3D Print your own 4K 360 Camera

We owe a lot to the open source community so we like to give something back every now and then.

We design and build custom rigs for VR filming and this is a really useful one for high quality 360 filming using our favoured GoPro Sessions (compact units which are light and waterproof to 10 metres without extra casing).

So – what do you need?
A 3D printer (or access to one).
6 GoPro Sessions with memory cards and, ideally, a GoPro Remote control.
2 x 4.75mm screws (to hold the case together – we don’t trust PLA clasps).
Heavy duty/solid selfie stick with standard camera mount screw.
Stitching software (see the next article).

3D Printing
Firstly, lets get the unit printed and ready for use.

Essentially, you have 3 components, the largest of which is the base unit and contains holes for 5 of the GoPro Sessions to sit. There is then a lid which slides over the top and a spacer which will sit in the middle to keep the Sessions in place.

To print the items, download the 2d 360 eevr rig  STL  files (all 3 are held within the ZIP folder).
Each item is printed from the small base point upwards as shown in the image below.

PLA 3D printers are quite varied in setup but we recommend that you have a 3 layer shell but low density fill.
We want the device to be light and strong so that we have flexibility of movement and reduce stress on the screw onto the stick mounting.

If you are doing a nylon print, you may want to spend some time linking up the items to reduce print space.
Our friends at 3D PrintUK have a great set of Tutorials at https://www.3dprint-uk.co.uk/3d-print-tutorials/

There shouldn’t be any need to amend or adjust any of the parts that have been printed.
Each GoPro needs to be linked to the remote control (don’t walk away from the cameras with the remote or you will need to re-sync) and put the video setting on each to 1080p.

The sessions are all rotated to give the maximum coverage on the 360 view and if you disable auto-rotate on the devices (a neat function but our enemy on this particular set-up) then you will get great stitching each time.

Slide the first camera into the centre hole of the main unit with the lens on the outside (obviously) and the red circle button towards the exposed circle of the 3D print. We number our cameras for simplicity when importing files later in the process.

Next slide the 4 outer cameras in the same way and add the 3D printed spacer into the centre which will keep everything flush with outer perimeter.

Slide the last camera into the top unit and then carefully lower the lid onto the base.
The lid only site in one rotation so make sure the screw hole are aligned and screw both sides in.

Add the selfie stick or camera mount to the hole on the triangular plane of the unit and you are ready to go.

A note about the design is that there are small vent hole to help the units stay cooler than they would otherwise (Sessions get too hot too quickly in our opinion) but, more importantly, so that water can quickly fill the voids quickly for underwater filming.
There is still enough air in there to allow for some buoyancy.

VR filming is covered in another article but, essentially, remember to keep movement and rotation very slow (or zero) unless you are going to link the experience to a motion seat or you will simply make yet another vomit inducing VR piece.

Remember that good filmed VR content is 80% atmosphere, sensation and environment and 20% character, plot and story which means a you need to consider carefully how the medium is best used to communicate. i.e. don’t try and do a traditional shoot but swap cameras – it doesn’t work.

Allow the user to explore with their eyes, don’t rush the scenes but make them interesting and don’t create pivotal actions or information in one zone only.

On a practical level, just click the remote (each device will beep) and the filming will start. Click again to stop.
Keep filming until you have sufficient footage and run the devices at 1440 (I know it’s only 30fps but it will still look great for broadcast).

Unlock the device and pull each camera out of the unit.
Copy via USB or direct from the memory card (whichever is easist).

You’ll need to stitch the footage together and our favoured software is Kolor Autopano though you’ll find VideoStitch works very well too (though if you’re listening guys the sync method needs refining).
I’ll post a template soon but the software will dynamically map the frames for you anyway.
If you have audio editing software, you can extract the audio channels and apply then to the 6 points around you for cool spatial 360 sound but be aware this will only make a difference if there are distinct sound elements being emitted from specific directions.

And there you have it – a 4K, 6 camera, 360 rig for substantially less than some of the commercial competitors (cough, cough, OZO).

We’ll post updates in the future and we may put a 3D 360 rig on here if it’s of value.

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