column marks the start of my third year writing for “On-Line
Connection.” And to kick off the year right, I’m going to share
some techniques for adding some depth (and width and height) to your
picture on your Web site may be worth a thousand words, but what if
you could show people all over the world a 360-degree panorama of your
office, your home, or even your new computer? Welcome to the world of
Photographic Virtual Reality (VR). Don’t confuse photo-VR with
Virtual Reality Modeling Language, or VRML; VRML scenes are created
using 3D virtual models, while photo-VR is often called “immersive
imaging” and “interactive photography.”
are two ways to make a photo-VR image.
A panorama is created by shooting a series of overlapping
photographs, rotating the camera between shots (more details on that
in a moment), and then “stitching” the shots using software that
seamlessly blends the images. Photo-VR objects are created by
positioning an object on a turntable, taking multiple overlapping
shots while rotating the object, and again processing the images with
start with what was, to me, the most difficult part of this process:
rotating the camera. It may seem like the simplest thing to just plunk
your camera down on a tripod, fire off a series of photos (film-based
or digital), and then stitch them together. But that method results in
a roller-coaster version of what you want to show, because the center
of the image-plane is not precisely centered over the tripod.
technique requires a special “head” on a tripod that correctly
positions the camera. I chose the Manfrotto-Bogen QTVR Plus kit (www.manfrotto.com/products/index.html,
then click on QTVR) for around $250, as I work with both film and
digital cameras. Kaidan also makes the KiWi line of camera heads (www.kaidan.com/pages/kiwi+.html)
for a few dollars less.
you have shot & processed your images, you still need to decide on
a final format for your 3D creation. Apple’s QuickTime VR (QTVR) is
the oldest and most widely-used immersive imaging technology, and QTVR
playback is built into both
QuickTime 3 and 4, on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Live
Picture’s Zoom technology isn’t as widely used as QTVR, but has
some unique capabilities. Last, Interactive Pictures’ IPIX is a
great potential technology, but is very expensive. and has a limited
choice of production tools. So, for practical purposes, your choice is
between Apple’s QTVR and Live Picture’s Zoom, and I’ll discuss
QTVR is an integral component of QuickTime, a QTVR panorama can
contain all QuickTime-supported media types. In an art gallery
panorama, for example, each piece of artwork can be zoomed in, clicked
on, and an entirely separate new QTVR space opened for additional
information and details. And as all Macintosh computers come with
QuickTime installed, and many Windows software applications also come
with it, most users will be able to playback QTVR panoramas and
objects immediately. For those few who need to download QuickTime,
it’s a freebie at (www.apple.com/quicktime), although it is a rather
lengthy two-part process.
are more than three times as many QTVR creation and production tools
than for the other two technologies combined, giving you a large
number of choices and price ranges. Apple’s own QuickTime VR
Authoring Studio ($395) is one of the best QTVR tools, but runs only
on the Mac. VR Toolbox’s new VR Worx (www.vrtoolbox.com) is an
excellent QTVR tool that provides superior Web-optimizing features for
photo-VR objects and panoramas on both Windows and Macs ($299).
Windows users can look at Enroute Imaging’s QuickStitch 360 ($70)(www.enroute.com),
or PictureWorks Spin Panorama and Spin PhotoObject ($50 each) (www.pictureworks.com/products/index.html).
Picture’s Zoom technology is ahead of QTVR in a number of ways. Zoom
uses the Flashpix image format to deliver extremely high-resolution
images over modem connections. If you create a panorama using Flashpix,
you can zoom in to examine the smallest details. The downside is that
your Internet Service Provider will need to buy and install Live
Picture Image Server software. You can use JPG files in Zoom, but you
then lose the sharpness on details.
supports playback through either a browser plug-in or a Java applet.
Both of these support panning, zooming, and hot-spots, and the plug-in
supports Flashpix images and directional sound, and adds playback of
panoramas containing other media, such as video and 3D objects. But
while the Windows version of the plug-in can display panoramas within
Web pages, the Mac version relies on a separate helper application.
This frustrates Web developers who are trying to develop a consistent
Picture’s Reality Studio ($499) is a Windows-based package that
allows you to enhance panoramas with sounds and other media types by
simply dragging and dropping elements. Directional sounds are really
impressive: audio streams appear as 3D speaker icons, and you can
position them within a panorama by simply dragging them with your
mouse. However, third-party support for Zoom panoramas is still quite
sparse, and there are none of the life-simplifying third-party
utilities that QTVR producers enjoy.
you have created and tweaked your panorama in any of these packages, a
simple <EMBED> tag puts the final product on your Web page. So
try out these products, and I’ll be looking for your Web sites.
you next month.