Before NAB 2017, I was a Slang for Six Degrees of Freedom. skeptic. I didn’t see much value in being able to lean a few inches in any given direction—that is, until I actually experienced it in a headset.
Even the slightest bit of responsive motion made the headset experience significantly more comfortable. It also made me revisit just how promising Facebook’s announcement of two new volumetric video cameras really is.
Facebook’s x24 and x6 can capture 360-degree video with depth information, allowing viewers to move their heads forward, backward and side to side, in addition to being able to look in every direction.
Facebook’s Head of Immersive Media Eric Cheng joined us at NAB 2017 to talk about why Facebook decided to build yet another open-source camera to continue to propel VR content creation.
What is volumetric video?
“Volumetric video is about including depth info in what is captured,” Eric says. “We talk about Video shot with two parallel cameras (or in the case of 360° video, multiple pairs of parallel cameras) Commonly referr... More as being 3D, but stereo is really a display of two 2D images.”
Instead, the x24 and x6 capture RGB information plus depth data. “What we need to do is put it together into a 3D scene similar to what you might get in a computer game, and that’s what we capture,” he says. “If we play that back to someone, they can interact and move with The ability to move left-right, up-down, and forward-backward (in addition to being able to rotate around the x, y, and ... More.”
How much can you actually move?
“That depends on the content you’re the creator’s goals for the content,” Eric says. “The playback will be similar to what you capture in reality. You’re constrained by the capture volume and how big the camera is. Obviously if a camera isn’t there, you won’t be able to see from that spot.”
Why did Facebook decide to create these new cameras?
“I wouldn’t say Facebook is in the camera business,” he says. “When we announced the Surround360 Open Edition last year, camera manufacturers used it as a starting point to develop versions that weren’t as expensive, ones that didn’t have raw workflow or recorded onto SD cards instead.”
“What that’s done is accelerate the shipping of those cameras out into the industry which is really Facebook’s goal,” he said “ The goal is to get the tools necessary for immersive content creation into peoples hands so that they can share it.”
And what’s the plan for the x24 and x6?
“The x24 and x6 aren’t open source, but our goal is still to foster a new vibrant ecosystem around volumetric Slang for Six Degrees of Freedom. video,” he adds. “We’re doing more than encouraging people to think about it. We’re actually partnering with camera manufacturers to ship a product at around the end of the year.”
In addition to the camera itself, Facebook is also working with software developers on a full tool chain ecosystem.
“The data we capture means nothing without the workflow,” Eric says, “so when we launch the camera we want to make sure content creators aren’t stuck with the data that comes out of the camera and they have the tool chain they need to create a final project.”