Facebook unveiled a 3D 360-degree camera system with one eye looking forward to new 360-degree videos the company just recently introduced to the social network. The new feature Facebook Surround 360, however, will not be sold or branded by Facebook. They have decided rather open-source the technology for developers. The popular social media company plans to post design specifications and the stitching code on GitHub later during the summer.
The new system Facebook launched seamlessly combines video from at least 17 cameras – 14 wide-angle cameras which are bolted to a horizontal ring. There is one fisheye camera on top and another two on the bottom. This helps slash production effort and time.
The Facebook Surround 360 was unveiled at the F8 global developer’s conference which is taking place this week in San Francisco, and the company wrote via the director of engineering, Brian Cabral, on a blog post that:
We’re open-sourcing the camera to accelerate the growth of the 3-D-360 ecosystem—developers can leverage the designs and code, and content creators can use the camera in their productions.
In designing the camera, we picked a set of requirements that would ensure that creators could capture scenes and tell stories that are as sharp and as realistic as they’d like.
Talking about the specifics and design behind the Facebook Surround 360, he mentions that:
The rig is composed of 17 globally synced cameras: 14 wide-angle cameras are bolted onto a horizontal ring, with a fish-eye camera on top and two on the bottom, making it possible to capture not just 360 video but also everything up and everything down. This camera captures truly spherical video. The 14 cameras around the ring mean that the camera captures stereoscopic video, necessary for 3-D capture.
Camera sensors capture with a global shutter, meaning that moving objects in the video will be free of rolling shutter artifacts.
A rugged aluminum chassis ensures stable, well-aligned images, while the industrial cameras can run for hours without overheating, making it possible to reliably capture footage for prolonged periods of time.
About the software, he goes on to say:
Building on top of an optical flow algorithm for the stitching code is a mathematically rigorous approach that produces superior results. Our code uses optical flow to compute left-right eye stereo disparity. We leverage this ability to generate seamless stereoscopic 360 panoramas automatically.
The stitching code that comes with Facebook Surround 360 largely eliminates the hand-editing part of 3-D-360 video processing, dramatically reducing the post-production time. Stitching time is reduced from weeks to overnight.
The system exports 4K, 6K and up to 8K video for each eye. The 8K videos double industry standard output and can be played on Gear VR with Facebook’s custom dynamic streaming technology.