There has been an increased interest in virtual reality, and 360-degree video over the last year or so, with the likes of Gear VR, the HTC Vive & Playstation VR providing platforms to view this enhanced content. Purists will correctly tell you that VR and 360 degree video aren’t the same thing, but both allow you to view video in any direction and if you are using a headset, you can do this by simply moving your head.
The ability to create 360-degree video is now becoming a reality. However as you may have seen on a recent episode of The Gadget Show, some examples of the technology are not yet perfect. I was keen to test it for myself as the Kitvision Immerse 360 arrived on my desk.
For my testing, I used the Kitvision Immerse 360 to record video, and an iPhone 5s coupled with an Amir VR Headset for viewing the content, so I looking forward to this one.
In the Box
Within the usual stylish Kitvision packing, you’ll find the camera, a collection of mounting devices and a waterproof case, all of which provided the potential for some exciting video footage.
The inclusion of waterproof cases as standard with Kitvision cameras is a stroke of genius, and a nice touch. Now water is not a limiting factor when using Kitvision Action cams. The camera looks a little different to most actions cams in that it has a small dome on top of the unit which houses the camera lens. The unit is also surprisingly small.
Is it easy to use?
In the main, the camera itself is easy to operate and features only three buttons; the record start/stop button, the power button and the Wi-Fi button. To start recording, you simply press the red button and then press it again to stop recording. It’s certainly easy enough to use.
Unlike other Kitvision cameras, the screen on the Immerse isn’t colour and is limited to text only. This makes menus a little difficult to navigate and the selection method using the limited buttons takes a little getting used to.
So why does the Kitvision Immerse 360 have Wi-Fi?
When activated, the Immerse 360 acts as a WiFi hotspot allowing you to connect your smartphone or tablet directly to the camera. Afterwards, you can launch the free SYMAX360 App to control the camera. The SYMAX360 App allows you to see a video preview of what is in the frame, remotely control the camera and download your recordings. The App works very well, but be warned: the Wi-Fi absolutely hammers the cameras battery to the point where it may significantly reduce your recording time.
You can also access your recordings using a USB cable, although you will though need to purchase a MicroSD card as the Immerse 360 has NO inbuilt storage.
How well does the Kitvision Immerse 360 work?
The Immerse 360 camera is able to capture 1080p high def video (1920 x 1080 @30fps and 1440 x 1080 @30fps modes are supported) through its 220 degrees lens and can also capture 8mp still images. It’s fair to say that whilst immersive, the video clarity and quality isn’t the best you’ll see. When you are moving the camera around you’ll notice this less than when looking at a fixed point
To view the 360 video in the way it’s intended, you need to you either the smartphone app or download the desktop version of the software from http://symax360.com/.
The apps provide a way of viewing and interacting with your videos and photos featuring options to view in Panoramic, Circle, Dome & VR\Cardboard modes. As Cardboard mode is supported, if you have a VR headset then you can use it to view your video in immerse interactive motion controlled video. However, when viewing in headset mode the image quality and resolution is significantly reduced.
There is also a black bar at the bottom of the video which creates a slight offset between your head position and the view on-screen. This is due to the camera lens being on top of the unit, therefore it’s looking slightly upwards. You just need to keep this is mind as the image captured tends to be above the camera rather than in front, so in a number of my test videos the main feature captured was the sky.
Sharing your 360 Degree Videos
With its 360 viewing mode, YouTube makes a natural place to store and share your videos. However, before you can upload your video you need to convert it to the appropriate format. To do this you need to you use the desktop version of the Symax application. Editing 360 video is an interesting challenge as there are a number of steps that you need to go through in order to crop or alter your video.
The guys at Kitvision had to provide some support here, so I’ve tested the process and here is the steps to follow:
How to Edit 360 Degree Video
- Download your video to your PC
- Either use a USB cable or the MicroSD card to download the videos to your PC
- Convert the video using the Symax360 application
- Load the video into the player
- Press the Open Converter Option
- Change the Video Quality to high
- Save the video
- Edit the video in any video editor e.g. Windows Movie Maker
- After your edits are complete, export the video in the same format as the original file.
- Turn the video back into a 360-degree video
- You’ll need to insert 360 metadata into the file
- Download the app at https://support.google.com/
youtube/answer/6178631?hl=en- GB under the ‘Prepare for upload’ tab.
- Run the app and select your video to open it
- Select the tick box for Spherical and click Save as.
If you have followed the process then your video editing is now complete. It’s quite clear that this process isn’t for beginners, and I wish that this process could be simplified as it reduces the accessibility.
Whenever the first range of a new generation of hardware is released, it has no baseline to learn or refine from, therefore some of the overall experience isn’t where it will be in 5 years, and this is true of the Kitvision Immerse 360. The bare bones are there and you capture some really awesome and interesting footage, but improved video quality (especially in cardboard mode), easier editing and a smoother app would really take this 360 camera to the next level.
VR is here, for but not quite for everyone just yet. That said, if you are looking for a Christmas present for someone tech savvy, then this is a real option. You can find the Kitvision Immerse 360 from Amazon for £199.99.
Here is a section of sample videos taken with the Immerse 360. Don’t forget to point the camera up a bit.
By the Sea
On a Roller Coaster
In a Rock Pool