Insta360 has upped the ante on pro-level 360-degree VR filming with its new super-portable multi-camera ball. With six lenses, auto-stitching, FlowState stabilization, HDR and 8K-per-eye 3D capability, the Insta360 Pro 2 packs a ton of capability into a US$4,999 piece of equipment.
360-degree vision is starting to crop up all over the place if you're looking for it, even outside of VR applications. The ability to film in all directions at once, then make your camera moves in post processing, offers some super cool potential for action sports types, and allows interesting camera moves to be made from places you couldn't otherwise fit a cameraman.
Then there's the weird projections you can build out of it … we certainly had fun with those when we played with an early Insta360 Air consumer device. The trouble with that device, and others like it, was resolution: if you want to make pro-level video, you need to film in huge resolutions so you can pick decent 1080p sections out of the combined vision for presentation.
Resolution should be much less of a problem with the Insta360 Pro 2. It can handle 7680x3840 8K vision at 30 frames per second – even in 3D stereo vision. If you want a more immersive 60 frames per second, it can do that in 7680x3840, but without stereo, or you can step down to 6K and get stereo 60 fps.
The Pro 2 uses Insta360's own proprietary FlowState stabilization tool, which tracks motion on no less than nine axes while filming, to allow you to cancel it out electronically and create footage that's smooth even when the camera's on top of a stick hanging out of a backpack and you're jogging along, which is quite possible given it weighs only 3.42 lbs (1.6 kg) and is just a little bigger than a softball in size. Good stabilization is pretty much mandatory if you want people to be able to watch your motion content in VR goggles without barfing.
The footage is recorded to six separate MicroSD card slots on the camera, and the camera itself automatically creates proxy footage on a further SD card, so that when you import it all into Adobe Premiere Pro for editing, your poor editing rig doesn't have to deal with colossal 8K files. Instead, you simply edit the proxy footage, then use an Insta360 plug-in to convert the vision to full resolution when you go to output. There's no stitching required; it's all done automatically provided you're using Premiere Pro.
There's a new remote control system that lets you operate the Insta360 Pro 2 from a distance. It uses 5.18 GHz transmission to give you a stable 1080p monitoring ability from as far as 300 meters away (nearly 1,000 feet) on the ground, or a full kilometer (0.62 miles) if it's in the air.
There's more: 360-degree ambisonic audio, plus inputs for field recorders; High Dynamic Range and i-Log shooting modes for superior color production in post; built-in GPS; and a price tag than jumps some US$2k up from the previous version to US$4,995.
That's not a bad price given its features and performance, and the fact that pro-grade gear in this space can run into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The proof will be in the pudding, and thankfully Insta360 has provided plenty of pudding in its promo video, which is presented below. We're a little concerned about what looks like some fisheye distortion and weird motion artefacts on some shots, but we'll reserve judgement until we've had a look in person.
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