Now that all our hopes and dreams have been crushed… Wait yours haven’t been yet? Well, go read all about how perfect spherical stereoscopy in video isn’t possible with a hardware only solution, cry, and then come back here.
We have a new prototype camera head to add to the family. This one got nicknamed the The Hippo not for its badass wrestling moves or because I stuck eyes on it to accentuate the cute little ears on top, but because with 12 cameras onboard the thing weights in a bit over ton. And The Hippo isn’t just a heavy weight, it’s got a serious girth problem, but more on that later.
The Hippo approach is a simple solution to the problem of hairy balls. Combing the vectors of visible space smooth in one plane then giving it a buzz cut on either end. What you get is nice convincing stereo around the circumference attached to some good, old fashioned, and so last month, spherical 2D at the zenith and nadir (the fancy words for top and bottom of the sphere). The effect is great. So great in fact that if I didn’t point out that part of the video you’re watching is stereo and part 2D you might not even notice. Your brain sees enough stereo that it’s fine passing over the distinctly flat sections with little protest.
It’s great but just not right. It’s the easy way out. It’s the caveat, the welsh. The pitch goes a little something like this: “We, the amazing wizards of geometry that are eleVR, have invented the WORLD’S FIRST 360 3D camera! Bow before us!” Google it. There are lots of carefully worded claims out there. As I was saying: “You should take us very VERY literally. Our camera can see stereoscopically all the way around. Of course thats only really a circle and not anything like a sphere but, hey, that’s what 360 degrees means people! And, yes, you can’t tilt your head more than a few degrees out of the original orientation of the cameras before you totally break the whole illusion, but, hey, most people don’t tilt! Tilting is for communists or socialists or something equally BAD. Down with tilting! Down with tilting!” In the future a hefty dose of image interpolation and camera heads that look closer to a fly’s compound eye will get us real stereo we are looking for but for the moment its less flies and more hippos.
Back to the big belly issue I mentioned before. One clear problem with this prototype is that rig size is directly proportional to stitch length. As we add more cameras to facilitate the stereoscopy the camera head also gets bigger bringing the camera lenses farther apart and increasing the stitch length, the distance from the camera head where reliable inter-camera stitching begins. With a long stitching length faces get blurred, hands get cut off at the fingertips. It’s not a pretty picture. Ideally the whole camera head needs to shrink down to the size of a fist. Oh, and rest on a room temperature superconducting magnet so I can get rid of the monopod. That’s not asking too much, right?
Here’s the hippos very first video: A Vlog for VidCon