Professional 360-Degree Cameras for Classroom Use

Project Title: Professional 360-Degree Cameras for Classroom Use

Project Lead's Name: Eric Hodgson

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-2401

Project Lead's Division: CCA

Primary Department: Interactive Media Studies

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Bruce Murray,
  • Harrison Lippy,
  • Murali Paranandi,

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal:

  • Interactive Media Studies
  • Architecture / Interior Design
  • Music

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 50

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 10

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: Currently, the IMS program has several consumer-grade 360-degree cameras, which are used regularly by students in the IMS 461 course (virtual reality, 24 seats) and occasionally by students in the Senior Thesis course (IMS 452, 120 seats per year). Recently, there has also been increasing demand for students to do independent studies in 360 film-making (IMS 377), with students using the cameras heavily for the entire semester. If this demand continues, the IMS program may consider offering a class dedicated to 360 film making. This would allow us to broaden the impact of the current offerings, as 360 photography and filming is becoming mainstream in areas such as music performance, theater, architecture, interior design, real estate visualization, history, digital heritage, and museum science, to name a few. The faculty represented on this project are jointly from IMS, Music, and Architecture / Interior Design, and have interest in applying the technology to several of these disciplines. Dr. Paranandi, for example, suggests that 360 filming technology could benefit several Architecture studios (ARC 301 / 302 / 401 / 402 / 402.Y) and digital media classes (ARC 404.Y). The final member of our team, an undergraduate student, is currently pursuing an independent study in 360 film-making, and has recently completed an internship in this field. He was able to learn on higher-grade equipment than we can offer, and is eager to help us provide the same experience to other students.

The cameras that the IMS program currently has for students to use were selected for their low cost and ease-of-use to create a low barrier of entry for students with no experience. Unfortnately, the trade-off is that these cameras produce low to middling quality and common professional features. The Rico Theta, Bublcam, and Giroptic cameras that we have used at various points, for example, provide automatic stitching of the final image, but produce an output of only 1920 x 1080 pixels. While this is HD resolution on a standard computer monitor, which typically displays a 60-degree field of view, it is notably low resolution when stretched 6x to cover a full 360 degrees instead. IMS also offers several Samsung Gear 360 cameras, which offer similar ease of use and can output 2k or 4k video instead. This is improved, but still sub-standard for professional quality work. We currently offer one high-end Go-Pro rig with fish-eye lenses for high resolution 360 still images, but it cannot produce full 360 video due to limitations in the aspect ratio for video. None of the cameras are capable of producing stereoscopic 3D capture.

Furthermore, none of the cameras we use are capable of capturing 360 spatial audio, which is an important component of professional 360 recordings. That is, instead of recording 2-channel stereo (Left-Right), it is important to capture at least 4-channel spatial audio (Left-Right / Front-Back) and sometimes as high as 16 directional channels to create the illusion of soundscapes that surround the viewer auditorily in the same way that the 360-degree video does visually. This aspect of our proposal in particular will benefit the music program, and allow rich spatial capture of music performances with Dr. Murray's students.

To this end, we are proposing to acquire a few professional-grade but still affordable 360 cameras. The cameras we have selected are capable of producing 8k stereoscopic video and up to 12k super-high resolution photos, and offer features like multi-axis image stabilization, HDR video, and long-range remote control (which can enable future drone shoots). We also propose to acquire several ambisonic microphones that can be used with the new cameras and with the existing cameras. We will also need to acquire software that to enable students to stich, edit, mix, and mux their final 360 creations. These items are detailed in the budget. We have selected each item to be of high-enough quality to produce professional grade content, while still keeping the costs reasonable for Miami University. We have avoided high-end equipment like the Jaunt One camera ($95k each) or even those such as the Google Jump (~$17k each). An analysis of different camera options was conducted, and is attached for your review.

The proposed equipment and software can be housed in the Smale Interactive Visualization Center (SIVC) in Laws Hall alongside IMS's existing cameras. The SIVC also has several computer workstations that can support the requested software, and has swipe access on the door for students to get in and use it. Both IMS and the SIVC have operating budgets that can be used for upkeep of the equipment or to renew software licenses if needed in the future.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: This project will meet a growing need in the IMS program, allow us to expand our offerings to students and faculty in other disciplines, and allow Miami to offer state-of-the art tools in an emerging field, rather than using low-quality approximations.

How will you assess the success of the project: The success of this project will be determined by the breadth and depth of student usage. In terms of breadth, we are aiming to support students in at least IMS 377, 452, and 461, as well as students in ARC 301, 302, 401, 402, 402.Y, 404.Y, and independent study students in Music. In terms of depth, we will track the total number of students using the equipment and the number of projects produced.

Just a few years ago, our consumer-grade 360 cameras were serving 2-3 students a year. More recently, we have been serving closer to 25. With this expansion of equipment and the inclusion of more courses, we expect to serve about 60 students per year initially, with more growth in future years.

We also see the potential for new curriculum or workshops in future years in the IMS program (directed by Dr. Paranandi and likely taught by Dr. Hodgson), although that is not part of the current proposal.

Total Amount Requested: $12,861

Is this a multi-year request: No