Facebook is partnering with RED Digital Cinema to produce a professional VR camera, capable of capturing 3D imagery that can then be enhanced with the company’s depth reconstruction technology. The two companies made the announcement of their partnership at Facebook’s f8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Tuesday, but said that technical specs, price points and a release date would be shared at a later point.
“We’ve been on a quest to build immersive capture technology for years,” said Facebook director of engineering Brian Cabral in an interview with Variety. These efforts have long included on what is known as depth reconstruction, which essentially means that the company is using 3D images to calculate images that users of high-end VR headsets can lean into.
Facebook first demonstrated this technology at its f8 developer conference in 2016, and showed off several prototypes for what it then called its Surround 360 cameras last year. At the time, Facebook also revealed that it was in discussions with several hardware makers to actually produce cameras based on Facebook’s technology.
One of those camera makers will be RED, a company that has a bit of a cult-like following among cinematographers. “Depth reconstruction is only as good as the image data that you can capture,” said Cabral this week. He argued that RED was an ideal partner for Facebook because of its ability to capture extended dynamic ranges. “The pixel quality matters a lot,” he said.
RED also offers Facebook a chance to work with a company that is already an established partner for Hollywood, which should help to get the camera into the hands of filmmakers. “It’s a partner that has on-set experience,” Cabral said.
Facebook is not the only tech company that has gotten into the VR camera game. Most notably, Google has been partnering with companies like Yi to produce cameras for its JUMP cloud stitching platform. However, Jump is aiming to automate the production of high-quality 360 3D content, potentially opening it up to a wider group of creators.
Facebook’s partnership with RED on the other hand squarely aims for the upper end of the market — studios and professional cinematographers looking to produce high-end VR for experiences with the ability to lean in, which is in the VR world also known as six degrees of freedom. “We want to enable the best storytellers,” Cabral said.