(Pocket-lint) - It's not the first time we've heard about GoPro Omni - the six GoPro camera rig used for 360-degree virtual reality capture, announced early 2016 - but it is the first time we've seen it and learned about its end-to-end workflow. So just what can you expect?
GoPro Omni: What is it?
Omni is a camera rig, designed to hold six GoPro HD Hero 4 Black cameras, used for capturing seamless 360-degree footage, for virtual reality (VR) or on-screen playback.
Inside Omni is a motherboard that ensures pixel-perfect sync between the six cameras, useful to eliminate ghosting or poor stitching in the post-production process.
One camera acts as the master for the other five - so only one needs to be triggered to begin the recording process. Remote Wi-Fi triggering is also possible, just as you can with any Hero 4.
GoPro Omni: Which GoPro cameras is it compatible with?
Omni is only compatible with HD Hero 4 Black cameras, which is the current top-end model in GoPro's range. It is not compatible with the Silver model, nor earlier GoPro editions. We believe it will be forward-compatible with the not-yet-announced HD Hero 5, but GoPro declined to comment.
Each camera requires a firmware flash to make it compatible with Omni. This firmware feature-limits the cameras, so while you could theoretically use each one individually once removed from the rig, their angle of view and frame-rate capabilities will be restricted.
GoPro Omni: What frame-rates and output are possible?
At launch the Omni will be able to capture a maximum output of 8K at 25/30fps or 6K at 50/60fps (technically it's 5.7K) maximum. There is also a 4K option, for practical purposes.
A firmware update will introduce 4K capture at 100fps. At launch this feature will not be available.
GoPro Omni: Is live preview possible?
Omni is not able to live-output stitched footage (like, say, Nokia Ozo), nor, therefore, is it possible to live preview footage during capture. All footage is captured on the six individual microSD cards - one card per Hero 4.
When the master camera is activated it double checks that the other five GoPro units are present with cards and batteries, plus syncs the settings across all units, before the rig is ready to roll. Green/red lights per camera position identify any individual issues.
GoPro Omni: Workflow and software
Once capture has taken place the Omni Importer software is used for data management. As LVR files are captured alongside the main MP4 video files, low-res preview is available within seconds.
Full stitching is possible using the Importer software, with options for colour correction, digital stabilisation and quality render (2K, 4K or Cineform (8K)). How quickly this occurs depends on your setup and GPU.
For fine-tuning stitching there's Kolor Autopano Video, while NLE plugins for live VR output in Premiere are also available.
GoPro Omni: Batteries and recharging
Each Hero 4 requires its own battery. GoPro claims battery life is madly improved with each camera in the rig, as the aluminium frame, which connects around each lens, dissipates the heat generated during capture.
However it is possible to recharge all six camera units simultaneously when they are mounted in the Omni rig. A single, central power in makes this possible - and a remote battery charger is included if you buy the full kit.
GoPro Omni: How much does it cost?
Omni will be available in two forms: the rig alone, priced £1300/$1500/€1300 (Hero 4 units sold separately); or the full kit, including flight case, priced £4200/$5000/€5400.
The full kit includes waterproof flight case, Omni rig (with microfibre carry bag), six Hero 4 Black cameras (with batteries, cables, lens covers), six 32GB microSD cards, one Wi-Fi Smart Remote, a 7-port USB hub, Swingtronix Hypercore-98S Battery (with DC adapter), Swingtronix GP-S V-Mount Battery Plate/Clamp.
GoPro Omni: When is it released?
Omni will be available internationally from 17 August 2016.