VR and 360 videos are the focus of intense research and competition as broadcasting companies can sense that this type of content is about to become the topic of an intense push by the industry. To explore new ways to capture broadcast-quality 360 videos, Panasonic came up with this 360-degree 4K Real-Time Camera prototype, which can capture four 4K streams simultaneously to form a 360 degrees view.
The camera was initially shown a couple of months ago, but we had a chance to get our hands on it and test its capabilities first hand at Inter Bee 2016. The setup we looked at was mounted on a tripod, but Panasonic has suggested that it could be mounted on different supports, including on wires like they often do in concerts and stadiums.
However, a static setup is the best for real-time streaming because the camera needs to be connected by a cable to a computer that will stitch the multiple streams onto a VR view (equirectangular). If disconnected from the computer, the camera can record, but the stitching will need to happen later. Panasonic didn’t make it clear how long the camera could record when not connected.
The Panasonic demo at Inter Bee 2016 was showing real-time video stitching, compression and streaming back to an iPad over the internet. The iPad had a standard VR viewer which lets the user move the tablet around to change the view within the VR 360 video. There was a slight lag, but one that would not be noticed at all if you were not on-site.
Panasonic said that it is using standard formats for streaming so its camera could be inserted into existing 360 video workflows. The viewing apps are not proprietary at all. Because it uses four cameras to capture the scene, the end user can look in any direction and have (more or less) a 4K-level image quality within the current view. It’s roughly 4X better than most 360 consumer cameras, and the video feed was extremely clean.
Panasonic didn’t say when the camera would leave its “prototype” status, but it looks like they have had a good amount of interest in what was shown so far.