Go Pro Fusion 360 Camera

One of our goals on the DDMC forum over the past couple years has been to keep pace with innovations in 360 camera technology in their application at Duke. We’ve covered milestones from the still awesome Insta360 Nano introduced in early 2017 all the way to the new 6-lens Insta360 Pro 360, which opens the door to 8k in the prosumer sphere. Since GoPro is such an important player in the world of portable action cameras, we wanted to note their foray into the 360 camera space with their new Go Pro Fusion (~$700.00). While the claim GoPro makes that the Fusion is “arguably the most versatile creative tool ever made” is, well, arguable, it is an interesting camera and worth considering if you’re planning on purchasing a 360 camera.

As you would expect from a company built around sports footage, one of the benefits of the Go Pro is its durable design and the thinking that has gone into how the Fusion can function as an ergonomic accessory for someone engaged in physical activity. For example, it has a solid hand-held design and can be extended using a disappearing selfie stick that most reviewers seem to appreciate. In addition, it can be voice activated to make it easy when operating the unit from a distance.


  • Durable housing
  • Selfie stick attachment disappears when aligned with camera body
  • Built-in image stabilization (non-gimbal)
  • High res (5.2K)
  • “OverCapture” is a well-conceived framework for accessing and exporting segments of video in post production
  • Voice control


  • One of the significant differences between the Fusion and other 360 cameras is the requirement for two SD cards, and the fact that each of the two lenses writes their footage separately to each card. This means that in order for you to obtain a full 360 video you’ll need to use the editing software, which adds time and difficulty to the process of creating a video. Takes a long time to export footage. Between 20 and 45 minutes per minute of footage in GoPro Fusion Studio.
  • Large files sizes for exported videos: ~4.5 GB/ minute at 5.2K in Pro Res format (~ 1 GB/minute at 4K H.264)
  • The unit can get hot when operating
  • Mobile software hasn’t been getting great reviews

Here is a fairly through review of the Fusion that delves into many of the nuances of the Fusion and could be helpful if you’re considering making a purchase:

Insta360 Pro: 360 Video in 8K

When viewing 360 video with a VR headset, a high resolution can make the difference between an immersive experience and a blurry novelty. We’ve recently been working with the Insta360 Pro which is capable of filming in 8K and it’s produced some of the sharpest 360 video I’ve seen yet.

Like other 360 cameras we’ve tested recently (such as the Garmin VIRB) operating the Insta360 Pro is a relatively simple procedure of point and shoot (or in the case of filming in 360, just shoot). After a minute-long boot-up sequence, you just navigate to the video icon in the camera’s menu screen and hit enter. An Android/iOS app will also allow you to remotely control the recording. In addition to recording in 8K, you can also configure the camera to record in 3D/stereoscopic 360, or up to 120 frames per second, though not all at once. Prioritizing a high FPS or 3D means reducing the resolution to 6K or 4K.

Once turned on, the camera’s cooling fan will start running which is quite noisy. This could be an issue for video where you’ll want to use the spatial audio. However, upgrading the camera’s firmware will allow you to turn the camera off while recording for fifteen minutes at a time. You have the option of immediately recording again, though I’d be wary of the camera overheating.

At lower resolutions, each of the videos from the six lenses will be stitched in real time in-camera. But for 8K, you’ll need to bring the videos into Insta360’s proprietary stitching software, which requires the camera’s serial number and a user registration to download and operate. Though it’s a bit of a hassle to get set up, I found the actual stitching process straightforward while still allowing for a lot of customization. It allows for batch exports, compression to lower resolutions, and offers a low-res preview of the final video.

For the project we’re working on, we wanted viewing the 360 videos to be both immersive and accessible. The solution we found was to load the video onto an Oculus Go, a wireless VR headset. At $200, it seemed like the best compromise to get a full 360 experience. While the 4K and 3D videos have looked great, we haven’t been able to playback 8K video on the device. This remains one of the biggest challenges to working with 8K video at this point, let alone 8K 360 video: there’s simply not many places to actually view it. For now, I’m already impressed with the quality of the Insta360 Pro’s 4K output, even if it’s not the full capability of the camera.

VR, 360° Video, and Cinematic Language

With the introduction of more accessible technology and the pace of innovation, the interest around VR and 360° video is as palpable as ever.  The practical and creative possibilities of these new technologies are undeniably exciting.  As a lifelong video producer and editor, I’m especially curious about how immersive experiences interact with our current understanding of cinematic language and visual storytelling.

There are plenty of resources about how to shoot and edit 360° video but far less about how to think about shooting and editing 360° video. As content creators, it’s important to be familiar with equipment and postproduction workflows. It’s equally important to think about how those tools can be used to best communicate the themes, stories or experiences we are trying to create.

An obvious place to look for inspiration is the community of artists and filmmakers experimenting in this emerging field. The people who are throwing it up against walls, breaking it apart, putting it back together and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

So far, the most useful guide I’ve found is the work and writing of Jessica Brillhart, former VR filmmaker at Google. Her series of essays, In The Blink of a Mind, is a thoughtful exploration of how to start thinking critically about these fresh mediums in the face of over a century of cinematic convention. You can read the essays, along with some others, on Medium and view her work on her website.

The research team eleVR produced a practical and equally helpful series of articles. They make a compelling case for the role of editing in VR and dig into ideas about how cinematography choices apply to 360° video.

Finally, as with traditional cinema, film festivals are a good place to see how people are approaching the technology in interesting ways and look for inspiration. Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest and many other festivals now include an “immersive” category. One piece I’ll highlight is Notes on Blindness, which premiered at Sundance in 2016.  It’s beautiful and approaches the idea of immersion and storytelling in an unconventional way.  Especially in the world of academia and pedagogy, it’s exciting to think about how these experiences could introduce students to not only new or unique physical spaces but psychology spaces while delivering compelling content at the same time.

As with any newly introduced medium or genre, the conventions and boundaries are still being discovered and continue to evolve. I, for one, can’t wait to see where it goes.

Please point out other good writing or cool projects in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas to chew on.

360˚ to 2D Video Editing In Final Cut X

We recently acquired a Garmin VIRB to expand our production offerings here in the OIT Academic Media Technology department.  The small form factor, built in omnidirectional microphone and ability to capture 360 degrees of video make it an ideal tool for acquiring images in a variety of creative circumstances where total visual immersion is desired.  The viewer can pick and choose whatever they want to focus on (with minimal direction about subject importance conveyed via camera orientation.) The one caveat however is that in order to view 360˚ video, one needs to have a 3D capable headset to view the content, thereby making most 360˚ video a novelty only useful for specific circumstances…

The Garmin VIRB

Or so I thought.

Turns out 360˚ video can be integrated into 2D timeline sequences in Final Cut Pro X!

What are the advantages and applications of this approach?  The first advantage is that this allows for inconspicuous camera placement that covers everything within the 360˚ field of view.  Traditionally multiple cameras shooting with overlapping fields of view were required to document events.  By placing the VIRB in the center of the action, we were able to acquire every subject in our mock roundtable.  The VIRB had a slight capture issue due to my positioning on the periphery of the field of view of the two lenses but otherwise it performed quite well.  As stated before 360˚ video lacks restrictions o the viewer.  Initial vantage points can be established in editing, however the viewer is allowed to look wherever they choose.  This is problematic for academic presentation where key concepts need to be identified.  To put it succinctly, 360 is great for rollercoasters but terribly distracting for roundtable discussions.  This is where the 3D to 2D conversion comes in.

Peripheral shot from the VIRB with some lens aberration.  Notice the ghosting on my face?

After capture I imported the 4K video into Final Cu tX off of the VIRB’s micro SD card.  The import process was as simple as importing 2D video.  I then created a 2D 720P Project sequence to edit my 360˚ video in.  I dragged the video into the timeline and sliced the video where I wanted the “cuts” between focal points to happen using the omnidirectional audio for cue points. 

I then clicked on each of the sliced clips and reoriented the camera position to focus on the new subjects based on the pan, tilt, and roll sliders.  I was also about to constrain the field of view using the Field of View Slider.


While I did shoot 4K, I did notice some degradation in image quality if the Field of View slider enlarged the image too much so  I recommend that you place you subjects as close to the camera as possible within the field of view if reframing is going to be necessary.  What you end up getting is a sequence that looks like a perfect multicamera shoot.  Check out the final result below!


Overall I enjoyed my experience with 360˚ video and this 2D implementation discovery!

What’s New in Final Cut Pro X 10.4

Apple has updated their flagship video editing software recently and it’s fairly substantive. There’s a variety of small tweaks but the biggest things to look at are: 360 video editing, color grading, and HDR.

While 360 has yet to fully take-off as a widespread platform, the new built-in tools for editing should go a long way into making the technology more accessible. Until this point, editing 360 video was technically possible in FCPX, but if you wanted to make any significant edits you had to use to a plug-in like this one from Dashwood. 10.4 largely just puts the tools directly into the software which make them both faster and easier to use.

The standout tool is a new viewing window which allows you to preview the headset view of the 360 image (where you can drag on the screen to look around). This works in real time during video playback and is seamless. Other tools allow you to reorient the sphere of the 360 video, patch elements of the video to remove tripods and the like, and add some simple blur/sharpen effects. The main addition I haven’t seen before is 2D text effects. Before this update, adding a basic text graphic to a 360 video in FCPX meant it was warped to match the curvature of the video. This update allows you to create text graphics that lie flat within the sphere, which looks much cleaner.

The software supports both monoscopic and stereoscopic 360 video, as well as the option to view your project within a connected headset like the HTC Vive. Though we haven’t been able to test that yet, look for an update in the coming months hopefully.

For those that don’t work with 360 video, the new color correction options are the main highlight in 10.4. The tools have been given more prominence in the inspector window by gaining their own dedicated tab. In addition to the old color board, 10.4 features color wheels, color curves and hue/saturation curves. Many of these tools are new ways of doing the same adjustments in a new interface albeit with some finer control. A couple new options that stood out to me were the ability to isolate a specific hue and adjust it’s saturation, exposure, etc. It’s great for making some colors pop without affecting the rest of the image. To the same degree, another tool in the hue/saturation curves targets orange hues, presumably for bring out some color in flesh tones. It works great with the few samples I’ve tested, but I still want to see how well it works with people of all colors.

While the 4K revolution has been going strong for a while now, the other buzzword in new televisions finally has support in Final Cut. HDR (high dynamic range) offers a wider color gamut which can produce some incredibly vibrant images in TVs that support it. Of course, this means you’ll need a proper HDR reference monitor to take advantage of this part of the update. Like 360 video, HDR support in this update goes a long way into making the technology more accessible to everyone.

Some smaller updates of note include importing iOS iMovie projects, and support for HEVC and HEIF (high efficient video coding and high efficient image format, respectively). For professional editors who work with amateur video producers, importing iMovie projects from a phone is a nice option. A faculty member could film something abroad on their iPhone, do some basic edits in iMovie, and send it along to their editor who could then do some more advanced editing in Final Cut.


Garmin VIRB 360

Duke OIT in conjunction with the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) continues its search for innovative 360 cameras with our recent DDI-funded purchase of the  Garmin VIRB® 360. At $799.00, the VIRB was a chunk of change, but so far has proved to be worth it. This solid prosumer camera takes a big step forward in combining high quality (4k+) video together with the ease of use that has proved elusive for many of the previous contenders. Garmin has a huge investment in the sports and fitness sector, and as such has taken steps to integrate activity data with camera footage that athletes and outdoor enthusiasts will welcome. To break it in, I had a lot of fun taking the unit on a hike down to the local creek where I promptly plunked it under two feet of water (it’s rated for 10m). It didn’t disappoint–the quality of the footage was much better than any of the five or so 360 cameras I’ve tested so far, and the local fish were intrigued.

Garmin VIRB 360The setup and pairing process for the camera via the GarminVIRB® iOS app was intuitive and worked without a lot of fussing, which was a relief after my struggles with other cameras like the Nikon KeyMission 360. I had it out of the box and running in just a few minutes. The iOS app can control the camera and function as its viewfinder. There is a little bit of lag, which I didn’t find too distracting. I immediately liked the big red button on the side of the camera that kicks off a recording even if the unit is powered down. If you need to act fast, you won’t have to worry about hitting the right buttons or seeing the correct combination of flashing lights to let you know you’re recording.

We are lucky that our boss happens to be a semi-professional race car driver and enjoys helping us test our toys. We didn’t miss the opportunity to try the unit out at the track. One nice thing about the VIRB 360 is that it uses standard GoPro mounts, and he used this one to attach the camera to the top of the car. There are some surfaces, like brushed aluminum that it won’t grip, but it will lock like the jaws of death onto glass or painted steel, even at 120+mph. Below is some footage he shot and exported using Garmin’s editing software. He’s added a few data overlays, including speed, G’s, and a course map with real time location tracking. There are many more types of data that you can integrate with this camera and include with exported footage. We didn’t have an opportunity to grab an external mic to pair with the camera, so pardon the wind noise. Next time, we’ll try for audio from inside the cab.

Here is a summary of some of the pluses that stand out to us:

  • High quality–5.7k/30fps
  • Simple pairing
  • Simple start/stop using the big side button
  • Voice activated commands (start, stop, take photo)
  • Overlay data such as speed, elevation, g-force, and heart rate, and export them as 360-degree augmented reality using bundled editing software
  • Use it with standard GoPro mounts
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Shock resistant body
  • 4 built in microphones capture spatial audio

Some areas for improvement:

  • Built in stitching needs improvement–makes a bit of a mess in areas between the lenses that is most noticeable at the zenith and nadir of the shot. Hopefully a future firmware update will help with this. On-device stitching only up to 4K/30fps
  • Battery life was very short. You’ll definitely need to have more than one battery. On the plus side, the camera will work with no battery installed if attached to to a USB port. However, we found that you can’t charge the battery and use the camera simultaneously with the camera connected to USB.
  • We had problems with bugginess of the editing software and numerous crashes, and some features are still in beta


Insta360 ONE Announced Today

In February we wrote about the Insta360 Nano 360, a then-new-on-the-scenes 360 camera that solved usability challenges many devices in this space were suffering from. Today Insta360 announced the hotly-anticipated release of the successor to the Nano360, the Insta360 ONE.

At about $300.00, it maintains a low price point ($100.00 more than the Nano360), but adds some dazzling new features, such as those listed below. However, perhaps the most interesting thing about this camera is that, in the words of The Verge, this camera “help[s] solve the problem of when, where, and how we should use 360 cameras.”


  • 4K
  • Freecapture: the ability to edit and export 1080p videos from your 360 footage that includes:
    • Bullet Time, via either an optional selfie stick or an included string
    • Auto tracking of a subject you identify in the video
  • Live streaming to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
  • The selfie stick disappears in your footage
  • 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization
  • Retractable lightning port plugs into your iPhone (Android version of the camera is in the works)
  • Rubber stand you can use as a base for shooting and for protecting the lens when storing
  • 24 megapixel stills, with the ability to capture in RAW format
  • An array of accessories available for purchase separately, including mounts for drones and helmets, underwater housing, a suction cup base, the selfie stick, which also is a bluetooth remote, and a tripod.

Watch Insta360’s promo video for the ONE here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrOmKKSRu8c

For more details about the ONE, check out this helpful review on Engadget: https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/28/insta360-one-4k-360-camera/#/

Also, here’s a cool advance video review of the ONE by a guy who clearly loves the invisible selfie stick feature! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fc1ilgKWwk

If any of you get the ONE, please let us know how it works out for you!

360 Cameras Become User Friendly

In the 360 camera space, we’re seeing a continued shift toward user-friendliness as more contenders follow the path set by the $200.00 Nano360, which broke ground late last year. The genius of the Nano360, which we wrote about here, is in its direct integration with the iPhone via Lighting, allowing you to use the iPhone as a monitor, and in its versatile social media integrations that make it easy for users to quickly publish content after creating it. Earlier generations of 360 cameras to a large extent have suffered from the inability to easily publish or edit your videos and photos unless you first download them from the camera’s SD card to a computer. Many of these devices have also been plagued by buggy phone apps that can make pairing your camera with a smartphone a headache, as a quick scan of the reviews for some of these apps attests.

The new Ion360 camera, available for pre-order ($250.00) for iPhone 7/ 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8/ S8 Plus, is building on the success of the Nano360 and adding full 4K resolution. Like the Nano360, the Ion360 snaps on to your phone. It doesn’t look like the Ion360 can work in standalone mode like the Nano360 can, but unlike the Nano360 it includes an iPhone charging battery case.

Interestingly, the brand new Essential Phone built by the “Father of Android,” Andy Rubin, and announced on May 30, 2017, includes its own snap-on 360 camera, which gives further credence to the idea that 360 cameras integrated into smartphones are the wave of the future. If you need a 360 camera built for specialized purposes, such as one that is especially rugged and/or waterproof, you may want to go with a traditional model, but these new integrated devices are certainly worth a look, especially given their relatively low costs.

One additional note–the popular Ricoh Theta S is due for an update soon to full 4K/30, as Steve Toback wrote about as part of this year’s NAB report.

Insta360 Nano 360

OIT recently purchased the new Nano 360 360-degree still and video camera by Insta360. This camera seems like a game changer in bringing a new level of user-friendliness to the world of 360 cameras.

By integrating with your iPhone (version 6 and above), it essentially allows you the kind of control in previewing and reviewing your work that you have with regular photos and videos on your iPhone. There is the added intermediary of an app, and having to export the photos and videos from the camera to your iPhone camera roll one by one, but the process still seems at least to this reviewer an order of magnitude easier than shooting blind and then having to manually attach the camera to a computer and upload files manually.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://youtu.be/-LcM48oTK68[/youtube]

With the addition of a MicroSD card (up to 64GB), and a little studying about what the different colored LED lights mean and what’s the difference between one click and a double click of the single button that the camera has, you can use the camera without the use of the iPhone monitor, but the magic of the Nano 360 is definitely in the iPhone integration.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]https://youtu.be/t9Uq6xJTlO0[/youtube]

In the near future we’ll be using this camera and others to explore potential workflows for live immersive 360 streaming, so expect another update soon.

General word of warning about this and virtually any other 360 camera–make sure not to set the camera down on a hard surface without specifically covering the lens with a soft cloth. The lenses, one on each side of the camera, are the most prominent part of the camera and can easily be scratched.