Technology is a wonderful thing. Its also somewhat addicting at times. What started as a single GoPro Hero4 Silver has now become a monster. My quest to share the world underwater with as many people as I can has driven me to experiment more and push some limits.
Recent technology increases have made 360° video affordable and widely available… On dry land at least. There are several offerings out there that can be purchased for under $500, but none of these will work underwater. Even my current cellphone, a Samsung Galaxy S5, can take 360° photos. It’s going to be the wave of the future I believe.
Anyways, I found an affordable (under $200) rig on eBay for mounting 7 GoPro cameras to film 360° video, and had some pretty good luck in the past using SJCam SJ4000 and SJ5000 series cameras as GoPro alternatives, so I figured at $60 per camera this was “the poor mans 360° rig”. Well, much to my dismay, the FOV (Field of View) in the SJCams wasn’t big enough to have enough overlap for stitching video. Sadly they failed, and my only option was to use real GoPros (a much costlier option at $350 per camera instead of less than $60 per camera), but thanks to a generous gift, the GoPro’s became a reality! Once I knew I could stitch them and produce video, I dropped some coin on the software to render it all. Again, not a cheap purchase, but a necessary one.
I do plan on using this rig to make me money (stay tuned for more info!), but in the meantime, I also want to do a project to give me some time editing 360° video which I am titling “Cozumel: 360°”. This project will have a variety of shots from Cozumel, many underwater, and some above water, all showcasing some of the unique perspectives of Cozumel.
Since I plan to do underwater video as well, I actually picked up a rig that holds 7 cameras instead of 6. This allows for a greater overlap which helps when stitching 360° video shot underwater. Of course, this increases my workflow, as there are now 7 video files which need to be copied from 7 memory cards, all renamed to show which camera shot them, then organized and imported into the software. This obviously also amounts to a much larger amount of data! I managed to add 202 gigs of video from my time in Utila, basically about 20 hours of dive footage. I’ll likely add about 10 dives in Cozumel, so that’s 70 hours of footage when I need to use 7 cameras! OOF! And its at a higher resolution than I shot in Utila, Double OOF! I expect to shoot probably 2-3 terabytes of video in a week!
So! What’s it going to take to do the 360° thing?
- 7 x GoPro Hero4 Silver Cameras
- 1 x 7 Camera 360° Rig
- Kolor AutoPano Video Pro 2.3
- Kolor Autopano Giga 4.2
- Decent Laptop (512gb SSD, 12GB RAM, NVidia GeForce 840 w/ 2GB RAM, i7 Processor)
- Seagate 5TB External Drive
- 3Pod Orbit Monopod (modified to use as a selfie stick underwater)
I also have a bunch of experimenting to do with adding some floatation as the rig is kind of heavy and I’d like to try and make it neutrally buoyant. I figure this will give me more stabile footage underwater if I am not fighting to hold up the camera the whole time.
Just a few weeks to go but I look forward to bringing the amazing sights and wonders of the reef to your screen or even VR headset in bright amazing color and with a clarity that makes you feel as if you were there.
I can’t wait!