Armchair sports lovers are at the mercy of TV directors who chose what camera angle is shown when. Most sports fans will have been frustrated with their shot selection at one time or another, but a new panoramic camera would put such decisions in the viewer’s hands. Comprising ten individual cameras, the OmniCam 360 provides a full 360-degree of the action.
Rather than arranging a number of cameras in a star formation, with the lens of each facing out, the team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institute, in Berlin designed the OmniCam360 with the cameras packed into a cylindrical base with their lenses facing up. A multifaceted mirror that angles out from a central point above the cameras is then used to reflect the surrounding view into the lenses.
Aside from helping keep the size of the unit to a minimum, this setup also gives the cameras' entrance pupils a common center. This allows it to produce a 360-degree panorama without the seams and distortions evident in other omnidirectional camera setups, like those used to capture Google’s Street View images, where each individual camera image meets the next.
To ensure a seamless panoramic view, the researchers made sure that images from neighboring cameras overlapped by a few pixels so that the software could merge them without any seams. Unlike a gap at the seams, the researchers say the slight shift in perspective that results from the pixel overlap is unnoticeable to the eye.
Although the all-in-one system is no lightweight handycam, with a weight of 15 kg (33 lb) it is still light enough to be carried by one person and mounted on a tripod. It is also around the same size as a professional television camera, improving considerably on its predecessor that occupied around 1.5 sq m (16 sq ft) of space and tipped the scales at 80 kg (176 lb).
Its creators say the OmniCam360 would allow those viewing a telecast on a PC, tablet or the latest TVs to choose their preferred angle using a special app or even perform a virtual 360-degree pan of the action.
They point out that sporting events, although the most obvious, aren’t the only applications for the camera. Having already recorded concerts with six of the units – placing three on stage and three in the crowd – the team now plans to transmit a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic live to Japan.