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Yi Halo: Finally, A VR Camera Rig Better Than GoPro Odyssey

We can’t help it. Whenever we look at pro-level panoramic cameras designed for visual reality filming, the first thing we think of is R2D2’s head. However, the capabilities of the cameras designed to work with Google’s Jump platform, the GoPro Odyssey and its new competitor Yi Halo, quickly transport us from “a galaxy far, far away” into the modern VR universe.

Jump is intended to let smaller filmmakers jump (sorry about that) onto the virtual reality bandwagon. It’s a software platform that assembles and processes 3D panoramic video from simultaneous raw feeds. Of course, you need a camera to work with it, and until now the only choice was the GoPro Odyssey developed in conjunction with Google.
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There were two problems with the Odyssey: it was missing a lot of features, and most industry professionals couldn’t get their hands on one even if they were ready to pay the $15,000 price. Only hand-picked companies have been allowed to buy it.

In the meantime, Google was also been working with China’s Yi Technology to develop the Halo, which was unveiled at April’s NAB conference in Vegas. We don’t know for sure if it will be more readily available than the Odyssey, but it does take the Odyssey’s technology to an entirely new level.

Yi Halo: Features

As you’d expect, the Halo doesn’t come with the GoPro Hero4 cameras mounted in the Odyssey. Instead it uses Yi 4K+ Action cameras, a major step forward because the Yi cameras can shoot at resolutions as high as 5.8K at 60 frames per second, specs that the Hero4s can’t approach. The Halo is also capable of a full 8K at 30fps, just like the Odyssey.
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While we’re on the subject of cameras, the Halo has one more than the Odyssey. Each unit has 16 running all the way around its R2D2 head, to allow 360° filming. But the Halo has a 17th camera mounted on top so a VR viewer will get a realistic feeling of what’s above him, not just what’s around him. That’s a feature that’s sorely lacking in the Odyssey.

Other advantages to the Yi Halo are a design that’s stronger yet lighter, greater battery capacity than the Odyssey, and an on-board control interface with a dashboard that issues alerts when a micro-SD card is almost full or the battery is running out of juice. There’s also a Bluetooth remote and an app that provides full Wi-Fi preview and control through a smartphone. Two spare cameras come with the unit in the event that a camera fails during shooting, and firmware updates can be done for all cameras at once via the dashboard.

Yi Halo: Performance and Availability

One of the blanks still to be filled in is how well the Yi Halo performs in the field, because it hasn’t been released for testing yet. Availability will supposedly be less of a problem than with the Odyssey, though; Yi says the units will be available to VR professionals in late summer, and pre-applications are being accepted on the company’s website.
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The Halo’s release price will be just under $17,000, which is $2,000 more than the Odyssey. Of course, since GoPro doesn’t let most people buy an Odyssey, the price difference doesn’t really matter – and the Halo promises to be well worth the extra $2,000.
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