The Impact of Disney’s Choice Camera for Virtual Reality Content
Disney has signed a multi-year deal to produce 360-degree content for films, marketing materials, and other purposes using Nokia’s Ozo cameras. Disney has previously used the $60,000 Ozo, which, equipped with eight 2K cameras, to produce VR extras for The Jungle Book.
This decision by Disney decision to produce 360-degree content could help both Facebook and Alphabet’s Google, which have both been encouraging content creators to share more 360-degree content. Facebook recently revealed an “open source” 360-degree camera design dubbed Surround 360, which allows content creators create their own high-end cameras for $30,000. Google, on the other hand, developed a $15,000 16-camera rig called Odyssey along with with GoPro last year. Both tech giants, obviously, are banking on 360-degree VR videos to be the next big evolution of streaming video, and mainstream awareness could support sales of VR headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Disney’s choice to partner with Nokia for multiple years however suggests that the Finnish company could be gaining an early advantage in the narrow market for high-end VR cameras.
What does this partnership mean for Nokia?
The Ozo is one of Nokia’s baby steps back into the hardware market subsequent to selling its handset division to Microsoft back in 2014. The camera was developed based on an in-house prototype designed by Ramzi Haidamus, President of Nokia Technologies, a division that was established with the aim of collecting patent royalties and license new technologies.
Last year, Nokia Technologies licensed its brand and design to Foxconn to create the N1 tablet, enabling the company to collect royalties without having to contend with the costs of manufacturing and marketing the device. Spokesman Robert Morlino said in a statement that there is a possibility that Nokia will return to smartphones with a similar “brand-licensing model” after its non-compete clause with Microsoft expires at the end of this year.
The Ozo’s uniqueness stems from the fact that it’s currently the only commercial device that is manufactured and marketed by Nokia. The total available market for $60,000 VR cameras is likely limited to a small group of professional filmmakers and studios, therefore, Nokia’s dramatically downsized hardware operations can easily handle the manufacturing process. Disney-fueled sales of the Ozo are however not likely to move the needle much for Nokia Technologies, which currently generates the majority of its sales through patent royalties. Sales from the Nokia Technologies unit rose 170% annually last quarter, accounting for 11% of Nokia’s revenue.
What it means for other camera makers
With the market for high-end VR cameras being a fledgling one, Disney’s partnership with Nokia might be the conviction other major media companies need to follow suit if it produces compelling VR videos. This could result in cheaper solutions like GoPro’s Odyssey and Facebook’s Surround 360 becoming less desirable to major studios while remaining too expensive for mainstream consumers. The Ozo’s smaller form factor, it’s roughly the size of a cantaloupe, could also be more appealing to filmmakers than GoPro’s and Facebook’s larger circular rigs.
Considering that GoPro was likely hoping that the upcoming Odyssey could help it clear out some inventory by selling 16 Hero 4 Black cameras at a time, this could be bad news. Also, its six-camera Omni rig, available for pre-order at $5,000, could lose ground to much cheaper products like Ricoh’s $350 Theta S and JK Imaging’s $500 Kodak PixPro SP360-4K. In other words, GoPro’s VR dreams could end up crumbling as it gets locked out of both the high-end and low-end markets with other high-end hopefuls like Jaunt possibly suffering a similar fate.
Let’s not be hasty
Even though Nokia has scored an early victory against GoPro and other VR camera makers by sealing a deal with Disney, there is still no guarantee that the Ozo will become the top choice for professional VR filmmaking. With material costs constantly declining and companies incessantly innovating, even cheaper devices with better video recording capabilities and a smaller form factor than the Ozo could just be around the corner.