The new RED Manifold camera is going to fail.

By Will McMaster October 2, 2018

Last week, Facebook and RED announced the release of the RED ‘Manifold’ Volumetric VR Camera. ¬†Below, award-winning VR director Will McMaster gives his honest opinion on the new camera.

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The new RED Manifold camera is going to fail.

The camera is a classic case of the ‘bigger is better’ mentality which has failed many times for 360 cameras in the past. It solves none of the issues with generating 6dof footage from RGB sources (you get the same depth estimation errors you’d get from the Jump camera), but adds a ludicrous amount data to have to deal with, and no internal recording.

The size of the camera makes sense, you want a larger capture volume to allow for more movement in VR, but you need way, way more sensors to generate good depth data that way. Google has already demonstrated awesome looking 360 6dof still images, but the rig needs to generate about 1000 camera positions to get decent depth reconstruction. The bad depth data from the Manifold is obvious in the demo videos they released, and that was with the subjects being pretty far away from the camera. Given the massive cost of using this system, as well as the post-production cost of fixing the depth errors and getting the footage to look any good, the camera has many bad trade-offs and few advantages over other systems.

They say this camera is for Hollywood. A big, expensive, cool looking camera may indeed entice some bigger productions so that studios can show off, but how is that sustainable? How are you going to recoup a $20-$30 million budget from a 360 video unless there are hundreds of millions of VR users? By the time there are, the Manifold will be hilariously obsolete.

The VR industry doesn’t need a ‘bigger’ camera, it needs a smarter camera. A camera that uses machine learning for stitching, up-sampling, and creating depth maps, one with more sensors, and more thought put into how to process the footage without tons of manual fixes. Instead, all I see is a camera designed to superficially impress people who think bigger is always better.

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