Giroptic iO vs. Theta S: A Side-by-Side Comparison

As newsrooms adjust to the modern age, many are investing in a 360 cameras. While you can splurge on an entire GoPro rig that can cost thousands, there are cheaper options available, like the Giroptic iO and the Ricoh Theta S. Both land around the $250-$300 price point. As I found out, however, each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Build

  • Both cameras are small and lightweight (and easily blown over by the wind unless you have a steady tripod.) I will say that the Theta fits more naturally into the palm of your hand, while the Giroptic seems a bit more delicate since you want to make sure your hands don’t touch the lenses or lightning port plug. It’s also important to note here that the Theta can shoot independently of its original app, while the Giroptic must be connected to a smartphone to turn on. That’s right–your phone will be upside down when using the Giroptic, so turn that portrait orientation off so your screen can flip upside down.

Battery Life

  • Since the Theta doesn’t necessarily need to be plugged into your phone it doesn’t seem to drain battery as quickly as the Giroptic, which had a battery percentage that seemed to leak by the minute, even when I wasn’t shooting or using the app.

Memory

  • The Theta has about 8GBs (about 25 minutes) of storage within the device, and additional storage if you shoot through your phone. But since the Giroptic only shoots through the app, storage is based solely on how much room you have on your phone.

Live-streaming

  • If you’re using 360, you’re most likely also live-streaming. While both cameras have livestream capabilities, the Giroptic reigns supreme here. The video quality may not be as great, but at least the app gives you multiple options for broadcasting (Facebook, Youtube, Periscope, or custom) while the Theta only offers streaming through a custom link or through its  separate live-streaming app (I personally think it should at least be offered with everything else in the THETA S app you use for shooting.) You can livestream with the Theta on Youtube, as this reviewer found, but it seemed like such a chore I didn’t even attempt it.
I got this message repeatedly when I tried to live-stream until I switched to data.
  • I did also find that live-streaming on the Giroptic was tricky to initially set up. Despite being connected to a strong Wifi network, the app refused to work unless I was using data. (I also found that all of my text message conversations were deleted later that day, although I’m unsure if it was because of the app or because my phone’s getting old.) Here’s the footage.

 


Audio

  • As I said, both cameras are small so it’s expected that they won’t have great audio quality. With the Theta, we’d use an external audio recorder or a phone to sync in later. But when live-streaming with the Giroptic on a windy sidewalk, I realized that I should have thought about getting an external mic. Future Giroptic iO users should consider budgeting for an external mic that plugs into the headphone jack (sorry, iPhone 7 users.)

Downloading/Editing

  • Both cameras will save photos and videos in their own albums automatically on your phone after you download them from the app. You can edit Theta footage on your phone in the Theta+ Video app for light touches, but I’m partial to meticulously editing in Premiere.
  • What’s annoying is that if you download Theta footage straight from the device onto your desktop (which you must do if you didn’t use your phone to record,) you have to convert the footage from stereoscopic to monoscopic view through–you guessed it–the exclusive Ricoh footage desktop app before you can even start editing.

Video Quality

  • Do you get what you pay for? When it comes to the $250 Giroptic vs. the $300 Theta, you do. Although they’re about the same price; the Theta still wins. The Giroptic seems to have a higher exposure that makes images a bit blurrier. See for yourself:

I found the Theta to have clearer picture when I shot inside under standard fluorescent lighting, so I tried it again outside.

OutsideComparison

Images seem to be sharper outside with the Giroptic, but that doesn’t make them necessarily clearer than the Theta’s footage.

Conclusion:

    • Pros:
      • Giroptic
        • Handy to have a 360 camera on your cell phone
        • One of the cheapest 360 cameras on the market
      • Theta
        • Decent quality of videos for the price point
        • Easy to start shooting (just a press of a button)
    • Cons:
      • Giroptic
        • Need more equipment to record audio
        • Weak battery life
        • May need to shoot on data instead of Wifi, a surefire battery drain
      • Theta
        • Too many apps! Give us a simplified process for shooting, livestreaming and downloading footage

If your newsroom plans on doing a lot of live-streaming and want that 360 effect, the Giroptic is a decent investment. But if you want to shoot 360-specific stories to edit later, the Theta isn’t a bad starter camera.

App Review: VR Thrills: Roller Coaster 360

The app I will be reviewing is called ‘VR Thrills: Roller Coaster 360’. This mobile  application was created by Rabbit Mountain, which is a app company known for creating mobile Virtual Reality Experiences, from Jurassic Park to Audiovisual experiences.  The intention of the application is to clearly give viewers the ultimate virtual reality experience by allowing them to review various virtual reality rides.

In order to use this app you have to have virtual reality glasses available. The application also comes with a setting that allows mobile users that do not have gyroscopes to enjoy the experience as well. I believe this is a very thoughtful and positive move because I do not believe most developers would assume that all phones have gyroscopes and such when the reality is that most mobile users do not have them. Even though there is a no gyroscope experience option, the virtual reality of this experience is optimized specifically for Android phone users and for the Google Cardboard VR goggles. I feel like this is not good because an application should be all around compatible with all phones and goggles. One should not have to come out more pocket than they already are if they desire to experience this application.

The application allows users to choose from different rides in an amusement park. The experience derives from real 360 footage. Along with this the experience, is accompanied by an interactive experience throughout the Rollercoaster rides.  Each ride has a unique interaction with the user! I see young children and pre-teens enjoying this application to pass time when waiting at appointments. Also I can visualize them showing their friends this app during lunch periods or afterschool when they are outside engaging in recreational activities.

Ricoh Theta Software Review

The Ricoh Theta S camera allows one to shoot 360 photo & video while linked to app software via wifi.

Ricoh Theta S

With this camera, you should at least download the Theta S app for shooting & transferring which not only has most of the shooting options that your standard DSLR would have (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, exposure, White balance, Auto mode), but also the shooting app lets you take (and live view) 360 photo or video without having to press the manual REC button on the actual camera (which makes a harsh clicking sound in video). 

Also these apps let you upload to social media via your iPhone which is faster than importing them into your computer and uploading them through your browser.

Tips & Tricks

Make sure to clear up storage before transferring photos & especially video. Videos of 30 seconds can take up around 60mb and a couple minutes to transfer.

I also found in the Theta S app that photo’s & videos transfer the quickest when you place the Theta and your phone really close or even right on top of each other.

The Theta + apps each have the Little Planet option (under cropped video in the Theta video +). Which is a cool effect especially with pictures or videos that have the sky and horizon in it. This effect is different indoors because the the stitching & stretching algorithms don’t look the same distorting the ceiling for the little planet effect as they do with the sky.

 

 

 

The editing apps each have editing options very similar to Instagram’s. I would even say they modeled them off Instagram, but also they have additional features specific to 360 VR. Just like Instagram, there aren’t advanced image correction options for video (only filters), but there is for photo. 

Other than that and the Timelapse function in the Theta + app ,
the Theta + app & Theta + Video app are basically the same.

One is for photos. The other’s for videos.

Each of the apps are free and 30-50 mb which perhaps is why they’re all split up rather than conjoined into one larger-sized app.

I could understand why the Theta + apps are separate from the Theta S shooting app, but I do think the Theta + apps could at least be joined together since they are very similar and likely wouldn’t increase the size of the app too much. People wanting to edit their 360 photos will likely also want to edit their 360 videos.

Valen’s Reef | Conservation International (CI)

By Harrison Stiles

Valen’s Reef is a virtual reality story about the Bird’s Head Seascape in eastern Indonesia. Per the video’s Youtube description the story is told by “Ronald Mambrasar, an indigenous fisherman-turned-coral-scientist, and his son, Valen.” The story focuses on the seascape’s near devastation due to improper conservation and illegal fishing techniques, and on Mambrasar and others like him who have made it their mission to save and preserve the beautiful nature that they live amongst.

As far as the technical and visual elements of VR stories go, this might just be the best one I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The actual story runs about 5 minutes before a few minutes of Conservation International information and credits, and every single second of it is interesting. The Bird’s Head Seascape is the stuff of a VR journalist’s wet dream, with stunning visuals everywhere you look.

The piece opens on top of a small mountain overlooking the sunny coast with clear sparkling waters. Perhaps even more beautiful though are the underwater expeditions with the coral reefs and schools of beautiful and unusual fish swirling through the immaculate waters. The video quality is incredibly crisp and clear especially for underwater shots. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow throughout the whole story, I didn’t see one tripod or even the underwater vehicle that was propelling the camera, unless the director wanted me to. Not only that but they experiment with some unusual placement, including on a wheelbarrow being wheeled through their village with Valen riding along next to the viewer.

On the technical side, the transitions from scene to scene were smooth and easy to follow. The entire story is told by Mambrasar in his native tongue with the translations displayed in english in text on the screen. This decision makes the story much more intriguing and intimate than hearing the story told by an outside narrator in English. Information that is relevant to progressing the story that is not directly given by Mambrasar is shown through text on a black background between scenes. The only complaint I have about the video would be the size of the text during these scenes. It is a bit small which could make it difficult for mobile users to easily read. Other than that their work with text is phenomenal. It is simplistic and doesn’t distract from the visuals and was always displayed on both sides of the scene so that no matter where the viewer was looking, they are easily able to see what our narrator is saying.

All in all this was a story that was born for VR and luckily fell into the hands of a director who knew exactly how to tell it. Hearing and seeing Mambrasar not just talk about the reefs and nature but actually going out and showing us their world  along with the narrative of Mambrasar and his son made this an incredible experience and a beautiful video.

Ronald and his sons Valen (right) and Habel (left)

Link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC_ILxVIuT4

Vimeo 360 Video

The Vimeo 360 component is great for uploading small videos if you are using the app for free. You are given a weekly limit of 500 MB. If you want 5 TB with no weekly limits, you have to upgrade your account to Vimeo Business, which costs $50 a month. Included, you get priority video conversion versus basic video conversion for the free account. You also get  video production help and allows for team collaboration for up to 10 team members, plus a host of other things. There are two other upgrades, Vimeo Plus and Vimeo PRO, which cost less than the Vimeo Business but don’t include all the bells and whistles.

Using the free app, I uploaded a 9 second long video and it took several minutes for it to upload. It feel similar to uploading a video on YouTube because it gives you options to add a title, description, privacy settings and so forth. I think it is a good option for uploading but the weekly storage limit would make me use YouTube over Vimeo any day. There was one small difference though. Vimeo 360 has two controls that allows you to change the starting view point and the depth of field. I found it difficult to find the 360 settings but if you look hard enough you can find them here.

The quality of the video I felt wasn’t that great, despite being in HD. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the quality of video because of the Theta 360.

With that being said, Vimeo does have a good section for learning about 360 video. They have a whole post dedicated to editing and exporting 360 video in Premiere. There are also videos on terms you should know, things you should consider when shooting 360 video, how to shoot your first 360 video and the best camera for your budget, ranging from the Nokia OZO that is $45,000 to the Theta S for $349.

You can also sell your videos on Vimeo.

I think it is a great app if you plan on using it a lot and investing money into it to get all of the pro features. I think it is great for people who are serious about making videos and producing content but if you are just getting started and just trying to figure things out I think uploading to Youtube is just as easy and convenient. While YouTube doesn’t have any controls like Vimeo, it doesn’t have a storage limit which I think is better in terms of uploading. For editing, I would stick to Premiere because it goes beyond the setting of the depth of field and starting point.