Upgrade to 360 Video Cameras

So we are all familiar with action cameras and taking video on our smart phones but what should we do and when? Why not just use a smart phone for everything? Actually some phones do have the ability to clip on a 360 camera and share the video instantly – which is great if you have a modern mobile phone but I am a dinosaur and love dedicated units.

So lets go back to basics, First we had physical film as a recording medium, then we could digitize this in post processing. Soon we started recording in digital on the camera i.e. DVD-R camcorders which were then followed by Non Volatile memory storage like Compact flash. Up till recently it has only been the recording medium that changed but the capture device has remained fairly unchanged in principle i.e. Film SLR cameras became Digital SLR etc.

Although the size of 1 GB storage medium physical size has been reduced through advancements in storage formats (not the same as recording format) and the actual physical media, which is impressive but the biggest advancements have been through the actual fixed lens development.

So why is this important?

Today we use photography and videophotography for so much from AI, Traffic enforcement, Policing, 3D modelling of the natural and built environment while also detecting environmental problems with drones. All of this is only possible because of good photographic capture and recording to be processed. It really is true that if you put bad data in then you get bad data out and a digital picture is exactly that – DATA. So the better the lens, the better the data.

So I love my DSLR but it is getting old now and 24 Megapixel is just about cutting it these days so I am looking into other ways of capturing Good quality Images with less moving parts. This Brings me to Action Cameras.

So I have a GoPro Hero 5 and it is amazing. I use it for my job to capture asset data but struggle to get good photogrammetry results,that rival the DSLR, with many software packages and have been reluctant to get into spherical (360) photography due to the past issues with inability to measure and scale accurately. These problems have, in the main, and continue to be ironed out with modern image stitching techniques and equirectangular processing/conversion.

So from my perspective, I am upgrading my GoPro with a forward looking light so I can improve the reliability of the focus on close up captured image data in low light conditions, for the short term, but I can’t help but think, how useful will it be to capture everything in 360 for total environment capture, even if it requires 360 fill lighting, and let it all get straightened out in post processing and there is my problem – POST PROCESSING.

Post Processing normaly requires lots of power and it is recommended to have something like an Intel I7-6700 (equivalent or better) and NVIDEA GTX GPU (equivalent or better). So although entry cameras are affordable, you also have to think of your computing power to process the 360 images into equirectangular (normal) video. This is normaly completed by the manufacturers own software but once converted, you can use your normal equipment and video editing suite.

However – The benefit of never missing anything when you leave a job is worth it alone but when you think you can re-use the data for photogrammetry (results dependent on processing software/hardware and the images also need to be processed into equirectangular format) or even many manufacturers support an app to display in many VR headsets which is cool and a great way to save money on hazard or industrial site familiarisation training.

Obviously Action Cams are always thought of as the Adrenaline Junkie tool on the end of a selfie stick, but they really do have a productive side especially when upto 5.7k video is paired with some lateral thinking, software and IT skill.

Some 360 cameras out there include:

  • Insta360
  • Insta 360 nano
  • GoPro Fusion 360
  • Garmin Virb 360
  • Ladybug 5
  • NCTech iStar
  • Ricoh Theta
  • Ricoh Theta S

There is so much more to say about the advantages of 360 which are obvious like –

  • Being able to take a panoramic with one click and not have to worry about setting up and leveling a tripod.
  • Having one security camera unit cover a 360 view reducing the amount of camera positions to remove blind spots.
  • Driver cam – capture the road and the drivers mental state reflected in his body language
  • Photogrammetry time saving.
  • Work Site/job familiarisation and safety training.
  • Contractor insight – Being able to give a contractor an eye into say your plumbing issue while also being able to see you might be a bonus.
  • Incident/accident/Crime investigation – The ability to capture everything in relation to each other will be able to give investigators i.e. crash or accident investigators perspectives that only Laserscanning would have been able to do previously. Imagine the evidence that could be captured on a wet rainy night that would normally have been washed away.
  • Finally – that awesome one in a million wave or pipe.

The remaining big issue is sharing the data as cloud data space, on many sharing forums, can be costly so you could set up your own website or private cloud. Alternatively you could social media it but there could be a good little mutualy beneficial thing here.

If there was a central cloud service that was free to store as much data as you liked from action cam and especially 360 video capture, we could pretty much model a vast part of the traveled world in a decade at zero survey cost to business. We could speed that up if customers of utility companies were given something like a 360 action cam.

Why – Photogrammetry and Feature recognition with cloud hosted AI. We have the technology and can ramp up the cloud to handle the data. Someone once said to me – no one will pay to survey the country, I say we do not need to. Vloggers and the general public will – just give them something mutually beneficial i.e. a 360 action cam and unlimited storage and sharing space for those videos with the proviso that the host can extract the built environment data which would satisfy any privacy concerns. Imagine Google Earth VR in one year.

So before we become batteries in the Matrix (showing my age) I will end this but give it thought and get on the 360 train.

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