Facebook describes its newest creation as a "high-quality, production-ready 3D-360 hardware and software video camera system." With Facebook Surround 360, the company hopes content producers and artists will create more 360-degree videos for the booming virtual reality niche.
The company shows its support for the new VR industry as it has decided to open-source the project via GitHub. Facebook will be offering the design for the camera hardware plus the stitching code that manufacturers can leverage to develop their own 360-degree video cameras.
Facebook Surround 360, which has a shape like a flying saucer, is composed of 17 snappers and Web-based software, enabling it to capture videos in 360 degrees and to automatically render them.
Its stitching and rendering software has the capacity to drastically lessen production time, as it stitches images together in one video through its algorithm. This means that content producers will no longer need to do the job manually, which can take several weeks.
The rig comes fitted with 14 wide-angle shooters placed on the flying saucer. One fish-eye camera can be seen on its top part while two more can be spotted on the bottom.
This camera system resolves an array of technical problems with 360-degree video cameras, according to Facebook.
"We set out to design and build a 3D-360 video camera that did what you'd expect an everyday camera to do - capture, edit and render reliably every time," says Facebook in a blog post.
The captured 360-degree videos can be streamed not only via Gear VR and Oculus Rift but on the Facebook app as well.
The company explains that when the output file is displayed through Facebook's News Feed, only one of the monoscopic views will be displayed. However, it also says that the "full stereo" can be downloaded by users.
Moreover, this camera exports videos in up to 8K resolution and work for several hours without overheating.
"There's something about how high-quality the experience is that immediately makes you believe in 360 film," says chief product officer of Facebook Chris Cox in an interview, as shared by The Verge.
Cox notes that Facebook has no plans of becoming a camera manufacturer.
Facebook's camera system comes at a time when VR headsets are starting to arrive at consumers' homes and when other 360-degree video cameras are beginning to become increasingly popular.
Recently, we reported that VideoStitch introduced the Orah 4i, the company's first all-in-one VR camera. This camera allows users to capture and broadcast a 360-degree video at the same time.