Field Test – GoPro 360 Rig VS Ricoh Theta S

360-degree videos are one of the hot topics in today’s journalism. This new way to show the world makes media more immersive and interacting, allowing users to have a closer experience to a certain topic or event. There are different gadgets to realize 360 video, and here at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications we are luny to have a couple of them to use for our projects. But which one is really the best option?

For my field test I decided to conduct a comparison between shooting a 1-minute 360 video using a GoPro 360 Rig versus the new Ricoh Theta S. My goal is to highlight all the pros and cons of the two cameras and post-production work.

I’ve been familiar with the GoPro 360 rig for a long time now, so for the test I decided shoot a video which is part of my Virtual Reality Storytelling final. The Ricoh Theta S, instead, it’s new to me, so I decided to shoot a video inside Newhouse. Here’s the result.

GoPro 360 Rig

Cost: $2000/3000
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 2/5
Battery Life: 1 hour (with wifi + remote control on)
Post-Production: Autopano or similar software needed
Production Time: 20/30 minutes

The GoPro 360 rig is probably one of the earliest technologies when it comes to 360 video production. The rig consists of 6 GoPros attached to each other thanks to a plastic rig and controlled by a GoPro wifi remote. The rig shoots six individual videos that will need to be stitched together through a software (Autopano Video Pro, for example). The total cost of the rig includes 6 GoPros, rig, tripod, portable chargers, and wifi remote.

One of the biggest issues of the GoPro rig is ghosting. The fish-eye lens of the GoPro sometimes doesn’t entirely follow a person’s movements, so it might happen that the person briefly disappears while moving from one camera to the other. This issue can be solved with a stitching software, but it requires time and editing skills. Another issue of the GoPro rig is the battery, which runs out fast. For this reason, it’s recommended to bring a portable USB charger.

Overall, the GoPro 360 Rig is a good attempt for 360 video production, but i’s time consuming and requires some skills and a lot of patience. From personal experience, I can assure that there will always be some issues when it comes to stitching the videos together. However the GoPro rig allows more in terms of editing.

Here’s a video realized using the GoPro 360 Rig.

Ricoh Theta S

Cost: $439.95
Video Quality: 2/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Battery Life: 260 shots per charge
Post-Production: Not necessary (editing app available for iOS)
Production time: 5 minutes

The Ricoh Theta S is the last gadget of the Ricoh Theta’s family. This camera is equipped with two parallel lenses, which allow to shoot 360 videos and photos.

The size is definitely a plus. The Ricoh Theta S can easily fit in a pocket and weigh less than a smartphone. An app, available on both iOS and Android allows to remotely control the camera, which needs to be place on a flat surface or a tripod for best results. The Ricoh Theta S has a built-in memory of 8GB, not expandable, and 14 megapixels camera

The quality of the videos is pretty low. On a smartphone screen it might look nice, but if the video is transferred on computer, the image results highly pixelated. Compared to the GoPro 360 rig, the Ricoh Theta S doesn’t require any software to stitch the images, but theres an app available to iOS devices that allows some editing.

Here’s a video realized using the Ricoh Theta S.

Overall, the Ricoh Theta is a cheap and fun device for 360 video production. It’s definitely a good resource for leisure videos and if space is an issue. However, for bigger projects I recommend the GoPro 360 rig, at least until the release of better and cheaper technologies.

UPDATE: After uploading the Ricoh Theta S video on YouTube I noticed that it doesn’t recognize the video as 360-degree. Unfortunately, softwares do not recognize the file to inject the spherical view metadata so it’s necessary to convert the file from .m4v to mp4 in order to inject the metadata. Prior to uploading the video  I believed that the step was unnecessary but I was proved wrong.