GoPro Omni VR rig could spark 360-degree content explosion

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GoPro's 360-degree Omni camera rig looks like it could be just another 360 cage for use with GoPro cameras and maybe doesn't seem as elegant a solution as an all-in-one camera such as Nokia's Ozo. But, you know, looks can be deceiving.

At the Omni's core is proprietary hardware so all six of its cameras talk to each other and behave as one. Each camera connects to the Omni via the Hero port on the camera's back, with one of the six acting as a master control camera. Power up the master camera and all of the others start up and setting changes happen simultaneously across all the cameras, too.

More importantly, though, all of the cameras record at the same moment with the Omni, keeping each video stream synchronized. For those who've edited 360 video before, this means you don't need to rely on a clap once you've started all the cameras recording to match up video for stitching. Also, if for some reason one of the six isn't ready, the Omni lights up to let you know, and the recording won't start until the issue is fixed.

All video (or photos) are stored to the microSD card in each camera; there is no mass external storage solution available for the rig. You can power the Omni off of an external battery for up to three hours, though, or you can just run it off the camera batteries.

The Omni sync rig alone sells for $1,500 (£1,300, AU$2,300), so if you have six GoPro Hero4 cameras you can update their firmware and take advantage of the synching. However, for the Omni to really pay off, you'll want to use it with Kolor's Autopano Video Pro and Autopano Giga software (about $775, £600 or AU$1,015). This includes the Omni Importer software, which uses the Omni rig's sync data to give you a near real-time preview and calibrated stitching that's good enough for immediate use.

If you don't have the cameras and are willing and able to hand over $5,000 (£4,200, AU$7,500) for a complete out-of-the-box solution, GoPro has an Omni all-inclusive package that gets you:

  • Kolor stitching software license
  • GoPro Omni sync rig
  • Six GoPro Hero4 Black cameras
  • Six GoPro Hero4 batteries
  • Six GoPro Mini USB cables
  • Six GoPro lens covers
  • Six 32GB microSD cards
  • Six microSD USB card readers
  • GoPro Smart Remote
  • 7-Port USB hub
  • Switronix Hypercore-98S battery
  • Switronix GP-S V-mount battery
  • Plate/clamp
  • Switronix GP-LS battery charger
  • PowerTap-to-DC 2.5 x 5.5mm cable
  • Waterproof shipping case
  • Plastic tweezers
  • Microfiber bag
  • 2.5mm hex key
gopro-omni-15.jpg

GoPro Omni all-inclusive package.

Lori Grunin/CNET

That's no small amount, but not outrageous for professional use, and considerably less than other solutions. In our demo with GoPro, both the rig and software looked easy enough to learn and use that I could see this being the go-to solution for things like travel or real estate. Situations where you need better results than consumer options, but don't want the headaches of putting a 360-degree setup together on your own.

And that's just producing the video or photos, too. GoPro also has a free VR player with Oculus support including Adobe Premiere to Oculus direct previewing. There are Premiere plug-ins available for adjusting the horizon, adding 2D elements to spherical content and creating 2D movies out of 360-degree video, so you can basically use your 360 clips as a virtual camera to pan and tilt through a scene.

GoPro made the whole process of capturing, editing, viewing and sharing 360-degree content look pretty seamless with the Omni rig and Kolor software in our demo with the company, as any good demo should. We won't know for sure of any true operating issues until we test one ourselves.

Omni starts shipping on August 17.

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