GoPro has announced that it will open up sales of its six-camera "Omni" virtual reality rig when the company starts shipping preorder units on August 17th. The $5,000 setup includes six Hero 4 Black cameras, the cube-shaped metal housing, and all the hardware and software that is necessary to film and stitch the 360-degree footage that Omni captures.
We actually got a demo of the final production version of Omni a few weeks ago in The Verge’s New York office and the whole package left us really impressed, especially considering the price. At $5,000, it sounds like a lot for consumers, but it’s extremely reasonable for crews or productions who want to shoot high-quality immersive video on a relatively restrained budget. And it gets even more attractive when you consider that, if you already own a bunch of Hero 4 Blacks, GoPro also sells a prorated version of the package without the cameras for $1,500, though it comes with less equipment and no software license.
Filmmakers have been using GoPro rigs like this for the past few years to film in 360 degrees, but this isn’t just another rig. Omni doesn’t just align the cameras the right way — each camera actually plugs into a central "brain" that syncs the cameras at the pixel level, which makes the stitching better than just about anything around this price point. Omni also syncs the settings of each GoPro so that you only have to punch them in on the one main camera.
The value isn’t really just about the quality of the cameras and the spherical image they come together to create, though that’s a big part of it. What will be really attractive to filmmakers is the software backend that GoPro has developed for Omni. That starts with the Omni Importer tool, which is a laughably simple way of proofing and prepping the 360-degree footage that you’ve shot.
You still have to pop each one of the six microSD cards out of the rig to transfer your files, which is annoying, but once you make that transfer to your computer the Importer tool syncs it all the footage without any extra work. You just open up the program and it renders a stitched-together preview of each clip that you’ve filmed. It also lets you trim and make basic edits like color correction or stabilization, and from there you can export YouTube- or Facebook-ready 2K, 4K, and even 8K versions of your footage.
Of course, professionals will need more than the Importer tool, and so there is more software included in the Omni package. Omni customers also get access to Autopano Video, which is a program that allows for much more detailed stitching and overall optimization for 360-degree viewing. They’ll also receive plugins for Adobe Premiere and After Effects that help with editing.
Omni won’t be the solution for everyone. For one thing, it can’t shoot in 3D, so it’s not the best for shooting really immersive VR footage. It also can’t handle live-streaming (that we know of). But when it comes to shooting high-quality, 2D 360-degree footage, it’s going to be hard to beat what GoPro’s offering at this price.