By Jeff Knapp
Disclaimer: B. Co is in no way sponsored by, or affiliated with, Kodak. The opinions present in this blog are solely our own.
With the proliferation of affordable VR headsets currently saturating the marketplace, manufacturers are rushing to put out equally affordable cameras to take advantage of this new medium.
One manufacturer, Kodak, broke into the VR field with their PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam.
The PixPro is marketed as an “action camera”, much like a GoPro, but with a 360-degree field of view. This is mainly targeted to consumers who want to relive their experiences in a more immersive fashion than was ever possible with traditional home movies.
Though the PixPro is not necessarily meant for professional narrative projects, it was the first 360-degree camera the B. Co team shot with, using it on an experimental VR horror short back in October 2016.
Technically, since each camera lens only truly captures 235-degrees, we used two PixPros back-to-back, then stitched the videos together in post to create a true 360-degree space. This was easy, due to the dual base camera mount that came with the cameras, as well as Kodak’s free proprietary video stitching software.
Unfortunately, the stitching software is rudimentary at best (it took us about 3 hours just to stitch two shots together). But, this is somewhat forgivable keeping in mind this product is not meant for professional use… plus, it’s free.
Another caveat with using these cameras is their lack of detail.
One can normally expect a lack of sharpness when shooting with an ultra-wide lens, but nothing prepared us for the soft and artifact-laced images that would be produced when we got the footage back into the editing suite (particularly when each camera boasts 4K resolution with a 12 megapixel sensor). A welcome solution to this problem could come in the form of an accessory that allows you to mount 4 or more cameras together, if Kodak would make one. That being said, when shooting 360-degree video it is always best to have your subject 3-to-5 feet away from the camera for best clarity and sharpness.
One additional note of caution: The PixPro is by no means a low light camera. If your image isn’t perfectly exposed, chances are the footage will be completely unusable. This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that manual control of basic functions such as ISO or aperture are nonexistent.
Also, because the cameras don’t come with built-in LCD displays, a free phone app can be used to remotely monitor and control the camera settings (a must have, when you need to keep yourself and your crew out of the shot). However, a major problem with this is that only one camera can be synced per mobile device, effectively limiting your view of the image to one half of what it should be.
When compared to other 360-degree cameras, particularly those that stitch the video internally and automatically as well as coming with lower price points, the Kodak PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam can offer an additional level of control in the post-production process, but probably not one that will make much of an improvement considering the price discrepancies.
Jeff Knapp is a writer, cinematographer, editor and photographer based in the Bay Area. Coming from a background in broadcast journalism, he currently heads the video production division of B. Co.