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New Theta Camera Takes Spherical View

ImageA couple of months ago, I was intrigued by a new 360 spherical camera that I immediately realized would allow video journalists to enhance certain news stories, especially on station web sites and perhaps as huge images for projection on the background of news studio sets.

Ricoh, the company making the new Theta camera, had the same idea for news acquisition and sponsored a contest called "Spherical Report 360" that asked journalists and wannabe journalists to post 360 degree images on a website controlled by CNN.

The purpose of the project is to explore new expression methods and possibilities for news images by using the very simple, pocket-sized Ricoh Theta camera ($399). The camera doesn't take live video, but immersive JPEG stills. The navigation ability that users have, however, make it a hybrid medium between video and still photographs.

A couple of months ago I wrote up some thoughts and entered the contest and then promptly forgot about it. Two days ago, UPS delivered a brand new Theta to my door, telling me I had been chosen as one of 360 journalists and citizen journalists to participate in the project.

This summer those selected are to use the cameras to shoot immersive images of news events and send them to the special CNN site. The best images will be selected in September by Ann Johansson, a documentary photographer, and Christopher Robison, editorial director at the Werner Publishing Group and editor of Digital Photo Pro Magazine.

The 3.35 ounce, five-inch long camera has lenses on both sides. Simply hold it up and press a button. You get a 360 degree image that can be rotated and moved around by viewers on any computer. The image can be posted on a special Ricoh website and then used on Facebook, Twitter and tumblr social media sites. Users on those sites can then scroll around the 360 degree images.

ImageWiFi allows the image to be remotely viewed in real time on a iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. This allows the person holding the camera to get out of the shot. The camera can also be mounted on a tripod.

I see these amazing images giving an added dimension to any news story. Shots in the middle of a sports stadium or a big parade with thousands of people would be awesome. It could even add a new dimension to trade shows or any public event.

I'm just getting started playing with the Theta, but will report back with some live images over the summer. In the meantime, check out the web links and use your imagination as to how this tiny camera could aid your Video Journalist storytelling.