Circle Optics To Launch Hydra II – Rental Only 8K 360 Camera to Stimulate VR Content Market

February 15th, 2023 Jump to Comment Section 3
Circle Optics To Launch Hydra II - Rental Only 8K 360 Camera to Stimulate VR Content Market

Circle Optics is launching their new 360 camera, Hydra II, which is due out this year and promises to require no post-stitching and have zero parallax distortion. It will be rental-only, a week at a time, from August 2023. However, there are already ‘live’ stitching 2D camera rigs out there and parallax isn’t a huge problem in 2D 360. Let’s take a closer look!

Circle Optics are looking beyond the VR professional market, more specifically at those who might be working in 3D 360 and are already used to the sometimes laborious stitching process. They want to place their new camera, the Hydra II, with a 2D market that isn’t used to working with 3D and challenge them to start making content for a VR world that’s currently in the doldrums.

The challenges of shooting 360

Shooting 360 VR 3D is already difficult enough but is usually followed by a painstaking post process, stitching overlapping camera footage together, cleaning up the stitch, and painting out any crew in the shot as well as any camera accessories like tripods and support equipment. You then edit, grade and encode a final version.

That’s after collating the media from the multiple cameras you use, perhaps do a rough stitch to consider what needs to be included and how much storage you have for the stereoscopic 8K timelines you probably have. A fine stitch would then adjust even more and can be more of a hand stitching of the frames, almost like a composite process.

Anything that could shorten this operation or even bypass it would be attractive to new VR creators but is it this complex task of shooting and posting 360 video that is keeping the VR world from realizing its potential? Founder and CEO of Circle Optics, Zak Niazi partly agrees.

Some examples from the Hydra II camera which should be out in August. Source: Zak Niazi

Circle Optics: the VR industry needs more content

Niazi recognizes all the reasons for an industry that is being ‘held back’, as he calls it. He says that the conceived wisdom is that it’s the fault of the displays being used but he would argue against that. People are usually blown away when they first put on a headset and don’t complain about the displays. He thinks it’s more than that: “The reason people don’t come back and just see it as a short-term gimmick is that there is a shortage of high-quality content that really keeps you hooked.”

Hydra II camera is rental-only, but footage requires little post-production

His company’s Hydra II camera is seeking to help studios get content out there quickly without a lengthy post-production period. “The camera will launch July of this year, and is available for rental at $12,000 per week to cinematic content studios, and comes with an engineer on site, ” explained Zak.

Circle Optics founder and CEO Zak Niazi. Image Source: Circle Optics

He further says that “the technology outputs 8k monoscopic equirectangular video, pre-stitched at the lens level. The system is global shutter and uses Sony image sensors that IMAX had originally planned to launch their VR camera with (so excellent quality). We are targeting 2D cinema studios that want to shoot 360 video, but don’t want to deal with the hassle and variable costs associated with stitching, as well as professional 360-degree shooters who want more freedom and creativity in their stories, not limited by technology.”

Hydra II camera for autonomous vehicle market

Circle Optics are also looking to miniaturize Hydra II into a camera that can sit on top of drones. The idea is to experience the view from wherever the drone is. Want to see the sunrise over the Sydney Harbor bridge? Just put on your headset and catch it in near real-time. You can also add military roles to the future of the camera for photogrammetry to create digital versions of battlefields for instance and perhaps even NASA – Circle received a NASA grant to research a wide field of view imaging capability for space vehicles and unmanned air vehicles.

Circle Optic Hydra II’s technology & specs

Circle Optic Hydra II comes in an 8K resolution with 12-bit color and 60 fps through its 11 cameras and their matched f2.0 lenses. The system uses Sony image sensors with global shutters so the least amount of rolling shutter wobbles (apparently, IMAX wanted to use these same sensors when they originally planned their own VR camera). The field of view is 360˚ by 300˚and it’ll offer an 8K live preview and be able to stream content from the camera.

What do you think about the Hydra and the technology behind it? Let us know if you’re working on 360 productions and if the Hydra II is something that would save you a lot of work in post-production.


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