Jaunt Unwraps 360-Degree Virtual Reality Camera System

Jaunt Camera Rendering - H 2015

Jaunt Camera Rendering - H 2015

With the growing interest in producing live-action virtual reality experiences, Palo Alto-based startup Jaunt has revealed that it is developing a camera system built specifically to create 360-degree VR content.

The line, code named Neo, has been in the works for roughly two and a half years, including prototyping and field testing.

Jaunt's current camera systems use existing cameras, primarily GoPros, and hold up to 16 cameras in a sphere that can create a 360-degree environment when the images from each camera are stitched together. But an issue is that the cameras are typically not in perfect sync. Jaunt is aiming to differentiate Neo, saying that it doesn't use existing cameras and it will have more than 16 lenses to capture pictures that would be synced and stitched together to form the 360-degree image. Koji Gardiner, director of hardware engineering at Jaunt, is the lead behind the new camera design. He came over from Apple, where he worked on camera technology for the iPhone and iPad.

The company is still keeping a lot of the details under wraps, but it did reveal some information to The Hollywood Reporter. Jaunt is working with undisclosed third-parties that are developing custom lenses for a wide field of view as well as a large-format sensor for high resolution and to accommodate low-light situations. CTO Arthur van Hoff said “the end product will be at least 4K, per eye (meaning in 3D).”

The company also said the camera system would support high dynamic range imagery, as well as frame rates higher than 60 frames per second.

It’s also looking at how postproduction will be handled, and wants to make this possible with existing postproduction tools from companies such as Avid, Adobe, Autodesk and The Foundry (which previewed Nuke with VR capabilities last April at NAB). Some such tools can already be used for VR projects and Jaunt is talking with others about VR-specific features.

Plans are to offer the first Neo camera systems in August at Jaunt Studios, Jaunt's VR production facility that will open in Los Angeles, led by Cliff Plumer, former CEO of Digital Domain and CTO of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. Early Neo systems will also be available at that time to certain VR producers that are working with Jaunt to create VR content. The company then plans to ramp up production of the camera systems, with current plans to make them available through leasing.

Jaunt's investors include Highland Capital Partners with participation by Google Ventures, British Sky Broadcasting, Peter Gotcher (chairman of Dolby and DigiDesign founder) and Blake Krikorian (co-founder of Sling Media).

Its advisors include Academy Award-winner Jared Leto, director Mark Romanek, Fox futurist Ted Schilowitz and IMAX chair Brad Wechsler.