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Sure, there are some big savings on virtually all PC-based VR headsets this Black Friday, but thats not where the real cost of getting into VR lies, is it? Its the high-powered PCs required to run the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows VR headsets that really threaten your wallet. So weve rounded up some of the best deals out there for those looking to get into VR from scratch (or just hunting for an upgrade) this sale season. This is going to include bundles as well as standalone rigs and laptops, so there should be something for everyone. Of course, Black Friday itself isnt actually upon us yet, so expect to see plenty more deals in the coming days. If youve come here looking for a little inspiration, though, were going to list the recommended specifications for each of the three major VR platforms below so you can check out other bundles knowing what youre getting into. Oculus Rift Recommended Specs: Graphics card NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater (Alternative graphics card NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater) CPU Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater 8 GB+ RAM Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output 3x USB 3.0 ports, plus 1x USB 2.0 port Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer HTC Vive Recommended Specs: NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or greater Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater 4GB+ RAM Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output 2x USB 3.0 ports Windows 7 SP1 or newer Windows Mixed Reality Recommended Specs (60 FPS): Intel HD Graphics 620 equivalent or greater Intel i7200U equivalent or greater 8GB+ RAM Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output 1x USB 3.0 port Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Windows Mixed Reality Ultra Recommended Specs (90 FPS): NVIDIA GTX 1050/AMD RX 560 equivalent or greater Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater 8GB+ RAM Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output 1x USB 3.0 port Windows 10 Fall Creators Update All-In For Under $800 Acer Aspire Nitro 5 AN515-51-5594 Gaming Laptop + Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion ControllersPrice: $798 ($400 off) Acers Windows-based VR headsetmight not be up to the same standardsas the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive but this is still one of the cheapest prices weve ever seen for going all-in on PC-based VR. With an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, 8GM RAM and GTX 1050 graphics, this will handle everything on Windows own store at 90fps, though if youre looking to dive into SteamVRyou might want to considersomething with a bit more firepower. 1080 For $1300 AMD ET 6960Price: $1299.99 When it comes to future-proofing your VR PC (and getting the best out of it right now), its best to go top of the range with your graphics card. The AMD ET offers the Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, 16GB RAM, and an AMD Ryzen 7 1700X CPU. While new GTX cards may not be far off right now, this is as good as it gets outside of the beastly Titan X. Ultra Mixed Reality Dell Inspiron 15 7577 i7577-5258BLK-PUS Laptop + Dell Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion ControllersPrice: $1,148 ($400 off) The Microsoft Store has a bunch of PC bundle deals with its new VR headsets ready to ship, but were most taken by this Inspiron bundle. With an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, GTX 1060 graphics and 8GB RAM it fits comfortably into the Ultra range of mixed reality PCs, meaning itll run experiences from the Windows Store at 90fps. With the Dell headset bundled in, this is all you need to get into VR. Shaving Price And Weight GIGABYTE Aero 14Kv7-BK4Price: $1449 ($100 off) Notebooks might not offer the absolute best VR performance, but if youre on the go a lot and have space for a Rift or Vive then you might want to consider Gigabytes slender selection, with GTX 1050 TI graphics, an Intel i77700HQ processor, and 16GB RAM. Its only $100 off but, for laptops this small that can run VR, thats pretty good. Beastly Performance For A Slightly Lower Price Alienware Area-51Price: $4299.99 ($750 off) If youre only in the market for the absolute best experience, have the money to spend on it, but still wouldnt mind saving a good $750, then Alienwares Area-51 rig might be the place to go. With 32GB RAM, 1080 graphics and Intelsi9 7980XE you wont need to worry about what your PC can and cant run for some time yet. You can even upgrade to the 1080Ti for an extra $200, meaning youll still save a fair bundle.
Nothing quite disrupts the being there experience of a 360 photo like a bad stitch line. But Google Street View panoramas will soon have fewer disruptions thanks to new research by Google. On Thursday, November 9, Google Research shared a new algorithm to create more seamless stitches. While Google says proper hardware can help minimize stitch lines, factors like parallax, or that effect where straight lines appear to curve together in the distance, can create problems for the software. A slight time difference between each photo can still create oddities where the images meet, which can pop up often since Street View Cameras are often mounted on top of moving cars. To illustrate, Google shared images of the Sydney Opera House with off-kilter architecture and a panorama of the Tower Bridge in London where the bridge doesnt actually meet up with the other half. In order to provide more seamless Street View images, weve developed a new algorithm based on optical flow to help solve these challenges, wrote software engineer Mike Kraninin and research scientist Ce Liu in theirblog post. The idea is to subtly warp each input image such that the image content lines up within regions of overlap. This needs to be done carefully to avoid introducing new types of visual artifacts. The approach must also be robust to varying scene geometry, lighting conditions, calibration quality, and many other conditions. To correct the stitch, Google divided their approach into two different steps. The first is optical flowor computing where the stitched photo flows from one individual shot to the other. This merge area is down-sampled in order for the computer to handle the process quickly. Once the merger areas are recognized, the software warps both sides of the stitch simultaneously until both sides properly align. The image is then adjusted using a nonlinear optimization method, which makes the process less likely to correct one oddity while introducing another. With the program, Google Street View images from iconic landmarks to downtown hotspots will see a boost with fewer stitch lines. Google says the new algorithm was recently added to the stitching process and users should start seeing the improved views soon.
We see devices get smaller and smaller hardware-wise. Take a look at the first computer: We need a room with 2.4m0.9m 30m in size, at least, to own the computer. But see whats happening years, years later: Every office, every school, every laboratory own PCs, perfectly fit in a small cubicle. Even more, everybody has a laptop at their houses. Things get even crazier today, as we bring a computer everywhere in our pocket yes,Im referring to a smartphone. The Race to Make Virtual Reality an Actual (Business) Reality In mid-April, virtual reality passed a milestone. Using an app created by a company called Medical Realities, viewers from around the globe, each presumably with an iron constitution, witnessed a surgeon at the Royal London NHS Hospital delve into the bowels of a 70-year-old cancer patient. If that sounds like a Nova special, it was so much more. Doctors, medical students, and the merely curious experienced the operation in real time, with 360-degree control over their vantage points, as though they were actually in the operating room. A Chip Revolution Will Bring Better VR Sooner Than You Think DAVID KOSSLYN AND Ian Thompson are the founders of a virtual reality company called Angle Technologies. Two years into this stealth project, backed by $8 million in funding, they wont say much about the virtual world theyre buildingat least not publicly. But they will say that theyre building it in a way that alters the relationship between computer hardware and software. When a PC or a game console runs this virtual world, the GPU chips play an unexpectedly large role, taking so much of the burden off the main processor. I played the ridiculous and delightful new Rick and Morty game heres what it was like As a devout Rick and Morty superfan, Im often an evangelist. You havent seen Rick and Morty? How lucky you are to get to experience it for the first time, totally fresh! I might say. Its one of those shows like Arrested Development, or Community, or Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! where its almost as famous for its cult following as it is for the show itself. The Medium is the Divine Message: Religion Meets Virtual Reality Anyone looking to experience God in a brand new way will soon have his or her chance virtually.Believe VR, is a new immersive faith-based virtual reality experience for people of color. The experience is part of a larger project created by L. Michelle Media called Mission VR. The idea for Believe VR came from our passion to enhance current Christian programming options, L. Michelle Salvant, the companys founder, told NBCBLK. When Mission VR began, we knew we wanted to create a signature virtual reality environment a faith world of sorts where dynamic, never before seen, Christian lifestyle stories and experiences could have a home. VRScientist v1.0 There are very few standards in the VR industry at the moment. For now, theres a ton of guesswork and eyeballing. For example, do you know what your targetField of View should befor a VR movie? Dont worry about it! From our tests, no one else does, either. Every headset is a little different. Creating 360-Degree Content With The Ricoh Theta S, Part 2: Production And Editing This is Part 2 of our three-part series looking at how to create content in 360 degrees, using the Ricoh Theta S as a specific example. Some of this will be germane to the Theta S, but you can extrapolate a great deal, including best practices for shooting, editing, and sharing. In Part 1, we discussed how to shoot with the camera. Below, we look at the editing and production process. How to hire VR developer: Skills and places to look for With the release of major VR headsets Virtual Realitys potential in entertainment and science has been finally uncovered. And the labor behind hundreds of constantly emerging projects falls on shoulders of VR developer. This is a new breed of programmers of high demand. How to hire VR developer is a teaser that hasnt been fully solved yet. But lets try. Real-world photo comparison: 2017 Samsung Gear 360 vs. Ricoh Theta S The Ricoh Theta S is currently the most popular 360 camera on the market by a very wide margin (even if you only look at recent sales and not historic sales). The Ricoh Theta S was released in 2015 but remains one of my favorite 360 cameras for 360 photos. It has the best manual controls, the best stitching among 360 cameras, and its easy to hold and use. However, it has low resolution videos (1920 x 960). Animation In A VR World: How Is It Different and How Is It The Same? Whether you believe the hype or not, virtual reality is here. Billions of dollars are being spent on vr headset development, vr content creation, and getting users to adopt the technology.
Samsung Gear 360 is one of the most popular 360 cameras available on the market. A lot of users onOcurusupload photos made with that device. However, before you start shooting and sharing 360 panoramas with a Gear 360, heres one important thing you need to know about its stitching process to avoid problems with displaying your photos. The Samsung Gear 360cameradoes not stitch the photos on the device, unlike some other popular devices (ex. Ricoh Theta). Instead, the stitching process is done on the fly when you save the photos from the camera to the Gear 360 mobile app on your phone or tablet. It is possible not to use the mobile application and copy the photos via USB directly from the camera to a computer. While this is technically possible, it is not recommended photos copied directly from the camera to a PC are unstitched and will not display correctly. If you are not sure if your photos are stitched or not, its not difficult to spot the difference. A raw, unstitched photo from a Samsung Gear 360 is composed of two fisheye shots next to each other, one from each lens. It will typically look a bit like this: However, when you save the photo from the camera onto the mobile app, it is stitched and transformed into a correct equirectangular projection on the fly. A correctly stitched photo looks more like this: Only the latter format will be correctly projected by most 360 photo players includingOcurus, so make sure to check your source photos and to always use the Gear 360 mobile app with your camera.Remember: copying photos directly from the camera on your computer is not recommended. The Samsung Gear 360 app is available on bothGoogle PlayandAppStoreand you can get a Gear 360 device onAmazon. Keep in mind that you need an iPhone 5s at minimum. If you are an Android user, you will need a device with Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer installed. We hope you find this tip useful!
Below is a list of current live video stream links from the IVRPA Vienna 2017 360 VR Photography 360 Video Conference, these are temporary links and all presentations will be posted separately with higher quality when final videos are ready full conference schedule is here - http://ivrpa.org/event/vienna-2017/program/ IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 1st Day Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 2nd Day part 1 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 2nd Day part 3 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 2nd Day part 2 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 2nd Day part 4 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 2nd Day part 5 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 1 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 2 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 3 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 4 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 5 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 6 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 3rd Day Live Stream 7 | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 4th Day 1 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 4th Day 2 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference IVRPA VIENNA 2017 | 4th Day 3 Live Stream | International VR Photography Association Conference
The virtualreality industry, such as it is, continues to have a hard time selling itself to much of the world. According to a new report from Canalys, U.S. consumers accounted for 40 percent of the global VR market in the first quarter of 2017. Japan moved up to the number two spot with 14 percent. Perhaps most troubling, however, is that Chinese consumers seem increasingly indifferent to VR. Canalys said China fell to 11 percent, citing a different gaming culture combined with the unwillingness to pay for content, including VR. Not surprisingly, HTCs Vive is the leader in its hometown Chinese market, with 25 percent of the market share. That means HTChas the most at stake in that country, and Canalys said the company is trying a number of initiatives to boost adoption. This include pushing VR in Chinese schools, making Chinathe first country to widely introduce VR into private and public schools. HTC is trying to discover and promote new verticals as it deepens its relationship with local and governmental establishments, said Canalys analyst Jason Low, in a statement. From introducing the Vive Group Edition 10-headset bundle to promoting Vivedu and Vivepaper for schools, HTC has multiplied its commitment to grow the VR education segment in China. In the U.S., Sonys PlayStation VR had60 percent market share, highlighting the challenges still faced by Facebooks Oculus VR and HTC. This post by Chris OBrien originally appeared on VentureBeat.
Unlocking the treasure chest: The emerging language of VR storytelling, by Eric Darnell of Baobab Studios (Part 1 of 2) I was a Journalism major at the University of Colorado as an undergrad student. I started taking film classes just to learn how to cut a news story together and got really interested in film. Then in 1983, when I was flipping through the channels and saw a PBS documentary on computer animation, which Id never seen before, I was blown away. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. 15 Virtual Reality Trends Were Predicting for 2017 2016 is fast drawing to a close. And while many will be glad to see the back of it, for those of us who work and play with Virtual Reality, it has been a most exciting year.By the time the bells ring out signalling the start of a new year, the total number of VR users will exceed 43 million. This is a market on the move, projected to be worth $30bn by 2020. If its to meet that valuation, then we believe 2017 will be an incredibly important year in the lifecycle of VR hardware and software development. The female perspective:Takeaways from my experience watching VR porn made for dudes Last week, I got to experience something I never thought possible as a woman: sex from the male perspective.The future is here, my friends. And though it was an interesting anthropological experiment, it was not particularly sexy to look down and see that. But thats what I saw, courtesy of Naughty America at CES in Las Vegas. The company was tucked away in a sad meeting room off the show floor, reminiscent of aglass smoking room at the airport, as if to send a message. Keep the animals in their cage. The first Virtual Reality X-ray training with Virtual MedicalCoaching The Writer had the opportunity to put on the VR googles and what was a vacant booth suddenly became a full Hospital Radiology suite. I was able to walk from the Consul room into the examination room. I was able to interact with the X ray tube, manipulate the patient, raise or lower the table and put left or right markers on. After placing the X Ray tube, manipulating the patients knee, collimating the beam and even placing the correct R side maker onto the X Ray image receptor I walked back to the consul room, and took the radiograph. This is how Sony plans to make virtual reality films a long-term business Virtual reality (VR) is a long way off from becoming a money maker for movie bosses and for Sony the challenge to date has been resisting the urge to fuel hype for the medium and instead understand the value it could bring. Virtually boring: VR really disappoints at CES this year Call it a virtual disappointment. Or virtually unsurprising. Ill just say I was virtually underwhelmed.Whatever pun you choose, the virtual reality industry has some explaining to do after this years Consumer Electronics Show, during which the biggest product announcements can largely be categorized as more of the same. Virtual Reality Devices: What to Expect In 2017 Virtual reality is actually becoming the biggest market after the smartphone revolution. As we enter in 2017, the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality would be cheaper and better for consumers, handy for Enterprises. All in all, 2017 will mark the start of a new era for the next big thing, the later half of 2016 manifested the beginning of an ever-growing market with Sony introducing PlayStation 4 VR, Facebook buying Oculus Rift for $2 Billion and launching of HTC Vive VR Edition. Virtual Reality Takes Fans Inside the World of Watches Swiss watchmakers are nostalgic by nature. How else to explain their constant reference to a golden era of timekeeping, more than 200 years ago, when masters such as Abraham-Louis Breguet devised the worlds first complicated timepieces? I tried to work all day in a VR headset and it was horrible Virtual reality is here. You can pilot a starfighter, make sculptures out of virtual clay and experience award-winning journalism but can you use it to get some work done? Cirque Du Soleil Gets New Virtual Reality Experience Dreams of O Award-winning virtual reality studio Felix Paul released a new virtual reality experience in cooperation withCirque Du Soleil at CES in Las Vegas Thursday. Dreams of O takes the viewer on a 12-minute journey into the underwater world of O, the Cirque show thats been playing in Vegas for close to 20 years.
Virtual Reality is a good fit for many industries. One that is seeing a great deal of early adopters, without question, is real estate. According to Goldman Sachs, VR will be an $80 Billion dollar market by 2025, with $2.6 Billion of that revenue emanating directly from real estate. For an industry whose mantra is location, location, location, the immersive quality of virtual reality is greatly expanding sales opportunities for real estate agents. Why Real Estate VR Make Sense Together Real Estate is a competitive industry. Pre-internet, the industry was largely driven by relationships and referrals. Even now, those are probably the two biggest drivers. But in the high stakes world of real estate, any advantage can help. Virtual reality gives tech forward agents both a perceptual edge in attracting new clients, but also a real tangible edge in widening the addressable market when selling a house. Thus its no surprise that realtors in particularly competitive markets like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are turning to VR to get an edge on the competition. Sothebys, for example, is trying to build out an internal network of 360-captured homes for prospective buyers. Their target home purchasers affluent, time-strapped, often overseas can get a great sense for a house without ever stepping foot in it. Why get stuck in LA traffic to look at 1-2 homes in a day, when you can visit 50 homes virtually through a Gear VR at an agents office? The Future of VR Real Estate A number of trends are also pointing towards a meteoric rise in the number of realtors using VR. First off, virtual reality headsets are a very popular item on holiday wishlists this year, with companies like Best Buy aggressively marketing the technology. Secondly, more robust cell phones and wireless bandwidth gives almost every potential homeowner the opportunity to experience a house virtually (and share the experience with others!). Finally, Millennials have generally been a very tough group to attract to home purchasing. So advertising homes to this demographic with a more immersive tech-oriented approach might give you an edge in grabbing their attention. Why Choose Ocurus to Create Your Real Estate VR Experience? As a real estate agent, you want to spend your time providing great service to existing clients, while also attracting new ones. Ocurus is the perfect platform to save you time and money. Theres no need for outsourcing or even engineering expertise all you need is a camera, an internet connection, and an Ocurus Pro account. Some of the specific benefits to Ocurus that you wont necessarily find with the competition 1. Completely self-service, with an easy to use drag-and-drop interface Many real estate agents hesitate to commit to VR because of the perceived time involved. Ocurus makes the process as simple as possible. You capture your images of the house using a 360 camera (i.e. Ricoh Theta S) - upload them to the Ocurus console - add your navigation between rooms - add your company logo contact info - publish. 2. One click publish across multiple platforms Not everyone uses the same way to access VR. Some possibilities include iPhone, iPad, Android, or Google Cardboard. As a real estate agent, you want to provide your VR home tours to all possible users. Thats why with Ocurus, you can view across all of those platforms with one click, meaning you dont have to rebuild your tour for each publishable platform. This saves you valuable time! High end real estate agencies will also want to have deeply immersive headsets, such as the Gear VR. Ocurus allows you to publish to that platform with minimal extra work. Give clients a top notch VR experience in your offices through Gear VR, and watch how impressed they are by the simulation of actually visiting your home listings. 3. Publish to your firms website Despite the plethora of mobile app delivery systems for VR, you still have to market your 360 home tours to clients before theyll download an app. Ocurus Pro enables this through a VR experience that can embed directly in your website. Visitors to your agencys homepage can virtually tour a home in 360, and then if they want a more immersive experience, download an app. Just by incorporating VR into your website, youre signalling to potential clients that youre doing everything possible to market their home. Summary VR is already starting to see great adoption in the real estate industry. I talk to clients just about everyday who are looking to jump into the technology, particularly as they see the competition use it. Ocurus provides the most easy intuitive platform to go from capturing a home with a 360-degree camera to having a workable VR app or web experience for clients.
Digital photography is an amazing medium. The rate in which quality and performance are increasing is staggering, and the possibilities are endless. It's as if the digital age has opened up an entirely new world of thinking; I'm constantly amazed at the new things I see and how modern-day photographers push the envelope to create mind-blowing work that borders on the bleeding edge. I had been primarily a wildlife photographer until a few years ago when I started spending more time focusing on nature landscapes. I found landscape photography enjoyable. I also found it to be challenging when trying to find my own unique take on the classic vista points and well-photographed national parks. To make his massive image files, Stephen Oachs shoots a series of individual frames, which are then stitched together. The process isn't especially complicated, but it does require solid technique, attention to detail and some special equipment. The results are stunning. I chose panoramic images as my first attempts in finding my own landscape style, yet my end results just felt like the same work everyone else was capturing, except wider. Then I stumbled into the world of multi-row panoramics, and I was addicted. My newfound passion wasn't so much due to the expansive views multi-row panoramas provide, but for the ability to achieve extreme resolutions that allow me to create very large prints (10- to 15-foot widths and larger) while still showing extremely sharp, non-pixelated results. Imagine being able to view a supersized panoramic image from just a few inches away and having it be tack-sharp! That's exactly what I've been able to achieve by mastering the skills required to produce high-quality panoramic images. In addition to the extreme resolution and endless printing possibilities, I also love the amount of depth and sense of scale you can achieve with multi-row panoramas. By capturing multiple images with a telephoto lens, the final "stitched" result offers up unique perspectives, even with the most iconic, and highly photographed, locations. The reason for this is telephoto compressionwhere the near and far of a scene appear to be closer together, making distant objects larger, so when you stand before a large print, it gives the photo an almost three-dimensional feel. This visual bonus can only be achieved by taking a multiple-image panorama. What's A Panoramic Photograph?Panoramic photography in our modern digital world consists of capturing multiple images in a sequence, then combining them (in a process called "stitching") to form a single final image. The word "panorama" literally means "all sight" in Greek and first originated from artists and painters to convey a wider view of a scene. Early panoramic photographs were created by aligning printed versions of film; it proved to be difficult to align each frame perfectly for a quality end result. However, with today's powerful computers and digital software tools, it's now much easier to stitch digital images together. In fact, using the techniques I'll outline in this article, it's possible to create flawless panoramas and achieve extremely high-resolution results. Often, the term "panorama" is assumed to mean an image will be a wide horizontal or vertical view, but that's not necessarily the case. If several photos are stitched together and the end result is a standard 3:2 ratio, or even a square, it can still be considered a high-resolution panoramic photograph. A single image can be cropped so the height/width ratio resembles a panorama, but there are two downsides to this: 1) The resolution remaining will limit your ability to create large prints, as most modern cameras are limited to about 24x36 and smaller print sizes; 2) Because you're cropping a single photo, probably taken with a wide-angle lens, it will lack the telephoto compression that gives most multiple-image panoramas their depth and scale. More commonly, a panoramic image is the combination of multiple images, joined using stitching software, to create one single merged image. This article is about the latter technique and how I go about shooting these images and stitching them. There are two approaches to multiple-image panoramas, single-row and multi-row. I'll cover both techniques and the required gear to accomplish these methods. Single-Row Or Multi-Row Panoramic ChoicesSingle-row panoramas require the merging, or stitching, of the sequential edges of two or more images. This can be done horizontally or vertically. I suggest you learn to master single-row panoramas before moving onto multi-row because the accuracy needed with multi-rows is more complex than with single-row panos. Multi-row panoramic images require the merging (stitching) of both sequential edges of images and their neighboring sequenced images in the adjacent rows. Multi-row panoramas are certainly more difficult to shoot and merge, due to the greater likelihood of error. Much like a puzzle, each image must have the correct alignment in order for it to "fit" into its unique location of the scene. Once he has captured the individual images, Oachs has to complete the stitching process. It's critical that exposures are the same from frame to frame or the final image won't look right. Oachs shoots RAW files and makes global adjustments, then he merges the photos using Photoshop's Photomerge function. Camera SettingsManual. Manual. Manual. I can't stress enough that you'll need to shoot your panoramas with all manual settings. Aperture and shutter speed should be set manually. You should shoot in manual mode so that as you pan through the scene, the aperture and shutter remain consistent. I tend to use higher apertures (/11 to /18) depending on the complexity of the scene and distances. For shutter speed, I'll take a few test photos of the brightest area of the scene I'm about to capture and expose for that area. It's critically important that each frame is uniform in settings so that when it comes time to stitch your photos, they not only line up properly, but they seamlessly transition in exposure and depth of field. Focus is a critical step to ensuring your panos will stitch together properly. Any change in focus and depth of field between two images can cause a stitching algorithm to fail to match two overlapping frames. I often use autofocus to lock onto an area of the panoramic scene where my focus is at, or near, infinity, and then switch my focus to manual to ensure the lens doesn't refocus between each image. White balance should be set manually using the Kelvin setting in your camera's menu system. Choose a Kelvin temperature that best represents the scene or gives you the creativity you desire. If you don't set the white balance manually, then the camera will be left to choose the temperature of each frame, and this will lead to images that won't stitch together, or if they do, the colors won't match up. This is most noticeable in images that have vibrant colors and in the sky. Filters should be avoided with the exception of a solid neutral-density (ND) filter or an ultraviolet (UV) filter. Shooting in RAW is recommended so that you have the most data for post-processing changes once the shoot is complete. For example, I'll load all the RAW images of the panoramic scene into Photoshop or Lightroom and make global changes to white balance, contrast and sharpness before starting the stitching process. Eliminating Parallax: Finding The Nodal PointThe nodal point, also known as the no-parallax point, is the most critical element to the entire panoramic process. The elimination of parallax helps ensure that panoramic software can effectively stitch together the images and leave you with a scene that's not bowed or skewed unnaturally. What is "parallax?" It's the difference, or displacement, in an object's apparent position viewed along two different lines of sight. This effect is most noticeable with subject matter closer to the camera and becomes less insignificant at greater distances. If you've ever tried to take a panoramic image with three to five frames just with a regular tripod, the end result likely looked very distorted or bowed. This is a side effect of not eliminating parallax, and the stitching software is trying to accommodate the images by warping the image to force it to line up. Needless to say, the end result isn't very pleasing and is of poor quality. Proper nodal point alignment is important for best results. If the nodal point shifts from frame to frame, an unacceptable amount of distortion becomes apparent in the final stitched image. Oachs uses a Really Right Stuff multi-row panorama kit to keep perfect alignment. Once you have your nodal panoramic gear set up and the camera mounted, you simply slide the nodal rail forward, or back, to adjust the nodal point within the lens to be exactly over the pivot point of the tripod. If it's not marked, an easy way to find the nodal point of the lens is to put two vertical elements in front of the lens, say, two chess pieces on the kitchen table a few feet apart. Then, move the camera back or forward on the nodal bar until the two verticals don't move in relationship to each other as you pan left to right. If you're behind the nodal point, the front alignment object will move in the same direction. If you're in front of the nodal point, the front alignment object will move in the opposite direction. Shooting A Panoramic PhotographOnce you choose your location, it's time to shoot! You'll want a sturdy tripod with a bubble level or a panoramic head that has a bubble level built into it. You're going to shoot your images from left to right. If you're shooting a multi-row panorama, then you'll shoot left to right, return to the left-most position and tilt down for the next row. It's just like reading a book. Once your gear is positioned, it's time to get set up for a proper exposure. Shoot entirely in manual. I set the exposure by finding the brightest area in my scene and setting exposure based on that. This way, I'm sure not to have clipping areas in my final stitch. Before I start shooting, I like to look at the scene with my eyes to identify a portion of the landscape that's going to make the best image. I pick a starting location on the left and right, and then I plan to shoot a little extra on both sides. I do the same for the top and bottom of multi-row images to account for some cropping in the stitching and processing steps. Next, I decide how much I need to pan between frames. This depends on the distance of the landscape and the focal length of the lens. I find that for the best stitching results, an overlap between images of 20% to 25% is perfect. Most panoramic nodal gear will have degree markers, so I like to find a starting point, then pan while looking through the viewfinder and pick some element in the scene as a reference point for overlap. These practice pans help me decide how many degrees to move between each photo. Once I have the number of degrees to pan, then it's very easy to pan through a row efficiently without looking through the viewfinder. For multi-row panoramic images, you'll want to practice panning left to right, and tilting up and down. This way, when you reach the right side of your first row you know exactly the degree marker to return to on the left, as well as how many degrees down you need to pan. Then, simply repeat. You should move methodically and accurately through each frame. Depending on the amount of available light, clouds moving in the sky or shifting light, you may need to move quickly. Too much exposure change between images and rows will result in a failed stitch later. I highly encourage taking several sets of images. Just one single incorrect frame is like a missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle. A final image won't be possible. Stitching: Merging Your Single Images Into A PanoramaNow that you have some images, it's time to download them to your computer and stitch them together to create one very large single photograph. There are many software programs for stitching photos together; my personal preference is Photoshop. Gear: Camera, Tripod And Nodal SystemsThere's no shortage of great equipment options out there, and for a variety of budgets. Here's what you're going to need to shoot professional-quality panoramic photographs: A DSLR camera. Full frame, high quality and as many megapixels as you can get. A fixed lens. I typically use 50mm, 85mm, 100mm or 300mm lenses. I've even used a 500mm lens! (You can use a zoom lens; however, eliminating parallax can be more difficult that way.) A sturdy tripod. I recommend a ballhead for ease-of-use and leveling accuracy, which is important. A panning system. Really Right Stuff makes a single- and multi-row pano kit, which is what I use for all of my panoramic creations. It's well made and top of the line, in my opinion. You can also automate the process with a GigaPan setup (see sidebar). Shutter-release cord. Optional, but helpful in capturing sharper images. Global Adjustment Of RAW Images. The first step is to load all of the RAW files into the Camera Raw editor. By loading them at the same time, and selecting them all once loaded, you're able to make global edits. In other words, if you make an adjustment to any slider, say, contrast or white balance, this change will occur identically to all of the images of your panorama. This is a critically important point because, in order to have a successful stitch, each image has to be as similar to the next as possible. Any shift in exposure or other adjustments can cause the software to fail to pattern match, thus the stitch won't complete. The Stitch. In Photoshop, choose File Automate Photomerge. From the dialog box, select the group of images, then select the Layout as Auto and Blend Images Together. If I later discover that I didn't do a great job of setting the nodal point during the shoot, I'll check Geometric Distortion Correction to help assist with the parallax issues. It's not perfect, but can often wrangle a difficult stitch into something manageable. The Vignette Removal option is typically only selected when shooting wide-angle where, for example, the gradient blue of the sky can affect the stitch between two frames. Since I tend to shoot 50mm or higher, this isn't an option I use in my personal stitching process. The Wait. Once you click OK, Photoshop starts the process of loading each frame of your soon-to-be panorama, each into its own separate layer. Once this step is completed, Photoshop will rearrange and adjust each frame, using powerful algorithms to match edges and overlap each photo. Then, once each image is in position, the software will create layer masks for a seamless final result. This may be a good time to grab a cold beverage or take the dog for a walk. Depending on the number of images in your pano, this processing can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. GigaPan EPIC ForAutomatic Gigapixel Shooting Stephen Oachs makes his gigapixel images manually. If you'd prefer to have an automated way of creating these sorts of massive files, GigaPan makes a variety of robotic tools that will do all of the shooting for you and their GigaPan Stitch software will then take care of all of the stitching. The GigaPan EPIC Pro model is designed for DSLRs. Mount the unit on your tripod, set the upper-left and lower-right corners, and the robot does the rest. The EPIC Pro costs $895. If you want to try automated gigapixel photography at a lower cost, the EPIC model handles most compact cameras and costs $299. Go to gigapan.com for details and to see if your camera is supported. Cropping. If all went well, you're well hydrated and the dog got his exercise, you should have one big photo! However, it may look a little bowed around the edges. The more accurate you are in finding the nodal point during the shoot, the less parallax each frame will have and the straighter your final stitched edges will be. If you have a lot of bow around the edges, the more parallax you had, and you'll need to do some extra work to correct the final result. If the bow is minimal, you can make a quick crop, then flatten, and your panorama is stitched and complete. However, if you have a lot of curvature, you may need to flatten the layers and use Edit Transform tools (such as Warp and Perspective) to adjust for the curve. In my experience, I've learned to use these tools sparingly to keep the photo looking natural and to avoid degrading the quality of the stitched image. Final Postprocessing. Now that you have a successful stitch and you've flattened the layers, you have a single and very large photograph. I typically apply a couple of last postprocessing steps at this point, such as sharpening and sometimes a slight contrast or levels adjustment. I have, from time to time, arrived at this final step, and once I see all the images combined, recognize I could have done a better job with the initial group RAW adjustments, and I start over by making those adjustments to my RAW files collectively, then redo the stitching steps. Quality Versus Quantity. Often, when you see multi-row panoramic images around the Internet, they're many gigapixels in size as the result of the stitching of hundreds of photos. While this provides a fantastic game of "Where's Waldo?", it can be overkill and the images might not be ideally suited to printing. Another challenge with producing high-quality multi-row panoramic images has to do with the amount of time it takes to pan through the scene and capture each image. If you estimate it takes three to five seconds per image to pan, let the vibration subside, then take the photo; a multi-row panorama of just 24 images takes nearly two minutes. Now imagine 60 images would take four to five minutes. While time is passing as you shoot, the clouds are moving, the wind is blowing, and the sun is on the move, shifting exposure and shadows. The amount of frames you choose for your panorama helps determine the type of conditions you need for a quality end result. My goal with multi-row panoramas is to provide my viewers with bigger print size options, but with the same fine-art print quality you'd expect from a single frame. A multi-row panorama of just 24 images produces enough combined resolution for stunningly large prints 10 to 15 feet wide and larger. If you're not into printing and want to capture the tiniest detail in the expanse of a scene, then shoot away! I've seen some amazing gigapixel panoramas with an amazing amount of fun details to seek and explore. The founder of Aperture Academy, Stephen Oachs is a photographer, gallery owner and workshop leader. You can see more of his work and sign up for his workshops at www.apertureacademy.com. and www.stephenoachs.com.
Ive spent the last 3 months completely immersed in the latest 360 camera technologies while using a plethora of 360 cameras. I have used some of the first-gen cameras like the Ricoh Theta, Samsung Gear 360 (2016) and the LG 360 camera. None of those cameras particularly satisfied my needs as a photography enthusiast and someone who appreciates good video (I dont think Im a very good videographer though). Obviously I havent tried every camera on the market but I have gone out of my way to try as many as I possibly can and there were a few cameras that came out recently that have really caught my attention. The great thing about 360 cameras for someone like me is that Im no longer excluded from my photos and videos. Additionally, I hearcountless feedback from my friends that they feel like theyre actually there. This effect has been produced time and time again with almost every single 360 camera I testas I upload nearly every single cameras photos and videos to Facebook and YouTube for my friends to see and provide feedback on. It also serves a second purpose in that it allows me to see how aggressive Facebook and YouTubes compression algorithms are on the video files and I hate to say it but both companies have a VERY long way to go. From my experience, YouTube has much better quality than Facebook and Im frankly embarrassed to do live streams in 360 on Facebook with the image quality in its current state. 8K and Deep Pockets ArentMandatory for Good 360 Video One of the things that I had previously thought about 360 cameras was that because of the nature of many of these cameras highly curved lenses, image quality simply had to suffer and that higher resolution sensors were the solution. I couldnt have been more wrong. Samsungs new Gear 360 (2017) features two 8 Megapixel sensors and displays 4K video. The images on the new Gear 360 are about half the resolution of the original Gear 360 camera but they dont look worse in any way, in fact they often look better thanks to improved stitching due to the sensors being closer together. Also, I thought that 4K video wasnt enough to make good quality 360 video, this was because of the countless poor quality 360 videos that I saw in 4K. However, thanks to Samsungs new Gear 360, the 4K footage not only looks fantastic on-device but it also looks quite good on YouTube. However, Samsungs extremely good Gear 360 is not without its faults, namely Samsungs decision to only support Samsung, iOS, and Mac OSX devices. Granted, this is an expansion from their original Samsung-only approach, but it will turn off some potential customers from buying or using their camera, however fantastic and affordable ($250) it may be. That leaves the market open for others that want to support the rest of the 360 market which includes companies like Ricoh, Nikon, Insta360, and many others. The Insta360 Nano is specifically designed for the iPhone and offers lots of features. 360 Camera Value The pricing of 360 cameras issignificantly better than only 12 months ago, the standard price for cameras from LG, Samsung and others was $350 and up. However, now a quality 360 camera like Insta360s Air for Android are availablefor as low as $129 and supports both microUSB and USB Type-C. Insta360 also makes a great 360 camera for iOS called the Insta360 Nano which sells for $199 and includes an integrated battery and microSD card slot so as not to drain your iPhones battery and use up all of its limited storage. In fact, Insta360 may be the most underrated 360 camera company in the market as they have some of the best image stitching I have seen to date and are even preparing to launch their own 8K camera capable of stereoscopic 3D 360. They also have in my opinion the best social media connectivity with support for Periscope, Facebook, Facebook Live, YouTube, Instagram and other social networks. They really get the social importance of 360 images and videos and areextremely aggressive to enable those capabilities. The Insta360 Air and Nano cameras are without a doubt the best value on the market and may, along with the Samsung Gear 360, be what drives the bulk of 360 cameras user-generated content. Their pace of innovation is also extremely rapid, as they are continually launching new features on both the Insta360 Nano and Air including stabilization and new social networks like Facebook which they had ready when it was available to the public. This is opposed to the $499 Nikon KeyMission 360 which has had some issues straight out of the gate. They had issues with their iOS app and getting the app to work with iOS devices. I had a pretty good time using it with my Google Pixel, but my biggest complaint was that the KeyMission 360 doesnt really have any good way of sharing your content externally. Your content is essentially marooned on the camera or your phone until you move the files onto your computer or could take the downloaded files and shared them manually. I amalso slightly disappointed with the image quality of the KeyMission 360, being a Nikon product and all, it really loses a lot of sharpness once you move away from the center of the lenses. But it is the only waterproof full 360 camera (Kodaks requires two cameras to do full 360)so it could really be great for extreme sports and other scenarios where you might otherwise consider a GoPro. As a Nikon enthusiast, the KeyMission 360 did not meet my expectations and it felt rushed, almost like it was outsourced to another company to speed up the development. The Nikon KeyMission 360 is capable of 4K video and underwater usage. Content Platforms Right now, the best places to share your 360 content online are Facebook, Google Photos, and YouTube. That is probably one of the things that needs to improve the most, in my opinion. Twitter enables 360 video via Periscope, but doesnt support 360 photos which seems ridiculous to me. The same goes for Instagram, Facebook supports 360 photos and 360 videos but Instagram, their photography platform that they actually own, doesnt. These incongruities really leave me puzzled, but I hope that they are merely a matter of time and that these features will be enabled soon. This is an example of what you can upload to Instagram instead of a true 360 image. Because, frankly, some of my 360 content does the best on Instagram and YouTube, but a man can only upload so many little planet style 360s before he (and his friends) get bored. I am thankful for Insta360s ability to make sharing 360 content to Instagram possible with formats like little planet, but Instagram really needs to support 360 photos like Facebook. Facebook likely delayed the public launch of their Facebook Live 360 feature until Samsung announced their new Gear 360 (2017) at the Galaxy Unpacked event where Samsung also launched their Galaxy S8 phone. It appears Facebook and Samsung are continuing their close relationship in VR with the Gear 360 Gen 2 and Gear VR. So, expect the two companies to continue to announce new features and hardware in tandem for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, though, there are many other players in the VR and 360 space that are making it possible and easy to view and share 360 content as well. In fact, when I create content on my 360 cameras the photos and videos automatically back up to my Google Photos account which support 360 photos and videos and makes it easy to share with people that might not use Facebook or images that you dont want to share on Facebook. Right now, Google and Facebook are your two primary options, but I suspect we might see others prop up like Snapchat, to challenge the current duopoly. Wrapping Up As I have said in the past, the platform wars are heating up and the 360 photo and video space is just a microcosm of it. I am hopeful that content support for 360 cameras will improve and that some companies will improve their image quality so that users can appreciate the content in the way it was originally captured. Peoples internet connections and wireless connectivity are getting better and better every day and I believe that the live streaming platforms should account for technologies like Gigabit LTE and increase the bitrates and resolutions. From my experience, there are finally cameras out there that are good enough to satisfy most consumers demands and its just the platforms that need to catch up now. Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm cited or related to this article. I do not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column. Find more from Moor Insights Strategy on their web site, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube.