At NAB this year we announced a next-level Made for Solo camera system: a 4K, 360 degree Kodak virtual reality camera package, an official Made for Solo accessory brought to you by JK Imaging. The full package (cameras; mount; custom stitching software; remote) costs $999 and is available from Kodak later this summer.
So: Virtual reality on a drone? Very cool. End of story, right? But this dual 360 camera system is officially Made for Solo; we worked directly with Kodak’s exclusive camera manufacturer, JK Imaging, to develop it. And like any Made for Solo product, the MFS SP360 is 3DR-certified as fully compatible with Solo. The most important steps in this co-development process were creating unique stitching software designed specifically for spherical video captured with Solo; a remote control to activate the camera; and the vibration-isolating drone mount.
Read on to learn more!
Why shoot drone VR?
Because it’s incredible. Check out the above video, made by Todd Harper. At NAB, I donned some VR goggles to watch it and was blown away. I felt I was flying, in a waking dream. The spherical perspective was so immersive and real that, in a gorgeous and technically impressive sequence scaling up columns of blue ice (starts at :44 in the above video), my acrophobia kicked in and I nearly stumbled. I got it together and the dreaming feeling took over again.
One way to think of this perspective is Solo taking you on an aerial tour. Instead of being limited to what Solo’s looking at, you can look wherever you want while you’re moving along the flight track Solo is taking, at the speed of the drone. (We recommend a slow, smooth and controlled speed — luckily, Smart Shots make this easy and automatic.)
What’s more, you don’t need VR goggles: As you see above, both YouTube and Facebook support 360 video. Upload your footage and a wide audience can interact with it even without VR accessories. (Goggles do give you the “full” spherical experience; if you’re keen on this, we offer Made for Solo Glyph goggles from Avegant.)
VR for creatives
Not only is this a novel and interactive viewing experience, it opens new doors for creativity.
One of the great things about virtual reality in general is that the technology empowers the viewer. You can choreograph your scenes, characters and camera moves in creative and clever ways, and your audience can decide (or figure out) what to watch and when. Or drop in little details for an easter egg hunt. It’s an aerial choose-your-own-adventure.
For directors, imagine shooting a scene with complex or dramatic sequences happening simultaneously in different places. You can convey this scene with the expansive and commanding perspective of an aerial camera. You don’t even have to know how to fly a drone — just use Smart Shots to design the flight track you want Solo to take.
Imagine using Cable cam to set the exact tracks you want the camera to take — this turns Solo into a VR dolly. Imagine using Orbit to circle a point of interest that your viewer can always return to. Imagine Follow, where that same point of interest is in motion. Solo and Smart Shots make flights automatic, and with the SP360 you don’t even need to worry about framing.
Or, just hover: you’ll capture what amounts to a 360-degree HD still photo (or a “moving photo” if the scene has active subjects). I think of it as an infinite panorama. This encompassing portrayal does justice to an enormous landscape, or to a scene with many interesting details scattered over a large area. It’s like street view in the sky — but, in my opinion, it’s a much better and more lucid experience.
Not only can you use this camera to create a creative and immersive new video experience, but it’s also valuable for commercial use cases. Realtors can offer prospective buyers a one-of-a-kind (and useful) tour of a property or area. Also, watching the video again is making the exact same flight again, but with different camera views. Field professionals can look in any direction as the video plays, as if they are the camera, to monitor and inspect sites. In fact, one of our first test videos with the SP360 was a flight down the railroad track that runs by the Berkeley office. The enterprise use case was immediately evident: If you have a lot you need to look at, you can make sure you catch everything. Just restart the video and repeat the flight, taking your time to really look at what you need to without being afraid you’re missing something.
Setup and specs
There’s one camera on top of the drone and one on the bottom, attached with a wrap-around vibration-isolating mount made to Solo’s specs. (Video is also stabilized electronically.) This ensures you’ll capture smooth and immersive 360 VR video in vivid 4K.
The package includes fully automated stitching software specifically for Solo aerial video, a remote control, and a mount. The cameras record on Micro SD, Micro SDHC or Micro SDXC cards, with up to 128GB support (cards not included).