To do live 360 video streaming, aka Live VR (we think it’s all VR if it’s watched in a VR headset), you need a 360/VR camera to capture the scene.
A 360 video camera is a camera that films in all directions simultaneously. Most 360 video cameras capture spherical video (360 degrees horizontally and vertically), and others in more of a ‘donut’ shape (horizontal only).
In practice, a 360 video camera means combining multiple video camera ‘heads’ into a single unit, since there is no single camera that can capture 360 degrees. Typically the arrangement is in a ring or sphere. The outputs of these multiple cameras must be stitched together to create a 360 video, similar to how a panoramic picture is made from multiple photos.
For streaming live 360 video (as opposed to pre-recording and stitching later), you’ll need a 360 video camera that provides a pre-stitched 360 output, or some means to live stitch the outputs of the individual camera heads. Software for this is covered on our 360 Video Stitching page.
Here is a list of 360 video cameras that we know about as of Feb 2017, and which we feel are well suited for live 360 video streaming.
Consumer Live 360 Video Cameras
Samsung Gear 360
The Gear 360 is a decent little all-in-one camera, and can be modded to go live. It suffers from the same heat problems as GoPro’s, so is not well suited for professional use.
Prosumer 360 Video Cameras
The original company offering high quality VR camera rigs for GoPro’s. Freedom 360 have a great reputation within the industry, and offer their ‘broadcaster’ rig designed specifically for live 360 video streaming. The problem for live use is that GoPro’s just aren’t very reliable for live use, unless you mod them with cooling frames or fans. They also rely on HDMI for the camera connections which are notoriously fragile.
Offers 3D printed mounts for (multiple) GoPro camera heads. Well marketed, well SEO’d, but with question marks over the viability of some of their rig geometries (shapes) and business practices.
The Orah 4i is from the same company which makes Videostitch – which is listed on our Live VR software page as standalone live 360 stitching software. The camera uses ethernet to send an IP stream of the 4 cameras heads to a separate mini-computer sized stitching box which itself outputs via ethernet (RTMP) (so no video output). For prosumer use we think this is likely the best option on the market for most people right now. Picture quality is ok, slightly less than GoPro, but convenience here is key.
Professional Live 360 Video Cameras
This high end professional Live VR camera is built around the Blackmagic Micro Studio Cameras, which offer a larger image sensor (better for low light) than GoPro’s, interchangeable lenses, frame synchronization (genlock), timecode, and other professional broadcast type features. The cameras themselves are very reliable, with cinematic grade sensors, color science, genlock, built-in active cooling and connections which lock. Good for professional use.
360 Designs have developed a reputation within the industry for their ‘production friendly’ kit. It’s principals come from a live broadcast and production background, unlike many other 360 camera companies. This is clear from the choice of industry standards for workflow such as SDI, genlock, and the Pelican cases they provide.
Nokia OZO is more expensive than Mini EYE, but better known due to Nokia’s marketing muscle. Ozo suffers from the same overheating issues as GoPro’s, and requires a modification to prevent this problem (adding a fan). This should not be required in a $45,000 camera but may not matter if you are not broadcasting live for extended periods. The sensors are of lower quality (machine vision type) than the Blackmagic based (cinematic) Mini EYE, and not as good in low light. That said, Ozo has become the closest thing to an industry standard.
Last updated: Feb 19th 2017