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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:59 pm 
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If (like me) you didn't know, 360 cameras record a complete sphere above, below and all around the camera using ultra wide angle lenses front and back. The two hemispherical images are then stitched together, almost seamlessly to make one video file (5k). Using the app you can then select a crop from the file in a standard format like 16:9 1080. It can be wide angle or cropped to a normal linear view without distortion. In this way without having actually moved the camera you can later choose almost any angle of view and also pan or follow moving subjects.

In addition to this magic you can use a selfie stick to change the camera position and include yourself in the picture. You can capture yourself walking along as if someone else was walking beside you with the camera. Even a view from above is possible and with a wide angle it looks very much like a low drone shot. Incredibly the selfie stick itself is blended out in the video (although the hand holding the stick does tend to appear unnaturally posed). Apart from including yourself in the shot the selfie stick is great for shooting over obstacles especially since you don't need to worry about aiming it precisely.

These abilities mean that 360 cameras have been a big hit for vlogging and for eye catching social media posts. There are any number of stunt shots possible including the "tiny planet" shot in which someone appears to be walking around the circumference of a small globe. The app includes as well the usual arrays of colour filters, fancy effects and speed changes. There is also a multi view option which lets you do picture-in-picture from the same capture - typically your own talking head and the general scene.

But I'm not really interested in fancy effects. I mostly want a straightforward record of events and activities that won't make me cringe in five years time. So does the One X2 do a good job? Apart from being the "camera crew in your pocket" giving you a choice of shots after the event, is the quality and ease of editing up to the mark?

Well generally, at least for my purposes, I'd say yes. For 1080 the result appears to be every bit as good as from my phone. Although it's definitely never telephoto I can get away with a surprising amount of zooming in, to say about a normal 1.5x. The "linear" corrected crop largely eliminates distortion and wide angle are also often acceptable. The app allows me to pan smoothly anywhere in the 360 and it has a very clever mode to automatically and smoothly follow a moving object. You can also successfully record pan and track movements by holding your device up and moving it like a window as the video plays! The result is typically much better than I'd get by trying to follow a moving car or person with my phone. Views are also effectively always stabilised (except for the bounce effect when walking with the camera).

The camera is small and neat and the build quality is excellent. It works underwater too. You have to be a bit careful to protect the protruding lenses from damage especially because the camera doesn't have flat sides to rest on. It's a bit slow to fire up compared to my phone but there is at least an option to wake and start recording with just one press. You can use your phone to control the camera but I find the small camera screen is usually sufficient since you don't really need to frame a shot. Occasionally exposure is a bit uncertain because the very wide angle lens will often include large amounts of sky. Transfer to my iPad or iPhone is fairly quick and convenient with an automatic connection via the camera's wifi and it isn't usually worth plugging in a cable.

I do sometimes use the camera's voice control to start and stop recording but there's also an Apple Watch app to start and stop recording. I stopped using it because it wasn't very convenient. For some reason it always defaults to photo rather than video and you still have to turn the camera on separately. It also doesn't have any preview function. Somewhat disturbingly the watch app left a persistent location tracking icon on the watch face after use. After noticing it I turned location services off on all the Insta apps. In practice I always manually set a general location for a project when it is finished anyway and don't need the location of individual clips.

The app generally works well but it's a bit clunky and not particularly Apple like. Although there are some clever capabilities I struggled a bit trying to figure it all out. Many of the tools work in a way that just didn't seem obvious or consistent to me. Some for example have a back (exit) button and some have a tick button. It's possible to change the view angle of previously set pivot points (key frames) but if you don't happen to notice that the "update keyframe" button has changed colour they'll gradually reset to the previous view again when you move on. Overall I sorely missed the ability to undo one step at a time and often I had no option but to reset completely and start all over again.

It probably would have helped if there was a written guide or even just a description of some of the buttons and menu options. There are of course online tutorial videos but I always find instructional videos and tutorials to be very tedious and you can't easily search them for the particular thing you want to know. Still with perseverance I think I've more or less sorted things out. There are a few options I'd prefer to have like that undo button and the ability to set landscape 16:9 as default (instead of having to change from portrait 9:16 every single time) but I can live with this. Overall I can most times take better and more flexible pictures with the One X2 and it fits very comfortably in my pocket.

Should you buy one? If vlogging and eye catching effects are your thing then definitely. For general videography the answer is probably still yes. Provided you are happy with 1080 output then the portability, convenience and flexibility of this device probably outweigh the nuisances. Previously in an attempt to gain stability and smooth panning I had tried the Osmopocket camera, which was good but the tiny screen always made it difficult to see what I was getting. With the One X2 I'm almost guaranteed to have captured my subject with or without looking at the screen, I can do smooth pans in post production and I also have the ability to extract quite different shots from my footage.

This video will give you a good idea of some of the possible tricks:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFA2B-AtweI

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:17 am 
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Thanks Mark

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:04 pm 
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A bit of follow up. I’m still using this thing but I try to avoid it. It is conveniently tiny and taking shots is easy because you don’t have to aim it (although exposure is a bit of a guess). As a result it’s great for awkward positions like holding it over an obstacle and I recently used it on a selfie stick to get side and above views of a jet boat ride. Also people often relax because you’re not clearly pointing it at them.
But! Downloading, processing and editing the shots to normal videos is just too slow. It can take several minutes for what will be just a 2 second clip. Hours of work for say 50 clips making a 2 minute video. It can use heaps of data storage meanwhile. It probably would help if my iPad was a bit newer. The app is as annoying as it is clever and sometimes I can’t initially see what the intended subject was. It’s out of view until you swipe. The thumbnails are mostly unrecognisable and don’t even change if the clip has been edited.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2021 9:02 pm 
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I have an Insta360 One R which I use almost exclusively with the 360-degree lens module.

Instead of uploading straight 360-degree videos, we use the Insta360 software (on iOS, the desktop Studio software isn't great to use IMHO) to "reframe" the 360 footage into a regular 1080p video. This allows for all kinds of subtle and less-than-subtle tracking and camera-movements to be simulated after-the-fact.

For our bushwalking/hiking videography, one of the best uses is placing the One R on long extension pole (about 3m long) and holding it above people etc. As most people would be aware the Insta360 cameras 'hide' selfie sticks and poles by exploiting the stitch line between the two 180-degree lenses. This gives a neat third-person or "floating camera" type of effect. As the use of drones is effectively banned in 99.5% of places were we bushwalk, we can simulate a top-down drone shot quite easily with this technique.

The following video shows off several uses, probably the best example is at 2:50.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFIkG8BJrZQ

I think the advantages of these cameras is readily apparent for any kind of sport or adventure-type videography.

Cheers, Ben.

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Bender & Xing - Hiking Videos from Tasmania, Australia.
https://www.youtube.com/c/BenderXingAbelAdventures


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:21 am 
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Thanks Ben. You’ve got the usage nailed, are using the long selfie stick to great effect, and clearly are prepared to spend time on the editing. Any tips on exposure? I find cloudy conditions and bush difficult and probably because exposure is affected by the whole 360. I’ve tried HDR and EV adjusting with the Insta but struggle to get the picture looking natural with either the Insta app or LumaFusion (I wish there was curves adjustment).

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 7:25 am 
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Hi Mark.

Yes reframing within the Insta360 app can take a bit of time... generally I just use target tracking or the ViewFinder mode which allows you to render in your camera moves with your phone's accelerometers... surprisingly logical way to work and with care you can get very smooth and natural moves, better than what I've ever been able to achieve through keyframing anyway.

Truth be told I've usually just left the camera in standard mode auto-exposure and run with it. Definitely prefers a nice sunny day than a dull one. Most of my stuff thus far has been done in the flat/log colour profile, which I've brought back using LF's deFlat LUT then made minor colour and exposure adjustments from there to suit, trying to reasonably match my iPhone's 4K footage which is obviously tough to do due its HDR processing.

Personally I've found Insta360's own LUT (within their app) a bit too much, oversaturated and generally pretty yuck. Ironically for the last lot of video I recorded for some reason the cam had reverted to its Normal colour profile and the results actually looked quite good straight off the camera, so maybe the flat/log profile isn't really worth the trouble.

I use a 24p timeline so using HDR (which is limited to 30p only) has never been a consideration.

Cheers, Ben.

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https://www.youtube.com/c/BenderXingAbelAdventures


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 11:43 am 
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Thanks a lot Ben. I must experiment more with the exposure thing. When I’m travelling I’m usually trying to capture and make my video all in one day so I rush too much. Hence my frustrations with the Insta app.

I have told the Luma team about Insta’s tracking and viewfinder modes in the hope that it might give them some ideas even just for 4K to 1080 or general stabilisation.

BTW I’m in Queenstown at the moment and it’s magnificent. Aussies very welcome again! I’d like to visit Tasmania again one day though. Thanks again

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