What is Nokia's OZO Really All About?
One of the amazing things about Virtual Reality is that whenever you turn your head, you will see what's in that direction. At first it started with simple still photos or pictures but then that was boring so now you can view live or recorded videos that way. These 360° videos are known today as immersive or spherical videos where the videos for each direction are all shot at the same time then combined into a single all-around view. The user then is able to control the direction of his or her point-of-view.
This 360° viewing option is accomplished by the use of an omnidirectional camera or a set of cameras. The Nokia OZO is such a camera. Basically a plug-and-play type of device, the OZO was way advanced as compared to it's current competition when it was first released on November 2015.
The OZO has a basic shape that sort of looks like a light bulb. It has a total weight of around 4.2kg including the battery pack memory module which contains the slot for the SD card. It's made of aluminum and has a dimension of around 10.4x6.7x6.3”. With the exception of the back of the camera that has the protrusion like that of the light bulb screw (only rectangular) where the battery module is attached to, the Bulb portion is populated by 8 Progressive Scan, Global Shutter synchronized lenses each with it's own binaural (stereo) microphone that can produce full-spherical and stereoscopic 360 degrees video capture. Each lens has a 195° field of view that shoots at 30 frames per second.
The Ozo can be controlled with a remote or by connecting it directly to a Mac computer. It's got Wi-Fi so you can use that as well. As the camera itself has a SD card slot on the battery pack, one can just record the surrounding, store it and upload the contents of the SD to the Mac at a later time. The memory card can go up to around 500GB which would roughly be around 45 minutes of recording time. Data can be transferred to a mac via a docking station that also serves as a recharger for the battery module.
Aside from these basic camera peripherals, you can purchase additional add-ons like a SDI cable and a BlackMagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder (connect camera to box via SDI cable).This is if you want to do real-time monitoring via the Ozo Remote app that you will have to run on either a Mac Pro or a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with discrete GPU. The Ozo's remote up is not that hard to use. Once you set the exposure for lighting conditions, and the other adjustments, you can practically disconnect your Mac.
The Nokia OZO Creator lets you review and edit recordings to prepare them for post-production by integrating them with industry standard editing. You see, the Ozo can shoot both monoscopic and stereoscopic video. One can opt to only use the 4 lenses around the bulb's middle portion or all 8 lenses. Monoscopic video is created from a 360° image where both eyes are seeing the same recording. Stereoscopic video is when two separate recordings are viewed with each eye. This creates an appearance of depth, known as 3D. These recordings are then imported (from the app) to the Ozo Creator software for processing.
When the lenses of the camera shoot and record, they usually overlap each other. This is good as it gives the user enough allowance when adjusting or combining the recordings into a single 360° file. This process is called “stitching” and done with the Ozo Creator. Once you are satisfied with your editing, you can then save your work as an MP4 or DPX file.
One disadvantage though would be the time it takes to render your 360° video. It may take from several hours to overnight depending on your file size and is a way lot longer compared to rendering regular videos. The good side is that you can import your videos to adobe premiere for added post production but you will need the latest version of Premiere that can work with 360° files to add adobe type special effects to your video.
Take note that the Ozo was released as a professional camera and had a whooping price of 60,000.00 USD when first released, This came down to around 40,000.00 USD by 2016 and to a final 25,000.00 USD by September of 2017. Also, an update for the camera's firmware and Creator App was announced in April of 2017 that would improve the image processing by boosting its dynamic range, color, and sharpness.
The Ozo is is said to be the easiest VR camera to use in both of it's hardware and software features though it's lack for a PC/Windows connectivity will definitely be a great hindrance, It is also unfortunate that Nokia had to discontinue it's current production in Oct, 2017 with the company's decision to focus on the digital health business which is a practical business move on their side due to the unexpected slow-down in the VR market. The company will however be licensing the Ozo and it's technology to third-party development and production companies to continue with the development and growth of the product.
Nokia will continue however to support customers who have already purchased the camera to honor it's commitment to it's valued customers. As for what future for the Ozo will bring, we the consumers can only wait.