Facebook announced at the F8 developer conference this week that it will partner with RED Digital Cinema to produce a professional VR camera. The camera will be able to capture 3D imagery that can be enhanced with depth reconstruction technology. The two companies announced plans to develop a professional-level virtual reality camera that can capture high-resolution imagery in so-called six degrees of freedom.
Facebook’s partnership with RED will be aimed at studios and professional cinematographers who produce high-end VR experiences which allow users to view and explore in real time within virtual reality. In the VR world this is known as 6DoF or six degrees of freedom.
The camera system does not have any pricing details or release date information announced yet, and Facebook does not have a prototype of image render of the product yet. As RED cameras are typically expensive and aimed at the world's biggest studios and filmmakers, we can assume that this camera will be priced at the high end.
The announcement is seen a culmination of Facebook’s efforts to develop hardware for VR content capture. Since 2016, Facebook has been showing camera manufacturers their designs of what such a VR camera could look like. At their developer conference two years ago, Facebook showed plans for The Surround 360, an open-source specification and design for a device with a 17-camera array for VR capture.
Facebook looks to be getting behind VR/AR with the release of the lower priced Oculus Go headset, which they hope will finally bring VR headsets to the mass market.
RED, a camera maker with a reputation among cinematographers for pushing the boundaries of image quality, is an ideal partner for Facebook because of its ability to capture extended dynamic ranges. RED is constantly updating its product line to improve pixel quality and released an 8K camera last year.
RED could provide not only the image quality that would let creators capture 3D and 360 degree imagery in a studio or film set, but also the workflow that enables transfer of the captured content to a software that can automatically stitch together content to create a VR-ready experience.