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VR video cameras: Canon R5C, ZCam K2 Pro, ZCam K1 Pro, Vuze XR

A VR camera is a set of two or more synchronized camera units capturing a 180º to 360º visual range that would realistically match human perception once viewed in a VR headset. That’s where “immersion” comes from - viewers experience things as if being there and watching with their own eyes. Thus POV videos are extremely popular, with things seen at a human scale. Along with binaural audio it allows immersion into action based on the nature of human perception. A different mindset producing VR is at play than with conventional flat videos. 

Get the camera right to start with. VR post-production and rendering are covered by separate posts.

This post will be updated as new VR cameras come out

180º or 360º 

The stereoscopic 180º video is preferred for the current generation of VR. This technology perfectly replicates human sight as each unit of the camera corresponds to the left and right eyes. Spaced apart at around 65 mm to mimic the distance between human pupils (Interpupillary distance or IPD), they are capturing the same scene from slightly different angles each. The differences in captured images or the so-called parallax effect allows the brain to recreate spatial 3D environments (stereopsis) like we experience in real life. The parallax effect accounts for depth perception and thus the 3D effect. Once in VR the person sees what was shot on the camera, therefore making the camera work as someone’s eyes.

Fish-eye lenses are used for capturing a wide field of view ranging from 165º to a 220º field of view (FOV). Each camera records videos separately. Later these two videos are stitched together into a single file to reach perfect syncronization between the two and that is projected onto a virtual sphere inside the DeoVR video player. 

The more the viewer can “look around” within the video the better immersion is experienced. 

180º stereo is an awesome hack to get a great VR with little effort. 360º videos are still less popular. Overall 360º cameras fall short compared to 180º cameras as both productions are very different types of technology. 360º cameras involve four to sixteen single camera units and add an additional layer of complexity. When the object is moving from one camera unit to another, it often gets distorted causing "ghost" effect. Unless there’s a major advancements in 360º technology, having so much video from behind the user is not highly valued yet doubles the already big filesize and hits maximum decoding limit. It also requires well recognized visual or audio cues to change the point of view that aren't yet available. 

We recommend watching what’s being filmed in VR while recording to make sure the scene is properly set or take a picture how things look in VR before pressing record button.

Camera specifications

There are some good professional, semi-professional and amateur cameras recording 180° stereo. 

Newly introduced Canon R5C is the only true 8K60FPS 180VR camera. Most other cameras have 2900x2900px sensors per unit capturing from 165º to a 220º FOV. Once you put the two sets of footage side by side into a single output file it results in total 5800x2900px, thus called "5K" or "6K". DeoVR fish-eye stitching technique utilizes full FOV and sensor resolution. Otherwise it is cut to 5400x2700px to fit an equirectangular 180º projection.

Back in the days there was a tradeoff between resolution and framerate, like 2880p@30FPS or 1440p@60FPS. If you have to choose, shoot at the highest resolution at a cost of lower framerate for better image quality. Frame rates can be later advanced using interpolation techniques

Before Canon R5C was released shooing in true 8K60FPS, many producers practiced upscaling lower resolution footage from ZCam up to 8K for marketing reasons, which is not beneficial at all from a quality perspective and is absolutely not recommended. 

Professionals will be interested to know that there is a trade-off - either sensor resolution is used for higher FOV at lower pixel density, or lower resolution at higher pixel density thus better image quality also resulting in sharper stereo.

Advanced producers should also consider the color depth of a camera. Most are 8 bit cameras recording 16.7 million colors and more advanced 10-bit cameras (ZCam K2 Pro ) offering 1.07 billion colors (64 times more). Canon R5C is the only shooting in 12 bit. We are still waiting for HDR headsets to arrive so we can fully enjoy the advantages of 10+ bit color. In the meantime, 10 bit and 12 bit color gives immediate gains in color grading. 

Recorded video should be edited and stitched. Some manufacturers offer proprietary stitching and editing software, but professionals might prefer MistikaVR or the more advanced Mistika Boutique editor. We will be releasing a Mistika tutorial and presets soon.

Record in h.265 which is a standard of most headsets and offers better quality at a lower bitrate. Many VR headsets are not capable of processing high resoltuion videos (over 4K) in h.264. 


Choosing the camera

 

Resolution

Lens

Framerate

Codec

Color

Live streaming

Stitching

Price

Canon R5C + RF5.2mm

8192X4320

190º

60

h.265

12 bit

+

Professional, required

$4,500
+
$2,000

VuzeXR

5800x2900

210º

30

h.264

8 bit

+

Proprietary, free

$400

Zcam K1 Pro

5800x2900

165º, 200º

220º

30

h.264

8 bit

+

Proprietary, free

$4,000

Zcam K2 Pro

5800x2900

200º

60

h.265

10 bit

Extra setup required

Professional, required

$6,000

 

VuzeXR has proven to be a great amateur VR camera. It’s a good start for filming 6K VR videos. Proprietary stitching software makes it easy to get the right video with little investment. It also allows you to live stream in VR headset what is happening in front of the camera to assure the right scene.

Cons: Small sensor, requires a lot of light, otherwise might not look good. Due to the handle, it’s hard to create POV scenes with it. 

Vuze XR rig setup is coming soon...

ZCam K1 Pro is a semi-professional camera. 5800x2900px sensor @ 30FPS, recording in 8 bit, h.264 with 220º VRCA, MKX200 and MKX220 (recording in 165º) lenses. Equirectangular projection results in 5400x2700px 180º video.

One man team can make a great deal of it. Make sure to record in 2880p@30FPS. Then recorded fisheye videos from cameras need to be interpolated to 60FPS. The difference between two consecutive frames is algorithmically calculated then one frame in between is generated. Interpolated videos look a lot smoother than original. 

It comes with proprietary stitching software Wonderstitch making it an easy process.

Cons: Records in h.264, poor performance in darkness, 30fps.

Learn how to shoot with the Zcam K1 Pro

Here is a video guide for setting up the ZCam K1 Pro camera rig in POV: 


The ultimate professional camera available on the market is ZCam K2 Pro.

It’s a cinematic camera consisting of two ZCam E2 units. Although the K2 Pro sensor resolution is the same as the K1 Pro, the K2 Pro image quality is better. 10 bit gives more opportunities for color grading. While there are no VR headsets with 10 bit screens on the market to fully benefit from it, it’s still preferable to 8 bit recording. It also shows good performance while filming in the darkness. Also, the K2 records in 60fps and does not require interpolation.

All recent SLR Originals videos are shot with the K2 Pro. 

Recommended stitching software: Mistika Boutique.

Cons: 2.5kg heavy, additional setup required for live streaming. Pro only.

Here is a video guide for setting up the ZCam K2 Pro camera rig in POV: 

Read also:
In our previous blog post, we reviewed the brand new Canon R5C VR video camera and now our team has come up with some useful techniques for getting the most out of this impressive piece of kit.  ...
Great news for all VR creators: Canon’s new high-end EOS R5C is an incredible tool for producing high-quality virtual reality video in stunning 180º 8K60FPS. The videos is also availab...