Sunday, September 24, 2023

The new Quest update stabilizes your shaky VR footage

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Shreya Christina
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Photo of a person standing in a parking lot wearing a white virtual reality headset and holding two controllers in his hands.
Share your sick gameplay footage without actually making people sick. | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Meta is rolling out the v44 software update for Quest headsets and the big new feature is good news for anyone who likes to share videos of themselves in virtual reality. There are new advanced camera settings that let you manually adjust how much stabilization is added and record 16:9 videos (or 9:16 vertical videos, which are perfect for TikTok) in addition to square ones – something that used to be only available through third party software.

The settings are currently listed as experimental for reasons about to become clear, but they do offer a fair amount of control; in addition to the aspect ratio and stabilization controls, there are options that let you choose your frame rate and compression quality, although Meta’s blog post notes that those options may come with performance and file size hits, respectively.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the new video settings in action. I shot these clips at the standard 24(ish) frames per second, but increased the bit rate as high as it would go.

Looking at these results, it’s easy to see why they aren’t readily available by default. As the Quest’s UI warns, going from the default “low” stabilization to “high” stabilization will crop your image quite a bit. That’s especially true if you’re using the 16:9 landscape aspect ratio, which cuts off much of the lower portion of the screen compared to the original square. The good news is that you can mix and match these settings. If you want high stabilization and a 1:1 aspect ratio, you can totally do it.

While the increased stabilization isn’t perfect (when reviewing my footage I noticed one or two moments when it seemed to focus on the wrong part of the frame instead of what I was looking at), I might consider tweaking it put as I was planning on sharing my Beat Saber shots with people who had stomach upset easily; not being able to see my hands well is a small price to pay to avoid nausea. Personally (and perhaps unsurprisingly), medium feels like the sweet spot between smoothing out the footage and not cropping it too far.

Screenshot of the experimental camera screen in the Quest's Settings app.
Image: Meta
The settings give you a fair amount of control over your screen recordings.

To enable the advanced camera controls, go to Settings > Experimental and enable them. After that, the controls are in an “Experimental” section under Settings > System > Camera.

Update v44 also brings a few new features to Parental Controls and App Lock, the system that allows you to password protect certain apps. Parents and guardians can prevent their teens from sideloading apps on their Quests by blocking the ability to use developer mode, and you can add passcodes to apps in bulk, either through a manual selection or a filter. (For example, you can add a passcode to all adult-rated games.)

Meta says the update will be rolled out “in the coming weeks”, so you may have to wait a little longer.

PS: have the advanced video settings show up for some people before this update (myself included), but now they are officially part of the OS – as an experimental feature, of course.

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