At the end of January 2017 we received our most anticipated package for sometime; the GoPro Omni. Shipped all the way from the Netherlands, this is one piece of kit that you can't just pick up off the shelf at John Lewis.
Gathering around the box, the team at Cineflow felt like it was Christmas Day all over again.
Cineflow isn't a stranger to the world of 360 VR but with the potential to get stunning 8K resolution images, synced up and powered for longer than 1 hour, we wished we'd signed up sooner!
The Omni comes ready packaged in a Peli case with pretty much everything ready to go.
The Omni comes with the Sync Rig, 6 GoPro HERO4 Black cameras (including batteries), 6 lens covers (which don't fit on the GoPro's when in the rig), 6 Mini-USB cables, 6 32GB microSD Cards, 6 Lexar microSD Card readers. GoPro Smart Remote (with charging cable, wrist strap & attachment key), 7-port USB hub (with power supply, US power supply and USB cable), Microfibre bag, 2.5mm Hex Key, Peli case, Plastic Tweezers (for microSD card removal), 1x Core SWX HyperCore 98Wh 14.8V V-Mount Battery, 1x Mobile V-Mount Charger with 90W Power Supply, 1x Mount Battery Plate with clamp and 1x 5.2v 8A Powertap DC conversion cable with Holder Clamp.
You really do get a lot for your money!
What first struck us was that the batteries and microSD cards are already installed inside the GoPro's and the cameras are all pre-installed into the Omni Sync rig. Straight out of the box this beast is ready to go.
We threaded the Sync rig onto our lighting stand using a 1/4'' thread and fired it up. We realised that all around the Sync rig are numbers (1-6) and that to control the array you have to turn camera '1' on and do all the controlling through that. The magic of the array set-up is that whatever changes you make on camera '1', applies to them all. With just a few tweaks we were able to easily change all cameras from the default NTSC 30fps to our UK native PAL 25fps.
You can also control the array using the supplied Smart Remote. Again we simply synced the remote up with camera '1' and any changes are automatically cascaded through to all 6 cameras. A big game changer over other rigs such as the Freedom 360.
External Power Supply
The array has the ability to be powered by an external V-Lock battery (supplied) which allows the GoPro's to run for hours on end. The V-Lock clamp allows you to attach your battery to the stand, keeping everything neat and in one contained package.
We do have to note that the portable V-Lock charger came with a US plug kettle lead so we suggest either getting an adaptor or if you're like us, you'll have a UK kettle lead lying around.
Filming 360 VR
In less than 1 hour of unboxing, we were out filming some 360 VR video.
This device is so simple to use; you quite literally turn it on, make sure the settings are correct, press record on the remote and record for as long as you wish. Hit the stop record button and move on. There's really not much more to it. We took the array outside and got a few externals outside our office and around the business park and were back in the office in about half an hour.
We have to note that the array is not waterproof. Unlike other rigs, this array doesn't hold the GoPro's within their plastic waterproof cases. So taking this rig on the river rapids at Alton Towers is a no go, however for most applications, we couldn't ask for much better.
So that's why they supplied the Tweezers!
The Omni, is a damn good piece of kit, however it does have some design flaws and this is where it lets itself down a little. Hopefully the next model will make up for it.
Because all the microSD cards are in the GoPros, which in turn sit in the array, getting the microSD cards out is a bit of a daunting task. You have to remove the rubber covers off each Gopro as usual and, using the supplied tweezers (or very nimble fingers), press the microSD card out and retrieve. Please believe us that this gets quite fiddly and soon gets rather tedious. However, after a few minutes of turning the array and retrieving the cards we got them all lined up ready for ingesting.
GoPro Omni Importer
Not only have GoPro made the filming of 360 such a dream and a pleasure, the actual ingesting of the footage and syncing of data is another area where this setup shines.
Having used 3D printed rigs and a Freedom 360 explorer, what is great to see is that the Omni cuts the time required for syncing data down to a bare minimum.
We put all the microSD cards into the provided reader and fired up the GoPro Omni Importer. You have 2 simple options, 'Search on SD Cards' or 'Locate Your Footage'.
We hit 'Search on SD Cards' gave it about 30 seconds and like magic, it had found and synced all the cards together into a panoramic image. We hadn't even got the footage off the cards yet!
The software simply lists the footage as 'shot 1', 'shot 2' etc but gives you the combined size of that shot. We have found that for every 1 minute worth of 360 footage, storage requirements vary between 1GB and 2GB of memory.
You can name the shot, preview the panoramic video, tell it to Colour Harmonise (or color harmonize if you're american), stabilise the footage and even render out the 360 without any further editing. The 3 options it provides are 2K H.264, 4K H.264 and Full Resolution (about 8K) Cineform 422 High.
Choosing not to render at this stage we selected 'Colour Harmonisation' and started processing.
Choosing where you want to save the footage, the software imports all 6 videos and then allows you to open the film in Autopano Video Pro (AVP) in order to process it.
Autopano Video Pro
We're not going to go into how to use the software as that is a whole new blog entirely!
However we do have to note that Autopano Video Pro and Autopano Giga do come with the Omni bundle. You will receive a link to your registered email to download the software and license it on your computer, once the Omni bundle is dispatched to you.
The software is such a great tool when you start to understand how things work and just by using the basic functions of the software you can begin to get great looking imagery!
We have found that the Omni does have some blind spots and struggles to blend images when shooting in close proximity to objects, such as the interior of a car; so when shooting 360 with this rig, try to allow as much distance between the camera and surrounding objects as possible.
Our chosen method for exporting 360 is to export a high resolution pro res 422 export of the 360 and then do further editing and colour correction in Premiere Pro.
It's not cheap but The GoPro Omni is currently the best 360 VR tool on the market shy of the Nokia OZO; the Rolls Royce of 360 VR. There are room for improvements, which we predict will come in the next version (Omni Mark 2?). Here's our wish-list of improvements for the next iteration of the equipment:
- We'd like to see a single port straight out of the array that means you don't have to deal with the fiddly microSD cards individually.
- The ability to live stream 360 from the array.
- Waterproof housing.
- 360 x 360 surround sound.
Apart from these points the Omni is an absolute dream to use and we look forward to sharing our latest 360 VR projects with you.
If you're interested in 360 VR for your company get in contact here.
Check out our sample 360 footage here.