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YouTube is giving away VR180 cameras – which one and how do you get one?

YouTube restarting VR Creator Lab
YouTube restarting VR Creator Lab

YouTube is restarting the VR Creator Lab and will be giving away VR180 cameras and free training in VR content creation.

YouTube is accepting applications from channels with over 100K subs in the Americas.  Selected participants will go through a 3-day boot camp from April 16-18 at YouTube Space LA and will have 3 months of training.

Participants will receive:
– a new VR180 camera
– $20,000 budget toward the production of their project
– professional instructors and mentors
– access to a community of other VR180 creators

The deadline for entries is March 11.  You can apply here.

I’m glad to see YouTube restarting this program.  I hope their strategy of using YouTube influencers works this time, because they tried it in 2017 and it seemed to have no impact.  One possible difference maker is the timing.  VR may have a second surge this year from several events:
– the release of Oculus Quest standalone 6DOF VR headset this spring
– the rumored release of an Oculus Rift S, which may be even more affordable than the Rift
– rumors that Nintendo might add a VR function to the popular Nintendo Switch
– meanwhile, the proportion of PC gamers using VR is still miniscule, but is steadily increasing.

One question is what VR180 camera YouTube will be giving away. I doubt they have the budget to give away Z Cam V1 Pro cameras.  Will it be the Lenovo Mirage, or will it be the yet to be released Yi Horizon, or one of the newer hybrid VR180 cameras such as the Vuze XR or Kandao Qoocam?  We’ll probably find out around Q4 2019.

What do you think YouTube needs to do to make VR180 mainstream?  Let me know in the comments!

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Mic Ty

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  • It is ludicrous to put as the first requirement a 100K subscriber base. Does having a large subscriber base turn someone into an expert in 3D composition ? I am sure people will apply, but the chances that this will result in memorable content that will draw the crowds are extremely low.

    As to the cameras they will be giving away, if we are to believe one particular FB poster, they will be Yi Horizons since – according to this poster – Google bought out Yi’s small test production run of this camera and there’s probably still a bunch of them gathering the dust at Google headquarters.

    In spite of my pessimism, I do hope that “something” will get VR180 going again and, who knows ? Maybe that initiative might help.

    I think what messed everything up when they tried to roll out VR180 cameras last year is that the two first cameras released had major drawbacks. The K1 was way too expensive for average users (and couldn’t even shoot stills) while the Lenovo was a way too basic camera. As a result, most people in the know were waiting for the Horizon and not purchasing either of the cameras that came on the market. But Yi might have interpreted lack of sales of the competitor’s products as lack of interest from the public and decided to abandon production.

    Not much we can do about all this now. However, if Google makes a genuine effort to push the format again, that might help. But if they solely rely on people whose main qualification is a large subscriber list, they are going to fail again.

  • I was just looking at VR180 videos on Youtube and wondering if now is the time to get a VR180 camera. Google really messed up the launch. I have noticed they no longer crop videos to 16:9 when they are not viewed in VR. All VR180 videos are now hemispherical 360 videos. I was really looking forward to that feature.

    I am hoping a good 5.7K camera with a removable battery comes out soon. The videos from the Vuze XR are looking good but the built-in battery is holding it back. I also hope a method like reframing comes to VR180. I’m not sure if you can manually crop them or use current tools after exporting as 360 videos. I do think having a non-VR version of the same video will make using one camera for both more appealing. As long as the IQ is close to a 1080p action cam or cell phone I think it will work.

    • I’d suggest sitting back and waiting. That’s what I have been doing. The only forthcoming 3D 180 camera that was highlighted at CES 2019 is the Kodak PixPro 3D Pivot. This camera – like the Qoocam and Vuze XR – can shoot both 3D 180 and 2D 360. However, unlike the two aforementioned, it can also shoot 3D 16:9 for compatibility with glasses-free phones and tablets as well as 3D TVs. But the IQ at best would be on par with the above two or the still unreleased Yi Horizon.

      I am hoping for a higher quality VR180 camera (more accessible than the K1) but I probably am delusional !

  • If they are putting a 20 k package together for you , invest 3 months training, there is no way they will be using the qocam or Vuze, they will have to user semi pro cameras if they want to take this off and move it forward and those 2 cameras dont cut the mustard, i have seen extensive footage from them both and was disappointed, They will have some you tube product yet unreleased or something in the 1 to 3 k range I would imagine anything less and it will be a disappointing result.

    • From what I read in the article above, it’s more like “3-day training” !

      As for which camera they will use, in the first round they distributed Yi Horizon cameras and, from what I hear they already have several of those left. Therefore I doubt they would splurge on a bunch of K1’s unless they are really directing their efforts mainly towards pro producers. Having 100K subscribers does not make one a pro producer – nor does one become a pro within three days. Furthermore, the K1 is not a simple camera to carry or operate. It requires external batteries and tripod mounting. It is not a handheld camera. If they are aiming their efforts at vloggers, the Yi Horizon is a much better fit and much easier to handle.

      The way things are, I doubt any other VR180 cameras will see the light of day till Google makes a very serious effort to support the format.

      • I’ve not had experience, but I wonder how the Z cam K1 Pro behaves when actually using it handheld. In theory it should have stabilisation as a Google certified VR180 camera.

        Regarding YouTube classes, yes a pity about the 100K minimum bar – for Google it’s all about getting reach.

        Essentially I’m all for taking more promotional steps for 3D 180 even if I don’t qualify myself.

        • The thing about the K1 is that, even though you see pictures of it as what appears to be an “integrated camera”, it does not have a built-in power source. This means that an external (fairly heavy) battery must be connected to it. Add to this that the body is not ergonomic at all so very awkward to hold. I have seen some users mount them on gimbals but they need to be sturdy enough to support this bulky camera and battery. And all that of course adds further to the cost.

          What we need is a VR180 camera with two one-inch sensors, ergonomic body, manual controls, replaceable battery (that fits within the body) and large LCD display at the back. And all this at under $2000.00. I don’t see that happening anytime soon…

          • I’ve been considering the concept of a sling/camera carry for the K1 Pro to overcome its lack of strap attachment points. The K1 plus external battery still comes in at under 1 Kg which is a lot lighter than some of the old equipment I’ve used. Anyone remember video cameras from the ’80’s and early ’90s? 🙂

            The 4/3 sensors and the lenses certainly make a big difference to image quality (c.f. Theta Z1). I could definitely see the limitations of the Vuze XR after applying text to video clips – it’s not the image resolution (or bit rate) but the limitations of the lenses and sensors, but the XR is still pretty great for the price.


            What we need is a VR180 camera with two one-inch sensors, ergonomic body, manual controls, replaceable battery (that fits within the body) and large LCD display at the back. And all this at under $2000.00. I don’t see that happening anytime soon…

            I’d love to see that too, but I suspect you’re right.

  • Our channel was selected for the VR creator lab 2019 in LA. They gave one ZCAM k1 pro with iZugar lenses to each channel invited. I’m very happy because I was expecting something like an insta360 evo.

    • To tell you the truth, I’m kinda puzzled as to why they gave you a VR180 camera. Your channel appears to be about weird subjects and hasn’t posted a new clip in three years !

      • Hi Francois, My channel is called Balu Relaxing Nature in 4K. We shoot wildlife and nature videos in 4k.

        • Hi Julian. The problem was the icon you were using next to your name. It led to the YouTube channel I described. Thanks for clarifying and good luck with the project.

          Unfortunately, Google, in its continuing effort to sabotage its own format, is now once again systematically removing all trace of the 3D versions of 3D 180 clips from YouTube when accessed via computer. Up till April 27, one could easily download the 4K 3D version. Now that’s no longer possible. Instead we see a rectilinear 3D version of what you uploaded. This way, nobody will know the original is 3D 180 unless they happen to use the YouTube app on a phone.

          • This was meant to read: ” Instead we see a rectilinear 2D version of what you uploaded. “

          • There is an issue with the vr180 videos playing on desktop and they are working to fix it, they told us that it will be back to normal in about a week 🙂

          • You just made my day ! 🙂

            With YouTube, one never knows what to expect.

            One thing I can say for sure is that many 3D 180 camera owners were shocked when they found the original 3D version of their clips vanished after they had uploaded them. They’ll be glad when that’s fixed.