The Freedom360 is a mount, or a frame to hold 6 GoPro Hero3 cameras in a tight, cubic geometry to film material for a fully spherical 360 x 180 video, controlled via the GoPro Wifi remote. The 6 individual videos are downloaded from the MicroSD cards, and stitched with special software into a equirectangular or dome master file. After editing and compression, the movie can be played back with special panorama players or apps, allowing the user to look in all directions, or even apply “impossible views” like a “little planet” view. Dome masters can be played back with any dome projection system.
Freedom360 focuses on the hardware aspects, and we will be bundling 3rd party video stitching suites as soon as they are released.
The Freedom360 and the 360Rig are the brainchild of Joergen Geerds, photographer, artist, art director and inventor, in collaboration with Dr. Ulrike Futschik, with a great deal of help&support from Ignacio Ferrando Margeli, and very knowledgable initial feedback from Matthias Taugwalder.
The 360Rig was the first camera rig in the world taking the idea of 360 video to the logical conclusion: fully spherical video, 360×180 degrees, without nadir hole and freedom how to mount it. All 360 video rigs before 2012 had a big so called nadir hole, or no coverage towards the mount (usually down towards the ground), because nobody cared much about that area. The Ladybug system from Point Grey is a good example for that, and throughout 2011, with the gaining popularity of the GoPro cameras, we saw many iterations of “5 Gopros on a stick”, that all shared the same nadir hole, and the same ‘hacked’ look that made it difficult to use on pro shoots.
The unique and innovative geometry of the 360Rig changed that, when the worlds first fully spherical video was published in February, 2012: Skiing in the Pyrenees. The new design allowed total freedom from the traditional vertical mount, since all leveling of the stitched panorama happens in post, while maintaining a very good resolution and quality, plus a very convenient wireless remote control.By Ignacio Ferrando Margeli
The technical details around the basic design principle evolved quickly, leading to 360Rig V3, which was announced on May 1st, 2012, followed by the 360Rig V4, presented during the IVRPA Conference in NYC, June 2012.
The 360Rig sold quite successfully during the year 2012 world-wide to professionals and enthusiasts who were quite hooked on the liberating small form factor of the rig, despite the lack of a dedicated video stitching solution. All stitching was done laboriously via PTgui batch stitching. The 360Rig prooved very rugged, and was the key element to many of the worlds first fully spherical videos: the sky-diving world record over Chicago, the first full-sphere video from the upper stratosphere (32km), the first full-shpere heli flight over an erupting volcano, the first hang-gliding video (Telluride), just to name a few of the great accomplishments 360Rig users made in 2012.
When Gopro released their new camera model, the Hero3, by the end of 2012, the design of the rig had to be adjusted as well. Keeping the same geometry, the external shell transmogrified into an internal frame, the custom wireless controller got replaced by direct Wifi control of the cameras, and the common power regulator with ext battery was replaced back to the original camera batteries, making the design easier.
The new design (V5, January 2013), accompanied with a rebranding from 360Rig to Freedom360, allows the user to choose their own cameras (Hero3 white, silver or black). They are held solidly in place by six braces, connecting them to a central frame without any play. The user can still change the cameras quickly with a simple screw driver, if necessary. The design doesn’t require to take the cameras out.
While the 360Rig was produced from durable white ABS, the Freedom360 is now made from even tougher and stronger Polyamide (Nylon). The important design decision was to maintain the ultra compact size of the previous rig, and even slightly improving upon it, since moving the cameras away from their common optical center only increases the parallax error, and the inherent problems stitching the material. It was an active decision to not use the water-proof acrylic housings the cameras are known for: they only increase the size and the weight, and the stitching problems arising from that, without much other benefits. The lens caps and the ThinkTank pouch included with the Freedom360 serve quite well protecting against rain and cold. We are nevertheless working on a underwater version, which is currently in the prototyping stage.
Freedom360 not only offers the rig for sale, but also important accessories we feel are important for a professional 360 video production. We are also offering custom rigs for special purposes, based on your needs.
Joergen Geerds is coming from a long tradition of panorama photography, always interested to bridge different worlds. He had a great job in NYC advertising, started a fine art career with his large-scale night panoramas of New York City, exhibits is work in Chelsea and elsewhere, and is a successful commercial photographer. He started his 360 video career with the “Go wide or go home” project for LBi/Sony , and you can follow some of the back ground story with a recording of his talk at the IVRPA conference June 2012 in NYC. The driving aspect was the relative high weight of commercial 360 rigs such as the Ladybug, and their need for an umbilical cord.
Joergen has been a long supporter of high-end panorama stitching software such as PTgui and Autopano Pro, which are both enabling the 360 video stitching workflow we are seeing today.
When he’s not busy inventing new custom camera geometries or photographing and stitching panoramas, he enjoys BBQ and rock climbing.