Sunday, November 22, 2015

Basic Video Stitching (3 of 3) - Autopano Video Pro Tutorial #3

In this tutorial, we'll show you basic color correction, levels and the basic use of the Control Points Editor.

These three videos show you the basic things you need to do to have a decent quality stitched video. Stay tuned for more advanced tutorials.

Basic Video Stitching 1

Basic Video Stitching 2

Video: Basic Video Stitching (2 of 3) - Autopano Video Pro Tutorial #2

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to use the move images tool, the masking tool and the verticals tool.

These three videos show you the basic things you need to do to have a decent quality stitched video. Stay tuned for more advanced tutorials.

Basic Video Stitching 1

Basic Video Stitching 3

Video: Basic Video Stitching (1 of 3) - Autopano Video Pro Tutorial #1

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to Save, Sync and the initial stitch.

These three videos show you the basic things you need to do to have a decent quality stitched video. Stay tuned for more advanced tutorials.

Basic Video Stitching 2

Basic Video Stitching 3

Friday, November 20, 2015

Concatenating Videos: Joining multiple videos without re-compressing

Today, I want to go over how to concatenate your videos. I am using a PC with windows 8.1, but FFMPEG also works with Linux and Mac. Only the last step is unique to windows.

To me, this really isn't as complicated as it sounds, but there are a lot of steps so this may not be for the faint of heart.

Also, from what I understand if you install FFMPEG the wrong way, it could lead to your computer to not load properly. The author of this article is not liable for anything that happens if you go this route.

Enough of the disclaimers! For the advanced user, it's an invaluable tool to have in your collection.

I want to thank and acknowledge Jim Watters, I stumbled upon his method in a Video-Stitch forum after searching for a better way to concatenate (I was using a paid program that could only do one at a time).

There are several ways to concatenate videos, but most of them only allow you to concatenate one video sequence at a time. The FFMPEG way, allows you to concatenate as many video sequences as you want, all at the same time. Plus it's FREE, so we highly recommend it!

In this video, I explain concatenating and show you my prefered method. 
To install the software and batch files needed, continue reading the blog.

Concatenation is a process where you join multiple videos without re-compressing (which degrades the quality). For 360 video this is especially important if you are filming with cameras like GoPro's, that have a 4 Gb limit due to FAT-32 file allocation.What happens if you go over that 4Gb limit is that your GoPro makes a new file. So if you have a situation where you need to film continuously for several hours, instead of ending up with 6 really long files, you'll end up with something like 24 different files, broken up into 4GB each, with the last one being a little smaller.

Before we get into it, Kolor just released Autopano Video Pro 2.3.0 beta, which has an importer that concatenates the files while importing. I will test this feature soon and let you know how it works, but even if it works like a charm, there are still many instances where being able to concatenate is a great tool. One example is if you have footage already shot that you need to concatenate, another is if you don't have AVP loaded on your computer when you first dump your footage and a third is, you can make a video, then add intro and credits without having to re-compress your video. In short, it's a great tool.

The first step is to download and install FFMPEG. This isn't as straightforward as it sounds, but there's a great article that gives step by step instructions here.

The only thing you need to do differently is to instead of putting the FFMPEG folder directly on you C drive, put them in C:\Program Files.

So if you were to dig into the directory it should look like this:
C:\Program Files\ffmpeg\bin\ffmpeg.exe

Once you've followed all of those steps, you can use the command line tool to do all sorts of compression and concatenating. To find out more about FFMPEG, go to their website. If you're not a coder, like the author of this blog, then the next step is especially helpful for you, but coders follow along too.

Jim Watters made a batch file that works really well, to use it follow these steps.

First, download his batch file,

Then paste this file in your Send To folder. If you don't know how to get there, paste this into file explorer:

After you've done this last step, you can literally select the videos you want to concatenate, right click, send to, concat videos

FFMPEG will ask you to specify a name and your videos will automagically start concatenating, and you can do this with as many videos as your computer will handle.

To change the location of where your files go, find the ConCatMovies.bat file, right click, edit and where it says

"set "IMAGETEMP=c:\temp\"

just change c:/temp/ to wherever you want the files to go. I usually create a Concat folder on an external drive and change the destination, so it will look something like:
"set "IMAGETEMP=h:\concat\".

Also a good thing to note is when you are selecting the clips to concatenate, make sure select from last clip to first clip, for example with four clips named 1,2,3,4 that you want to join, you would select 4, then 3, then 2, then 1, or shift select 4 then go to 1.

The reason for this is what ever the last clip you select is, this will be the first clip. So if you were to select 1,2,3,4 instead, it would join them as 4,1,2,3 because 4 was the last thing you selected.

Always check the order in ffpeg before you start the process.

Look at the end of the file names, Ep1 should be first, but the order is incorrect. 
If selected in order from 1,2,3, ffmpeg will put 3 first, then 1,2... 
So always select backwards, 3,2,1 etc.

Thanks again to Jim Watters for this great way to concatenate.

I hope this article is helpful for you and if you get stuck anywhere, comment below and I'll try to guide you in the right direction. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

How to Sync 360 video for Kolor or Video-Stitch in Adobe Premiere Pro

We've found that if we are using a 2 or 3 camera rig, both programs work fine for syncing, but with seven cameras, both programs have trouble and even when it says "it SEEMS reliable" we've found out later that it's not. 

And there's nothing more frustrating to me than to spend a long time trying to fix a stitching error, only to discover that the sync was off. 

In Premiere, not only can you sync very quickly and efficiently, you can SEE that it is in or out of sync, which is a feature I hope will be implemented in the stitching software soon.

Step 1 - Import all footage.

Step 2 - Sort by name in Reverse order. For example instead of camera 1, camera 2, etc. sort by camera 7, camera 6, etc.

Step 3 - Select all - right click - create Multi-Camera Source Sequence.

A box will pop up with multi-cam settings. Under "Synchronize Point" select audio and under "Sequence Settings" choose "All Cameras". Click OK.

Step 4 - Right click on the newly created Multi-cam Sequence and choose "Open in Timeline". Make sure Camera 1 is on top and your last camera is on the bottom.

Step 5 - Right click on the Playhead Position and change to read in frames.

Step 6 - Check synchronization.

To do this, expand your audio files by holding shift and dragging the audio tracks bigger.

Then zoom in on the timeline where there is a clap or other loud, distinguishable audio peak. If you need to, realign here.

Step 7 - Lock off the audio tracks by holding shift and clicking on the lock on the far left of the timeline.

Step 8 - Drag all the files to match up with the LAST file on the timeline. Zoom in as far as you can to make sure they are all aligned.

Step 9 - Enter those numbers into Autopano Video Pro or Video-Stitch frame offset exactly as they appear.

Step 10 - Save this information in a text document or screenshot, and in the folder where the video files are. That way you will always have your sync information with all your files.

Special thanks to making360, we've modified our approach a little and I believe this is the most efficient way to correctly sync all videos and be sure they are as close as possible.

Frame rate directly effects syncing. If you are shooting at 30 frames per second, the sync can be as much as 1/30th of a second off. 60 frames per second or more is preferred for syncing, but of course there are several other factors to consider when choosing your frame rate (exposure, resolution options etc).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Using 360CamMan2 by 360Heros

Today I will talk about ingesting and logging (organizing) 360 videos using 360CamMan2 by 360Heros.

Data management has always been important in video production, but with 360 video, it becomes exponentially more important, so even if you don't use this software, you should spend some time to come up with a system that works for you.


360CamMan2 by 360heroes (version at time of writing is 2.2) takes out a lot of the leg work in data management. However, it is not without flaws. I will not spend a lot of time going over the advanced features I will just give you an overview of the program and give you my opinion on whether it's worth $225 or not. For information on all of it's features and tutorials, check out their website.

First off, it doesn't matter what camera you are using, whether it's 360Heros or Freedom360, or even if you've made your own rig. 360CamMan2 lets you build whatever rig you are using. And if one of the settings is off from the cameras, it will let you know in the Video Organizer.

One of the great things about CamMan2 is that you can format your cards so that each card is numbered 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, etc. This really helps when you are ingesting your footage to know which camera goes where. What we do is plug in a multi USB 3 port to our workstation, and then plug in all sd cards. They are all clearly labeled so we can see all cameras and there is no confusion about which camera it is. After you've shot as well, you can format them all at the same time, at least in theory. I haven't gotten this feature to work at all in version 2, and continue to use the first version of CamMan for this function. It's kind of annoying, but it still beats putting them all in the cameras and then formatting through the GoPro menu.

The very first test I ever shot in 360, I didn't have 360CamMan and accidentally copied the same sd card twice. It looked like I had all the footage, but after I formatted the cards, I realized my mistake. This wouldn't have happened if I was using 360CamMan. Of course it's possible to make sure you have all your footage without their software, but for me, it's a great peace of mind, especially when I have a demanding deadline or an early call time.

Even after several updates, this program is still buggy, and although we've never had any issues when we have ingested using their system, the program has crashed on us several times in other areas, so we don't trust it to rename our files while ingesting, at least not yet. But they have another tool that converts existing footage to their file naming system. So if you have footage before you get the program, you can still use the program to help you organize.

What we do is copy all of our footage into folders labeled Cam1, Cam2, etc. and then we go to "Conversion and Video Tool" then "Convert to 360CamMan". This renames all the files from "GoPro0000" to 360Heros file structure, which includes camera number, take number as well as the original GoPro file name. At this point, we are able to use their Video Analyzer to move all the files into different folders, and this is really the meat of this program.

So let's say you shot 20 different setups with 6 cameras. That's a 120 files that are unorganized and without 360CamMan, it can hours to get them all organized by the correct take, especially since most of the files are all named very similar (Gopro0503 or similar). 

The analyzer will help you move those 120 video files into 20 new folders, organized by each shot of that day. This can save you a lot of time! When we shot in Israel, we ended up with well over a hundred different takes, and if we would have had 360CamMan2 then, we could have literally saved twenty hours or more of reorganization, so the time saved adds up quick.

The other great thing about the analyzer, is that it allows you to see the takes before you move them, and you can quickly see if you had an extra file that doesn't belong. They have a feature where you can move the files back and forth, which is an excellent function, and I look forward to seeing how they improve this tool.

360CamMan does have a way to merge videos into one file, which is a great idea, but it only allows you to do one merge at a time so we do not use this feature. Still, it's effective and especially if you are not a tech savvy creator, this is an easy way to concatenate files.

We use a different method that allows us to do as many as we want, through FFMPEG. If you want to know about this method, leave us a comment and I'll point you in the right direction.

There is also a way to Build 3D side-by-side, if that's something you're into.

They have a video Sync Offset tab, but it's honestly an extra step than needed. You have to go to Premiere do some work, then go back to 360CamMan.

If you are currently using this method, what you can do is just skip their software and do it all in Premiere. You can see a video tutorial here

The Bottom Line:

If you are shooting constantly or go on multi-day shoots, I strongly recommend buying this software. At $225 is it more expensive? Yes, but it will save you enough time and headaches to be worth it.

If you are a hobbyist, don't shoot very frequently or don't have any deadlines to meet, I would save your money and wait to make the decision until you do need it. By then, the software will have changed and there might be a better solution all together. My guess is Video-Stitch and Kolor will implement some sort of feature like this in their software eventually.

You can also do batch renaming in Adobe Bridge, Finder or File Explorer as an alternative for now, to help expedite the process for little or no cost, message me if you are interested in some tips. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

360 Rig Reviews: Freedom360

Cost: $499.95 for the rig

6 GoPros - Approximately $2999.94 for Hero4 Black
6 sd cards (at least) - $479.94 for 64Gb sd extreme
Power pack - $194.95 See below for details

$4174.75 plus tax and shipping

Most VR professionals have used or are using the Freedom360 mount. It was the first commercially available, full spherical rig. It's sort of the work horse of the space right now and you'll understand why after reading further.

Among 360 professionals, Freedom360 has a stellar reputation for all things 360. From the gear they sell, to great production practices from their daughter company Koncept Vr, these guys and gals really know the space, and are happy to share their vast knowledge. Beyond their expertise, the founders, Joergen Geerds and Uli Futschik are super cool and friendly, which is all the more reason to go with them.

Their rigs are the strongest, made from nylon/polyamide instead of some of the other various plastics used and there's actually a great video from somebody who was shooting from the top of a car in Vegas and dropped the camera on the road, then a car ran over it, dragging it another 100 feet or so and the rig was still completely functional! To see that video click here. It's entertaining if nothing else, but don't watch it in a VR headset unless you want a huge headache.

Aside from the Freedom360, they also make the F360 broadcaster, which doesn't shoot full spherical video, but is optimized for broadcasting. They even have a way to snake all the cords so you have a nice, neat camera setup when you need it. 

They also make a rig called the F360 explorer, which is waterproof and for your off the beaten path excursions. 


Reputable company, sturdy construction, great support. Their f360 broadcaster is probably one of the best solutions if you are going to live stream high quality, it even has a place to snake your wires so they are organized and out of the way. 

Because the rig is aluminum and well designed, the cameras stay very tight in the enclosure and if you have severe vibrations (like if you're mounted to the hood of a race car), they will vibrate TOGETHER. This may not sound important, but with any of the plastic solutions, the cameras will vibrate independent of each other and can cause big problems when you're trying to stabilize or view this footage.

Also, it's very important to note that of all the other 6+ GoPro rigs out there, these have the least amount of parallax, and that is a very important thing to consider, even after reading the cons.

Slanted orientation of cameras. Basically instead of the cameras being perpendicular to the ground, the are slanted at a 45 degree angle which is problematic to stitch because most architecture is made of vertical and horizontal lines. Also, let's say you are shooting with a host who moves from one camera to the next. You can easily have issues with his or her head or feet being chopped off which unless you are doing horror, is not a good thing.

Also, part of their design is that you screw in the camera to the housing. This creates a lot of the pros above, however if you need to switch out the batteries, it will take you several minutes at least to swap them out, and let's hope you don't forget your screw driver or lose any of the screws. That last part is on the user, but still it's something to keep in mind. Freedom360's solution is an external power pack, which you should consider regardless of whether or not you get their rigs. 

Bottom Line:
You can't really go wrong with this rig if you can afford it. Read the rest of this article to see if another rig might suit you better though.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

360 Rig Reviews: Z2X - iZugar's two GoPro solution

$1699 - Z2X Rig with 2 GoPro Hero 4 Blacks already modified
$159.98 - 2 64gb sd cards
$79.95 - 4 extra GoPro batteries (you could do a power pack instead)

$1938.93 - Plus tax and shipping and potentially customs. 

Don't worry, no one knows how to pronounce iZugar, so you're not alone.

First, I want to start by saying this blog may seem to bash the Z2X, but it is one of my favorite tools! You can easily take it and film in places that you would never get away with bringing a 50 gopro rig and you can save so much time in post production that it can almost make up for any of the issues with it. Just food for thought.

This company makes wider lenses for GoPro cameras and custom holders. They are based in Hong Kong and many people have complained about miscommunication issues, long ship times due to customs and lack of support, but most people who have them, really love them. The founder, KC Lai has always responded to me and I haven't had any issues with him personally, so my thought is perhaps there has just been a language barrier with some of his other clients. 

One of the great things about going with iZugar, is that you can use as little as 2 GoPro cameras, for the purpose of this article, I will use this as the base for comparison.

Shooting with wider lenses have pros and cons and these pros and cons mostly apply to any of the "wider than GoPro lens" rigs.

Less cameras needed. Obviously this can mean lower cost of entry but don't forget about all the accessories like batteries, SD cards and ND filters, this really adds up quick! This can also be very beneficial if you plan to live stream.

Less cameras also mean that you can get the focal points closer together resulting in less parallax and easier stitching (in theory, not always the case in practice). 

Another big plus is that you can film a lot closer to subjects. Need to put a rig between a driver and passenger? Can't do it with other rugs, but with iZugar it's certainly possible.

Some assembly required. They advertise that it's as easy as changing a light bulb, but beware because I have a friend who destroyed a gopro before shipping the others to have someone else mount the iZugar lenses.

Exposure can be problematic. Each camera has to expose for a much wider area. If the scene you are shooting is evenly lit, like an overcast day, this isn't a problem, but if you have a high contrast scene, like a sunny day with shadows you have a big problem. Basically either the sky would be over exposed or the shadows would be pitch black with almost no exceptions. If you look up any izugar footage, you can see for yourself exactly what I'm talking about.

Lens quality. Most professional cinematographers all agree that the lens is more important the camera. Now GoPro lenses are not Zeiss primes by any stretch of the imagination, but in my opinion they are definitely superior to the iZugar or similar rigs' lenses. Also, you have a lot more distortion and aberration.

Once you've modified your GoPros, or bought them pre-modified, you cannot use the waterproof housings that come with the GoPros. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you need/want to be able to shoot 360, but also need to be able to use the GoPros for other things.

Still image of "Kill the Deal" short film.

The picture above is a screenshot from a short film we shot recently as a proof of concept. There are many signs of the pros and cons of shooting with a 2 camera iZugar rig. Keep in mind, this is a rough stitch with no color correction.

First of all, there is extreme warping (pay attention to vertical lines). The person who stitched this is not a seasoned pro, but he did use the Kolor Straightening tool, and this was the best he could come up with. On another rig, those lines would come out straight as an arrow, and maybe we can make that happen with some more work, but it will probably take a trip to After Effects land, and believe me, that's one theme park you can spend a lot of time in quite easily.

I really choose this image to show you chromatic aberration. See the rainbow like effect at the stitch points? That is known as chromatic aberration and you don't get this extreme of aberration with the stock GoPro lens. To be fair,  this is the worst example we have. 95% of the footage we've shot with the Z2X doesn't have issues like this, but it's that 5% that keeps it from being something you can completely rely on, because you cannot know until you're trying to stitch it together in post production.

So right now you thinking, ok, then why shoot on this rig at all? Well, look at the actors, they are all sitting super close to the camera. the main actor in the middle is about 3 feet from the camera. If we set a 6 or 7 camera setup in the same place, there is no way we could make it work. In a perfect world, we would've used the 3 or 4 camera iZugar rig and then we would have enough overlap that we wouldn't see the aberration, and we'd still be able to have actors get as close to the camera as we did here.

Another good thing about this; after a brief training, someone who had never stitched before was able to use a pretty lousy computer and stitch about 10 shots in an afternoon. With the exception of this shot, the others turned out really good. With more cameras he would have had a really tough time stitching and getting his computer to respond, if it would've worked at all.

This is another still image from "Kill the Deal". Notice the warping and chromatic arberration are not as big of an issue, this is the case for MOST of the Z2X footage.

Bottom line:
Great rig and great tool to have. If you looking for an entry setup to vr, get their z2x, their 2 camera rig, looking for more resolution and flexibility, get the z3x or better yet, the z4x and if you want to get into 3D360, they have a 6 camera solution, the z6x3d.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Which 360 Camera should I buy and how much will it REALLY cost?

We will add more camera rigs over time, so check back often if you want to know more. If you have a specific rig you want me to review that you do not see on the list, let us know and we will try to review it and post our findings. Basically in our blog, we will review cameras as we can, but in this specific post, we will link to those blogs so you can have an overview and bottom line here, but get more information on whatever rigs you want to know more about.

Also, there is no "one camera solves all" purpose. Most professionals have at least two rigs, and some of us have more. Think of it as having the best tool(s) for the job.

The better way to decide is to educate yourself on everything that you can, and then make the best decision based on what you decide is right for you. Feel free to give us details of what you are looking to use the rigs for and we'll give you our opinions. At the end of the day this is nothing more than that, our opinions based on what we have learned. Many others have different opinions and as long as they can tell you why they have those opinions, you should definitely consider them all. 

Yeah, but how much will it REALLY Cost

Before we jump in, remember that each camera you add to your rig, exponentially raises the total cost in the long term. The difference between a 4 camera rig and a 7 camera rig might only seem like $1,500, but the amount of space you will save on hard drives, extra sd cards, etc, is huge and should be factored in. 

In addition to the rigs and cameras, you also have to figure in stitching software, editing software, power solutions, sd cards, disk space and accessories that you might not have considered before.

The stitching software is going to set you back about $1,000, no matter which program you go with. For more about which stitching software to buy, read this blog.

For editing software, I personally like the Adobe CC suite. That's $50 a month, but in addition to video editing tools it also gives you programs for sound mixing and mastering, color correction, motion graphics and more. You can just buy Premiere Pro (the video editing app), and for that you'll fork out $20 a month.

Sd cards are about $55 for one 64gb card, if you have 10 cameras, that's $550 and you should have extras. External hard drives are much more affordable than they were years ago, but we have at least 15 terabytes just for our 360 videos (and backups of course) in the last year. This is without keeping all of the videos that we used uncompressed. That's another $500 or so depending on which hard drives your buying.

Also, you will need power solutions, either a power bank that attaches to your tripod, or a ton of extra batteries. We will touch more on this with each setup as they all have different numbers of cameras/etc. But plan to spend at least $100 in this department.

For accessories, there are a bunch that are helpful, but not really needed, but I would highly recommend getting some sort of stable tripod that looks like a mono-pod. That sentence may sound strange, but if you check out the nodal ninja and this Gear Pack 2, from Freedom360, you'll find a great solution for a stable setup that allows you to have as little in the shot as possible. This route is $600, but you can find cheaper solutions. My personal philosophy, is buy once, cry once. Get the best gear you can afford and you'll be happier with it. If you're not shooting professionally, sure get something else, but make sure it's stable because if you're rig falls over, you risk damaging the cameras and if just one camera fails you, suddenly you don't have spherical footage.

Traditional tripod, leaves a big footprint at the bottom of your footage. 
The purple part is a backpack so you can get an idea of the scale.

Nodal ninja with stackable weights at the bottom, leaves a small footprint and is easy to clone out. The light grey is actually a small sound recorder, so you can get an idea of scale.

A powerful computer is an obviously important factor. I have a custom built workstation that I got half off for $3,000. Expect to spend at least $1,000 in this category, and more if you want a performance laptop or mobile work station.

Lastly, one expense that's often overlooked is buying an extra camera or two, but as I said before, if you have one camera fail, you don't have spherical footage anymore so having a spare camera to substitute becomes important.

Particularly for GoPros, I've heard so many horror stories about them failing for no apparent reason. We've been blessed and haven't had any issues with our GoPro Hero 4 Blacks, but we have the backups just in case.

So, let's sum up these costs.

$1,000 for stitching software
$600 a year for Adobe Suite (primarily for Premiere, After Effects, Audition and Speed Grade)
$100 (at least) for power solutions
$500 hard drives for a year (if you don't keep uncompressed files)
$600 for one of the best tripod solutions
$1,000 for an entry computer

That's $3,800 before you even think about buying a 360 camera setup. Of course you can get away with cheaper solutions, but this give you a ballpark of entry.

If you have a computer and don't get the nodal ninja, we're still talking $2,200 before the camera.

Before you go forward, if this is too much for you, consider two things
1. Hire an existing 360 production company to shoot your projects.
2. Buy a camera system that either auto stitches or doesn't require stitching such as the Ricoh Theta S or the Entapano. This will still set you back, but at least you can get started in 360 video and don't have to buy/learn stitching software.

Ok now let's jump in to the camera rigs.

Cost: $499.95 for the rig

6 GoPros - Approximately $2999.94 for Hero4 Black
6 sd cards (at least) - $479.94 for 64Gb sd extreme
Power pack - $194.95 See below for details

$4174.75 plus tax and shipping

Bottom Line:
This rig is currently the work horse of the industry right now and you can't really go wrong with this rig if you can afford it.

Read the full review here.

$1699 - Z2X Rig with 2 GoPro Hero 4 Blacks already modified
$159.98 - 2 64gb sd cards
$79.95 - 4 extra GoPro batteries (you could do a power pack instead)

$1938.93 - Plus tax and shipping and potentially customs.

The bottom line:
This is a cost effective rig that is great if you want to get your feet wet in 360 video, but don't want to commit too much time or money. It's also a great second rig if you already have a 6 or 7 camera rig. Think of it as another tool in your belt, one that you can shoot objects right next to the camera.

Next Cameras I plan to write about:

360 Heros
Ricoh Theta S
Elmo 360
Orbcam VR
Nokia Ozo
Custom Built

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Autopano Video Pro vs. Video-Stitch, which to buy?

In this blog I will talk about the differences between Kolor's Autopano Video Pro (AVP) and Video-Stitch (VS). The good news is you can't really go wrong, they're both great programs! If you're a professional, you might want to consider getting both and you'll understand why after you read this post. 

Also, it's important to note that while you can stitch video in both of these programs without further software, MOST people use other software to do the real stitching work. Kolor's best program is called Autopano Giga and Video Stitch uses PTGUI, so do your homework and be prepared before you make your purchase. For the purposes of this article, when I speak about AVP, I'm talking about the package with Autopano Giga and same for Video-Stitch with PTGUI.

In very broad terms, I think Autopano Video Pro is easier to learn and has some great features like smart iso, and the ability to key frame masking, etc. And Video Stitch (along with PTGUI) has a better way to find control points and stitch. So if we can't seem to stitch correctly in AVP, we can usually make it work better in VS, and if we are having issues at a particular seem in VS, we can usually make it better in AVP.

We'll start with Video-Stitch.
Video-Stitch has many great features and you can stitch video while never leaving the program, but you'll need PTGUI in order to do more advanced work. Ptgui has been around since 1996 and is still a wonderful panorama stitching program. When compared to Kolor's Giga, I find I can work much faster and do more in ptgui. They have shortcuts for everything which I find very useful and can allow you to work more efficiently.

The main advantage of Video-stitch over Avp to me, is the key framing ability for video orientation. For our Sailing with Dolphins video, we had to adjust the orientation every few frames and in VS, I was able to adjust at least 10 times faster than I am able to in AVP, literally saving me hours on one clip. I also find that you can more accurately straighten the video in VS and for AVP I always have to edit and go into Autopano Giga to get it correct.

I find that video stitch works faster on my system then autopano video, and I attribute this to their use of Nvidia technology. So if you have or plan to have an nvidia video card, that's something to consider for sure.

Lastly, VS has an interactive tab that allows you to look around to preview what your video will look like while dragging or looking around and I really love this feature.
Kolor is in excellent company and they have a lot of panoramic tools beyond video and photo stitching, including virtual tours (panotour) and play back (kolor eyes). They were recently acquired by GoPro so it will be interesting to see the future of the company and how it progresses, but I don't see them slowing down anytime soon.

For me, the main advantage of working in AVP is being able to key frame masks. This is not always important, but when it is, it's an invaluable tool.

Another great thing about AVP is one of their blending settings called Smart ISO. What it does is instead of stitching in straight lines, it figures out what's important and stitches around them. If you use this feature you can't key frame the masking or orientation, but for most static shots, you may not need to anyway, and then it becomes very useful. We basically start each project with smart iso and then decide later if we need the other options. Sometimes we find it more important to have the smart iso than to readjust the orientation. In that situation, we will export it with smart iso and then bring the file into After Effects with Mettle's SkyBox studio plugin to do the reorientation. More on this in a later blog.

I hope this blog is helpful for you, please feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Which VR Headset is best for me?

Which VR Headset is best for me?

There are several VR Headsets or Head Mounted Devices (HMD) on the market today, and that number is increasing all the time. We've had hands on experience with most of the HMD's on the market today and hopefully we can guide you in making the best choice for your situation. If you are a gamer, you may want to research Oculus Rift and see if that is the device for you. Everyone else, read on.

Go4d C1 Glass by Goggle Tech - $22

This gem is really one of our favorite headsets. The lens quality and experience far surpass any of the headsets, except the Gear VR. They are sturdier than their cardboard cousins, and fit in a jacket pocket to become a cool gadget, if you're into tech swag. Their design allow them to fit more devices than any that we have tried. Fits everything from the small iPhone to the large Samsung Note.

The only real drawback is there isn't a way to mount it to your head, so like the Google Cardboard, you have to hold it up to your face with your hands. For a lot of applications, this is not a problem, but if you're a gamer you may need your hands for a control and if you plan to watch long pieces of content, this could be annoying.

Reasons to buy:
•You are new to VR and aren't sure if you want to spend a ton of money to test things out.
•You want a high quality headset for a good price.
•You have another headset, but want a more portable one.

Consider another headset if:
•You know you will need a hands-free headset. (Consider Gear VR or Homido)

Samsung Gear VR - $99

This is currently the best consumer version on the market. Any VR professional has at least one of these tools at their disposal. It is a partnership between Samsung and Oculus Rift. The Gear VR beats all headsets on this blog in every category except portability. Among all other benefits, this headset tracks your motion better than the rest. The consumer version will be released in November 2015 for $99.

The bottom line is, you should consider purchasing this headset if you have any of the following Samsung devices: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5. If you have older Samsung devices such as The Note 4, you can get the older model, but for $200 and without the upgrades of the new Gear VR.

The Homido VR headset is a great overall headset. It's compatible with most phones and with it's lightweight construction and elastic headband, it's the most comfortable headset on this list. It also has two points to focus, which is a great feature.

It comes with a bunch of extras, that most headsets leave out. You get a case, a lens cloth, a few sets of lens holders to compensate for near or far sighted vision (if one of your eyes is different than the other, you should consider this headset).

Reasons to buy:
•You do not have a Samsung Gear VR compatible phones but want a good quality headset.
•You want a comfortable, hands-free headset (important if you will watch a lot of content or play games)

Consider another headset if:
•You have a Gear VR compatible device (Consider Gear VR)
•You don't plan to spend much time in VR (consider Go4d)
•You don't want to spend too much money at this time (consider Go4d)

Google Cardboard (Many variations with range of prices)

My Personal opinion is that Google Cardboard (and all the variations of such) is the worst thing happening in the new wave of VR right now. It's a great concept, put VR in the hands of everybody, but it really cheapens the whole experience and if your first experience of VR or 360 video is with cardboard, you may leave unimpressed and as if all head mounted devices are toys.

The lens quality is cheap, the cardboard is easy to damage, many designs require you to assemble yourself, and they are sort of a "one size fits some". They won't accommodate larger phones like the Samsung Note 4 or Apple 6 Plus. For smaller phones, most companies have some sort of extra piece of cardboard with adhesive that you can put in so that it will sort of hold your regular iPhone in place, but then it doesn't really fit a bigger phone, so you have to choose one or the other. Most have no way to strap to your head, although I've seen some recently with a add on.

One of the main reasons it has become so popular is because companies can easily and cheaply post their branding all over it and either pass them out or sell them. Great advertising is not a reason to buy them as a consumer, however.

There are several companies making variations of Google Cardboard and while I admit there are some with better quality construction, we do not currently recommend any cardboard viewer.

Reasons to buy:
 •You didn't read this blog or you want to custom brand a bunch of cardboard for you company (even that sounds cheap doesn't it?)

Consider another headset if:
•You did read this blog.

I hope this blog has helped educate you to make a good decision on which VR headset to buy. Leave a comment below and feel free to ask about other headsets, we own or have tried a lot of them, and we would be happy to let you know why they didn't make this list.