Note: Most of the samples here were shot prior to LucidCam’s firmware update last week, which increased maximum The number of pixels in an image, typically presented as a ratio of the total pixels on x axis to the total pixels on th... More to 4K per eye, and are 2K per eye. The tennis sample immediately below, which we received from LucidCam, is 4K per eye.
LucidCam is the first VR180-capable cameras on the market. The under-$500 camera is shipping now and can capture and Distribute video playback in real-time. 4K-per-eye video at 30fps, as well as 4K still images (as of last week’s update).
The camera’s official release date was announced only days after Google announced its new VR180 file format for YouTube, and its partnerships with LG, Yi Technologies and Lenovo to create VR180 cameras.
The goal with VR180 was to give content creators a stepping stone into VR content while retaining some of the same rules of fixed frame: the ability to frame, a familiar camera form factor and process, not having to be in every shot, and no stitching.
I got to play with the camera a bit early while bumming around southern California, and here’s what I learned, what I loved and why I liked VR180 more than I expected to.
About the LucidCam VR180 camera
So, if it wasn’t clear already, the LucidCam only captures 180 x 180 degrees of video–so, half of a sphere.
But, what you gain is the ability to deliver Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More video (two video feeds: one right eye, one left eye) without bogging down processing, uploading and streaming times–at least, not any more so than with a flat 360 video.
The LucidCam is pretty small–pocketable, almost–at 8 ounces and 131x67x25mm. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it looks like a regular camera (I still got many, many strange looks while using it), it operates more like a traditional camera than a 360 camera does.
For example, I could frame my shots, the form factor and process of the camera is more familiar, I don’t have to worry about The seams in a 360° video where footage from one camera has been combined with another., and I didn’t have to hide. Those were all benefits not so much of the camera, but of the VR180 format in general–but I’ll save that for another post. Let’s talk about the camera itself.
Using the camera was really easy. When I first received the camera, I also got a one-sheet and a video to walk me through starting the camera and connecting my iPhone for the first time. But, quite frankly, it was simple enough that the instructions weren’t even necessary.
Here’s how to get set up:
- Simply turn on the camera.
- Press the Wifi button next to the shutter.
- Select LucidCam from your phone’s Wifi options.
- Key in the password (printed on the side of the camera).
- Open the app and select the camera icon in the bottom middle.
Then, every time you connect you follow the same process and skip the password. One note, it seems like your smartphone’s Wifi needs to be enabled before turning on the camera. Typically, after selecting LucidCam from my network options, I’m connected within a few seconds.
The app is also really easy to use. You can explore other peoples’ content, view your gallery, control your camera and more. The only glitch I experienced while using the app was resolved when I updated to the latest version.
The camera itself is also simple. Toggle the switch to turn the camera on: left for a photo and right for video. It does Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. about 5 to 7 seconds to start up, unlike the Garmin Virb 360 or Keymision 360 which start capturing the second you turn the camera on. Five to seven seconds doesn’t sound long, until there’s something really cool happening that you want to capture. But, still, it’s a lot faster than some rigs and comparable to many competing cameras.
The lights on the top of the camera blink on startup and show you your Wifi, power, storage and recording status. They are a bit hard to see in really bright conditions, but you can also check these things within the app under settings when the camera is connected. The top of the camera also has a shutter button and a button to enable Wifi.
The front of the camera features two A lens or focal length that shows more in the frame than a typical human field of view. (As opposed to a telephoto lens ... More lenses with a fixed f/2.2 aperture. They do stick out a bit and can get scratched easily, just like most 360 camera lenses, so Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. care to use the sleeve the camera comes with.
The bottom of the camera has a ¼-inch tripod thread, as well as HDMI and Micro USB ports and a Micro SD card slot protected by a removable rubber covering. The camera itself has 32GB of built-in space and can support Micro SD cards up to 32GB.
It can be charged via the Micro USB port and has a battery life of 1.5 hours. This actually surprised me because it seemed like I used the camera a lot longer than that before needing to recharge it, though I did try to conserve battery whenever I could. It can recharge completely within 2 or 3 hours.
The camera also has two microphones to capture spatial audio. Check it out in this sample from the camera in the video above.
Filming with the LucidCam VR180 camera
Basic functions of the camera can be controlled manually on the camera, but advanced features are accessed through the app. Essentially, the app can control everything except turning the camera on.
There is a couple seconds of lag when you start recording from your smartphone–just be patient. If you hit it twice, you’ll end up with one very short video clip!
You can adjust the white balance, either using the camera’s automatic white balance, or selecting from a number of presets: incandescent, fluorescent, daylight, cloudy daylight, twilight and shade.
You can also adjust The measurement of the brightness and range (latitude) of light being captured by the camera. Exposure is governed by ca... More (-6 to +6) and ISO (200 to 3200), though in my experience, auto worked pretty well in most situations. Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do in extremely low light situations, regardless of access to these settings.
The camera also features internal A process to reduce shakiness caused by an unstable camera. for motion shots. Here are some samples using the camera held by hand:
Overall, I thought the camera did a great job capturing bright colors–look at the flamingo and coast shots below. But, the edges of the shots are, of course, less sharp and colorful. Overall sharpness could definitely be improved, but the 4K update released last week will certainly help (all of this footage was shot when the camera was limited to 2K-per-eye).
The camera’s automatic exposure worked pretty well, but there was some definite loss of detail in the shadows. There is also some lens flaring in my shots with the sun overhead.
In my opinion, the footage looked best when the objects were between 7 and 15 feet away. Objects in the distance tend to look flat and nearby objects can cause double vision. This seems more pronounced when the object is directly in front of the camera, rather than to the side, and is more obvious in videos than in photos.
Editing and sharing content from the LucidCam VR180 camera
To share from the app, save the photo or video to your device, and go to your gallery. Tapping the arrow in the top right corner allows you to share 360 content to Facebook, or cropped video to Twitter and Instagram (like below). Being able to share directly to YouTube would also be a nice option to implement in the future.
When you’re playing footage in the app, it is automatically reflected behind you, but when you share to Facebook, you’ll need to select a background from handful of preset options. Right now, that includes three options with the Lucid logo, and two patterns. It would be great to be able to choose a solid color, upload your own background, or select a still from the video to reflect behind you, either in focus or blurred. LucidCam said they were working on allowing users to upload their own logos, customize text or upload an image or a different video.
It’s also worth mentioning that it shares to Facebook as a flat video, only 2K until the update. So, it definitely doesn’t demonstrate what the camera can really do.
The dots in the bottom right corner allow you to save the photos and videos to your camera Term meaning “record,” dating back to a time when physical film was rolled on an axle past the gate of a camera. to edit in other apps or share to your computer. You can also import directly from the camera via the Micro USB cable. One thing I noticed was how quickly the files transferred from the camera to my phone. A couple seconds for photos and usually not more than a minute or two for videos.
One really important note: the Lucid app automatically saves videos as a spherical file, by default. You have to select “Stretching a spherical image into a flat, rectangular format. (i.e. the way a world map represents the spherical Earth).... More” in the settings prior to capturing your video! I didn’t know this and had to convert the files from spherical to Stretching a spherical image into a flat, rectangular format. (i.e. the way a world map represents the spherical Earth).... More with Skybox to be able to edit them in Premiere. However, since I tested the camera, LucidCam’s default file format is now Stretching a spherical image into a flat, rectangular format. (i.e. the way a world map represents the spherical Earth).... More.
Once the files are in Stretching a spherical image into a flat, rectangular format. (i.e. the way a world map represents the spherical Earth).... More format, you can edit them just as you would anything else using Premiere.
Another big change from when I first began testing the camera until now is the process to edit and prep your footage to be shared. Previously, that involved applying a LucidCam to YouTube template available here to your clip using Adobe After Effects CC2017 and running a third-party Spatial Media Metadata Injector available here. Now, LucidCam has its own proprietary conversion tool that does both of those steps in one, available only for Windows, here.
After exporting your footage from Premiere, open it in the YouTube Converter tool, select non-mirrored output (the back 180 degrees of the video will be black) or mirrored output (the 180 video will be reflected on the back half of the 360 space), wait for it to process, and press Convert.
This will save another file to your desktop that will look like this:
Then, in the YouTube Converter, click “Add Metadata” and open the file above, saved with _YT after the file name (for example, RockyCliff_YT.mp4). Then, select if your video is spherical and whether or not it’s 3D.
After the metadata is injected, a new file will be saved to the location you’ve selected, with the addition of _injected to the file name (for example, RockyCliffs_YT_injected.mp4). Now, you can upload the file to YouTube and YouTube will activate 360 3D playback.
It’s also worth noting that the LucidCam can Distribute video playback in real-time. video, as well. However, I didn’t end up using this feature while playing with the camera.
You can also connect three LucidCams together to capture up to 24K Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More 360 video.
I enjoyed shooting VR180, in general, and with the LucidCam, in particular, more than I expected to.
The camera and the app were extremely easy to use, and the image quality was better than I ever expected: bright colors, good Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More depth, decent The measurement of the brightness and range (latitude) of light being captured by the camera. Exposure is governed by ca... More, minimal issues.
It also made me see use cases for this new media type that combine the best of fixed frame, 360 and 3D.
Being able to frame made it significantly easier to direct the audience and Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. charge of your story. Not needing to hide would also make interviews a bit more comfortable. A lack of The seams in a 360° video where footage from one camera has been combined with another. could make it useful for stories with a lot of motion around the camera.
All of those features, plus the addition of depth, would make it an ideal camera for stories where the user should be looking in one direction and action in the scene is occurring 7-5 feet from the camera.
With, of course, the added bonus of requiring half the processing, uploading and streaming time (at least for flat 180), which could be particularly valuable if YouTube’s stats that viewers spend 75 percent of their time in a 360 video looking within the front 90 degrees.
However, there are a few really important things to consider:
- To Individual instance of a shot; a take = each time the camera is started and stopped. full advantage of the camera’s key feature–depth–viewers will need to be watching in a headset. And, at least now, we know most of them aren’t.
- Some platforms, like Veer and Delight VR already support VR180 formats, and YouTube doesn’t yet support the format. Until YouTube’s VR180 format and workflow is fully realized, you’ll still have to share these as 360 videos, so the processing, uploading and streaming benefits won’t be as valuable as they should be.
This review and those considerations aside, the camera–and VR180 in general, for that matter–doesn’t really need to prove itself to us, the content creators. What really matters is how people enjoy experiencing content in this new format. For that, we’ll have to create and see.
The LucidCam is available now for $499. For more information, visit the LucidCam website.