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Samsung Gear 360 camera
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  • NEW YORK – June 22, 2016 – Today Samsung Electronics America, Inc. launched Samsung Creators, a new initiative that empowers storytellers, partnering with them to generate content across a variety of audiences and channels to show everyday creators what’s possible with Samsung VR technology.

    “We want to bring the power of VR technology directly to the people,” said Samsung Electronics America’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Mathieu. “To help creators learn and perfect the art of VR storytelling, we’ve built an entire VR ecosystem that pushes beyond the frame and empowers them to develop unforgettable, immersive stories, and inspires us all to do the same.”

    At VidCon—and, beyond—Samsung Creators will provide seminars and classes, putting VR capabilities in the hands of filmmakers and influencers, further accelerating this new medium. Leading into VidCon, Samsung Creators is working with Casey Neistat to spotlight emerging creators from YouTube and push the creative boundaries of 360 video storytelling. This special curation of content will premiere at VidCon.

    In July, Samsung Creators will launch a competition, challenging aspiring, indie filmmakers and creators to develop VR / 360 content, using Samsung’s VR products. Ten winners will be chosen, one from each of the following ten categories: Music, Auto, Science and tech, Gaming, Travel, Fashion, Culinary, Cause-related, 4D and Sports.

    Samsung VR and Samsung Gear 360 Updates

    In addition, today Samsung launched Samsung VR– formerly known as Samsung Milk VR – which now supports user generated content. Creators can load their own 360-degree videos to the Samsung VR platform for sharing and for the first time view them in Samsung Gear VR. For more information about uploading content to Samsung VR, please visit https://samsungvr.com.

    Samsung Gear 360 also launched in the U.S. today, an affordable, high-resolution camera developed for storytellers to create their own 360-degree videos for mobile viewing and VR content for Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus. The Gear 360 is priced at $349.99 in the United States and will be available for purchase on a limited basis during VidCon in Anaheim, California. Details about additional availability will follow later in the year. For more information about Gear 360, please visit www.samsung.com/gear360.

    With these announcements, Samsung delivers the first end-to-end VR ecosystem that enables creators to shoot, stitch and share like never before.

  • I received the official US version of the Gear 360 camera today. The price was $349, and I got it from Samsung via a special promotion. I did not get any discount, although I did receive (surprise) a free 32 GB microsd card. There was a promotion that would give you the camera for free, but it seemed to create obligations to post and use social media.

    I have already learned some things that are not evident from almost all reviews on the web, and I have seen a lot of reviews. I used the camera in conjunction with the Samsung Galaxy S7.

    Here is what I have learned so far:

    Video (3840x1920):

    1. The original file produced in the camera is H265, at 32 Mbps. HEVC or H265 gives approximately the same quality as H264 at double the bitrate, so equivalent to about 64 Mbps H264 (about what the GoPro shoots in 4K).

    2. When you save the file on the camera to the device (Samsung Galaxy S7) you get a stitched 360 file (equirectangular) that is H264, with a bitrate of 61 Mbps (yes, almost double the H265 bitrate). The audio is AAC 192 kbps, at 48Hz.

    3. You can also create a stitched file using the free Action Director software on the PC. Take the unstitched video files from the microsd card and load them on the PC.

    But - wait for it - the stitched file the PC software creates is half the bitrate of the one produced on the phone: 32 Mbps H264 (not H265), and the audio is also at a lower bitrate, 128 kbps at 48Hz. So, it produces a lower quality video. And there are no options that I could find to change how it stitches (it is automatic).

    Who knows how the videos you see uploaded to the web from the Samsung Gear 360 were produced - from the PC or from the phone? If the former, people are not seeing the best the camera can do.

    Video and stills:

    The S7 will also stitch the camera stills, producing a 7776x3888 equirectangular jpeg still. This is higher still resolution than the Theta S and the dual Kodak 360 Ks. The gear 360 is potentially the best 360 stills camera available, if some issues can be solved.

    The biggest issue I have seen on the videos and stills uploaded to the web from the Gear 360 is different colors from the two lenses, which are quite visible along the stitch line. One possible reason is use of Auto WB, which gives a different reading from each lens. So I set the WB manually. It was a cloudy day and I set the WB to "Cloudy". I saw little, but some, discordance along the stitch line. I didn't compare to setting the WB to Auto. I will do that, but it started to rain and I did not have time in this first test.

    Next up: video comparison between the Gear 360 and the Kodak 360 4K.

  • Unfortunately, when I shot this comparison video, it became cloudy and very dark (rain followed). The Samsung Gear 360 WB was set to Cloudy; the Kodaks were in Auto WB, so there is a big difference in color. The Samsung clip has nicer color, but it is not accurate (makes grey beige (I like beige)).

    I will try to compare in good light, in Auto WB for both later.

  • One other fact I learned that I have not seen clearly discussed in any reviews:

    You can trim the stitched video on the S7 losslessly and almost instantaneously. Just select the part of the video you want to keep and the software on the phone makes a new video (the original is retained) with a new name (adds a 001 suffix) without any re-compression - zero loss in quality. If you don't like it, you can do another one, and so on.

    I can also merge any, edited or not, stitched Gear 360 video losslessly using TMPEngc Smart Renderer 5. So, I can make a complete, multi-clip trimmed 360 video with no recompression. Note: you can do this with stitched Kodak 360 4K videos too, in the Kodak software.

    Here is the link to a bright-light Samsung Gear 360 video, that was trimmed on the S7: