We love to get our hands on new high-end, professional 360° video gear. That’s why we were excited to test out Nokia’s OZO camera.
Like most content creators in VR, we cut our teeth using GoPro rigs. Our team was curious to experiment with the OZO camera. Is the $45,000 price tag worth the spend compared to a $5,000 GoPro Rig?
The answer is a resounding yes. This sleek 9.3-pound ball is equipped with 8 lenses and 8 microphones. The OZO camera mirrors its surroundings in 360° spherical video and 360×360 native stereo surround sound. OZO’s user-friendly design and technical capabilities make it a strong choice for VR production.
First and foremost, the preview option makes OZO the smart camera rig for discerning filmmakers.
“The OZO shines when it comes to fast previews on set,” says Justin Toops, 360° director at VIVA VR Studios. “The OZO camera delivers accurate previews and the ability to view all of the individual camera-eyes and 360° stitching in near-real time. This helps me put more focus on storytelling and experimentation.”
While a GoPro rig is the more economical choice, you’re taking a big risk on-set.
To be blunt, you won’t know if you got the shot until it’s over.
Manfred Sprinckmoller, VP of Post Production at VIVA, cautions you to “Think twice about using GoPros if you’re shooting a live scene, like a concert, speech, or operation, where you don’t have the option of a second take.”
Speaking of live scenes, the OZO camera enables real-time live streaming.
This is also possible with GoPro, but it’s not automatic. Rafael Villagaray, developer at VIVA VR Studios, weighs in on using Ozo, “When calibrating your shot, the ability to see what is happening live in each camera and direct the talent remotely is a huge time save. Being able to see the live shot from within an Oculus headset gives a clear vision of what the user sees in the final output.”
Ozo’s software is clean making it easy to virtually eliminate seams from any kind of shot, mono or stereoscopic.
From a technical standpoint, OZO lets you calibrate and adjust lighting for each camera through one screen view, using the preview option.
With GoPro, you must calibrate each camera individually. If you’ve done it, you know what a hassle this is. Also, OZO software automatically stitches all the cameras together, saving a significant amount of time.
What about render times?
As you can imagine, rendering time for the OZO is significant; about 7 hours per 1 minute of produced 360° video. It’s not a realistic option for quick-turnaround projects, but what you save in rendering time with GoPro you may lose with added stitching time.
Both the OZO camera and the GoPro rig have two unresolved issues.
The first is with objects or people too close to the camera.
Rafael offers this advice to 360° video creators, “Shoot at least four or five feet away from subjects or else there will be distortion.”
The second issue is with shadow/light contrast.
Lastly, let’s address portability.
The truth is, traveling with either the OZO or a GoPro rig can be tedious. The OZO and everything that goes with it is big, bulky, and heavy. The GoPro rig has a lot of pieces, parts, cables, and chargers, and the cameras can easily get damaged or lost.
After experimenting with the OZO, there is no doubt that it is a superior choice for VR creators who can afford the price tag. Nokia positioned the system as a high-end option for Hollywood filmmakers and announced partnerships with Disney to create 360° virtual reality content across all of the studio’s various brands, including Marvel and Lucasfilm.
OZO is the best camera available right now that is purpose-built for VR at the professional level.
If the price tag is too high, be excited that Nokia plans to bring the technology behind the OZO camera to a prosumer rig soon.
VIVA VR Studios is excited to bring our knowledge of the OZO to current and future VR projects.
“The deeper I get into this technology, the more excited I become,” says Emily Greene, VIVA’s Chief Creative Officer. “VR offers tremendous opportunity for storytelling and a power to intimately reach people on a deeply emotional level.”