Facebook and cinema firm Red team up to build a more realistic VR camera

Facebook has depth estimation software to re-create 3D scenes. Red Digital Cinema has high dynamic range cinema cameras. And with the two of them together, virtual reality headsets could have more realistic content. During the Facebook F8 conference on Tuesday, March 1, Facebook and Oculus announced a partnership with Red to create a pro-level virtual reality cinema camera. 

While details on the camera are slim this early in the partnership, Facebook says the two are working to create a solution from capture to VR headset to create footage with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) — and the ability to explore the scene. 6DoF allows the viewer to move forward, backward, up, down, left and right, though it is unclear just how extensive that motion will be with the 3D and 6DoF mix from the new camera.

“Facebook’s industry-leading depth estimation technology captures full 3D information about all objects in scenes to deliver a complete 3D reconstruction,” the announcement reads. “Add in 6DOF capture — the ability to simultaneously film multiple angles from within a given volume — and you can generate infinite perspectives from any direction within a field of view so your audience can explore the scene freely.”

Red’s current technology will help alleviate some of the common struggles in 3D 360 capture, Facebook says. Red’s camera sensors can capture up to 16 stops of light, a range that helps capture detail in both the brightest and darkest areas of an image. If an object is in shadows, Facebook explains, the camera struggles to capture the data necessary to re-create that depth.

Facebook also partnered with Red for the company’s high pixel count, with a goal of designing a VR camera system for professional creators. The partnership will also help create an intuitive workflow for the VR content, Facebook says. The process will include depth estimation using Otoy, as well as editing with Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Foundry.

Facebook says the partnership is the next phase of the company’s x6 and x24 prototypes, cameras introduced during last year’s F8 conference and named for the number of lenses in each one. Capturing, rather than animating, a space that the viewer can actually move into is a high hurdle — Lytro also created a camera with 6 DoF, but the giant camera was only rented out and now the company has closed down.