Facebook seems to be going all-in with 360-degree camera technology, announcing its new x24 and x6 cameras during its F8 developer conference. The new x24 and x6 are 360-degree cameras with 24 cameras and 6 cameras, respectively.
Facebook wanted to provide better VR experiences with 360-degree video, so these new rigs will help shoot the most immersive 360-degree content yet. The new x24 rocks 24 cameras, and looks absolutely huge - but the new Surround 360 entry won't be sold by Facebook. Instead, the social network will be licensing out its new x24 and x6 designs to a "select group of commercial partners". Thermal imaging camera giant FLIR worked with Facebook on the x24 camera, while Facebook made the x6 prototype in-house.
But what makes these new 360-degree cameras stand out from the pack? Well, they feature the elusive 6DoF that VR and 360-degree content producers have been pushing for a while now, so instead of feeling like you're being yanked out of The Matrix each time you look around in a 360-degree/VR video, you'll be able to tilt your head forwards/backwards, and even up and down. You can walk around a 360-degree video or photo shot on the new x24 and x6 cameras, versus just looking at a spherical photo displayed in 360 degrees, or VR.
Engadget reports that videos show in 6DoF see each pixel having depth, meaning that each pixel is shot in 3D. For VR content creators, this is going to be absolutely game changing - meaning they can add 3D effects to live action video, something that otherwise would be shot on green screen.
Facebook worked with LA-based cloud rendering company Otoy on a different video demonstration, where they rendered effects to scenes - including floating butterflies that can be swiped away with your real hand, or with the Oculus Touch controller. You can step "outside" of a scene and then view the entire video in a snow globe, which just sounds awesome. As Engadget reports: "All of this is possible because of the layers of depth that the footage provides".
Eric Cheng, Facebook's Head of Immersive Media, and ex-Director of Photography at Lytro, explains: "This is a new kind of media in video and immersive experiences. Six degrees of freedom has traditionally been done in gaming and VR, but not in live action". Cheng said that content creators have spoken with him, as they've been waiting for a way to infuse the worlds of live action into what the new Facebook x24 and x6 will allow into these "volumetric editing experiences".
These new volumetric editing experiences saw Facebook teaming with Foundry and Otoy so that they could work on an editing workflow for x24 and x6. Cheng added: "Think of these cameras as content acquisition tools for content creators".
Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said: "Our goal is simple: We want more people producing awesome, immersive 360 and 3D content. We want to bring people up the immersion curve. We want to be developing the gold standard and say this is where we're shooting for".