

​NeoEye is a small fully spherical 360-degree camera that plugs into the USB port of Android and Windows phones, similar to the Insta360 Nano for the iPhone. It looks like the smallest fully spherical 360-degree camera I've seen.

There are no specs on it yet.   The price is targeted to be below $200, with a target release date before Christmas.  The manufacturer is also working on an iPhone version.

Here is a video of the NeoEye by 3c everyday

Check out the post about it on Pocket-Lint.  Thanks to Sarah Jones for bringing this to my attention!

Low light sample video from Insta360 Nano

Previously, I posted sample videos from the Insta360 Nano 360-degree camera for the iPhone.  Now here's a sample video in low light, from Laser, an Insta360 distributor for Australia and New Zealand.

Note that when viewing 360-degree videos (or photos) you are effectively looking at only a zoomed-in version of the video, which exaggerates any noise or artifacts.  So, when evaluating 360 videos, it would be more fair to compare it to other 360-degree videos rather than conventional videos.

For related posts on the Nano, CLICK HERE.

A comparison of sample videos from the Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360 and Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack

Markr041 from DPReview shared another sample video from the Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack, this time with cloudy skies.  The skies in his shot are similar to the one in the comparison video I took between the Theta S and the Gear 360, which makes it easier to compare the three cameras.

Here is the video from the Theta S and Gear 360 which I posted previously:

And here is the video from Markr041:

What do you think?

For reference, HERE is the previous comparison between the Gear 360 and SP360 4k.

Check out THIS related thread on DPReview's VR/360 forum.

An experienced panorama professional's view of the Ricoh Theta S

Henrik Fessler has been taking panoramic photos for six years.  The fact that the Ricoh Theta S captures fully spherical photos (and videos) at a touch of a button amazes him.

In his article, Henrik explains the laborious process that he had been using to capture panoramas.  The technically demanding process meant that only a few photographers could execute it properly.

Now with the Ricoh Theta S, literally anyone can capture a fully spherical panoramas.  In fact, the Theta can also do 360 videos.  What does Herr Fessler think about it?

"When looking at the 1:1 detail view, I can see lots of small image errors (Chromatic aberrations, image seams -especially when taking close up images-), let alone having missing capabilities to get the hands at the raw file (you only get a jpg out of this cam) or near to none possibilities to create a high quality HDR image.
But if you’re willing to let go of some high image quality standards, you can still quickly get images with low to average quality and low resolution (5376 x 2688 ~ 15 Megapixels ), that can be improved with some post processing … and still, they appeal to me!"
HERE is his blogpost.  Check it out!

DroneVolt Janus drone captures fully spherical aerial 360 videos with TEN GoPro cameras

The DroneVolt Janus is racing to be the first drone with built-in fully spherical 360 capture capability, and it will capture 360 with not one but two GoPro rigs, for a total of ten GoPro 4k cameras.

Hit the jump for more info and a sample video!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Compare sample videos from the Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack and the Samsung Gear 360

Someone I met on DPReview, Markr041, has the Kodak SP360 4k.  Meanwhile, I have the Samsung Gear 360.  We agreed to take some test shots at the beach with our respective cameras - he with the SP360 and I with the Gear 360.  See this thread.

We agreed to take the sample videos in sunny weather.  Unfortunately, although the weather forecast was for sunny weather, we got cloudy weather over the weekend and we're forecast for cloudy weather the rest of the week.  Sunny weather would improve the image quality by increasing the amount of light available and the contrast, so the Gear 360 is handicapped here.

FWIW here are the videos.  Both on YouTube (pls. switch to 4k resolution):

Here is the SP360 4k video:

Here is the Samsung Gear 360 video:

I watched the videos on Gear VR as well and took some screenshots of somewhat similar scenes.
SP360 4k dual

Gear 360

SP360 4k dual
Gear 360
SP360 4k dual
Gear 360
I'm going to try again next time we have sunny weather on a weekend.

One aspect of 360 video that wasn't tested in this comparison is the stitching.  One of my concerns with the Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack is that the stitching looks harsh on some sample videos, especially with nearby objects.  On the other hand, the SP360 4k's included stitching software allows for custom stitching.  I'm going to try to find out more about this.

We also didn't test low light performance.  The SP360 4k has an f/2.8 aperture while the Gear 360 has an f/2 aperture, a 1-stop advantage for the Gear 360.  On the other hand, the SP360's sensor is backside illuminated (for better low light performance).  I don't have any information on whether the Gear 360's sensor is also BSI.

UPDATE: Another comparison here (with more similar lighting).