Ever since Apple released QuickTime 5, content creators have been eyeing with a raised eyebrow its ability to display cubic VR, how do you make use of it? This latest incarnation of QuickTime VR, included with QT 5 Pro, allows viewers to see the ceiling and floor, as well as the traditional walls of cylindrical panoramas. The question is, how to capture such a large field of view? You could take several rows of images and stitch them together, but a panorama that needs up to 50 individual images is prone to all sorts of stitching errors. The simplest way is to use a camera with a fisheye lens, which boasts a field of view greater than 180 degrees. Take two shots back to back, stitch them using the few degrees of overlap, and away you go. Until recently, the only way to do this was using difficult-to-master freeware or by buying Ipix software and paying it for every panorama produced. But now a new fisheye stitcher has arrived: Panoweaver. Simple stitching
A product of German developer Panorama Technologies, Panoweaver could not be simpler. Take two fisheye shots, load them into Panoweaver and click the stitch button. No messing about calculating the field of view or calibrating lens types, all you do is tell the software what size final image and what level of quality you want, and it does the rest. However, it can take a very long time to render at higher file sizes and quality settings – even on a G4. There is a preview option, but this is pretty quirky. Click on the preview button and your browser launches, loads the panorama file into a supplied freeware Java viewer, then you see the result. A trifle long-winded perhaps, but there is a reason for this. Panoweaver produces a bitmap file that can be loaded onto a Web site with a suitable Java viewer, or it can be taken into Apple’s MakeCubic – a free download which takes the bitmap and converts it into the all-important QuickTime file. This may make Panoweaver seem less than a full solution, and in a way it is. You can’t feed images in one end and receive QuickTime files out the other, but it does allow you the flexibility to decide how to display work. Using Java allows browsers without QuickTime installed to see panoramas – an important consideration for commercial users who need to promote locations or property to as many people as possible. If the stitch is not perfect the first time, you can adjust the area of the fisheye image that the stitcher examines. This allows the user a degree of fine-tuning, but gives nowhere near the level of control provided by traditional cylindrical stitchers, such as Apple’s QuickTime VR Authoring Studio, or VR Toolbox’s VR Worx. In fact, it can be a hit-or-miss affair. This makes it vital that shots are taken accurately with a level tripod and special panoramic tripod-head. If shots are not properly aligned, you have no hope of getting a perfect stitch. Pan down in the resulting panorama, and you’ll see the top of the tripod, which can spoil the experience somewhat. Panoweaver takes care of that by letting you size and insert a circular graphic, known as a cap, which covers the unsightly intrusion. It also allows for a little self-promotion, copyright info or a picture of your cat – if that is how you like to do things. There is also the option to add a logo to cover the view above. After a long wait, photographers using fisheye lenses can stitch images with software that’s easy to use and gives good results. The final images may need a little re-touching and sharpening, but that’s something hopefully that can be addressed in future releases. You also need more software to produce QuickTime movies. But as it stands, Panoweaver is the only way to go for those wishing to aurthor cubic VR with just two shots. It’s not perfect, but ground-breaking software rarely is.
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