I received a generous gift from Illiastra Ascendent (NVZN, aka James Reichert in the physical world) over the weekend, who sent me the Illiastra Panoramic Camera (MP link) to try-out in Second Life.
This is a HUD-based system which can be used to produce set of images of an in-world scene which can be stitched together using suitable software to create a static 360-degree view. These can in turn be uploaded to Facebook or websites such as VRchive and YouTube, as scrollable, 360-degree views of a location.
The system comprises two camera HUDs, “basic” and Pro, together with a photosphere for viewing captured images in-world. The difference between the two cameras being that the “basic” model uses 8 images to create a 360-degree panorama, while the Pro version takes a total of 26 (including directly above and below you) to produce either a panoramic view using 24 images, or a spherical view using all 26 images.
Producing your static panoramic image is a 2-step process:
- Capturing your in-world shots using the camera
- Stitching them into a panoramic mosaic using a suitable software application.
Once this is done, you can proceed to prepare them for 360-degree viewing on Facebook, VRchive, etc. Illiastra provides comprehensive set of videos on producing your panoramic shots, stitching them together and uploading them to Facebook, which I highly recommend.
For the rest of this article, I’ll take you through producing a panoramic shot and then uploading it to VRchive and converting it to a 360-degree video for You Tube.
Taking the Shots
There are some basic steps to follow when preparing to take shots using the system:
- Position yourself at the centre of the location you want to capture in a 360-degree image. Be careful of where you select – too close to building or trees, etc., could have them dominating a part of the view.
- Set your preferred windlight and daytime settings.
- Make sure you freeze the clouds – you’ll be taking up to 26 images which will need to be stitched together, and moving clouds could make that a bit of a bugger to do. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets or PhotoTools > Clouds and check the scroll lock check boxes.
- Make sure the viewer’s camera is set to the default view angle, FOV and focal length
- Hide yourself from view – used the supplied alpha mask after removing all attachments or use something like a Vanish gesture. Otherwise, the top of your head will be in every shot.
- Tap ESC on your keyboard to free your camera (and free it from any other influences acting upon it).
Once you’re set, click the camera HUD your camera will rotate and position itself for the first shot. Use the Snapshot shortcut
CTRL-‘ (tilde) to save the image – you’ll be prompted for a file name and location on your computer for the very first short after the HUD is attached.
When you’ve saved the shot – which is effectively the first frame of your panoramic image – click the right arrow on the HUD to advance the camera to the next point (indicated in green on the HUD), and take another snapshot (
CTRL-‘). You won’t be prompted for a file name for this and the remaining frames – simply progress on around the HUD, capturing a snapshot at each of the highlighted views in turn.
If you are using the “Basic” camera, you’ll be taking a total of 8 shots – once around the HUD. If you are using the Pro camera, you will be taking 24 shots around you – that’s 3 times around the HUD clicking the right button, giving you 8 horizontal shots, 8 angled upwards, and 8 angled downwards – just follow the prompts on the HUD. When you’ve taken all 24, click the
UP arrow on the HUD to capture an overhead view, and the
DOWN arrow to capture a shot of the ground under your feet. Again – remember to press
CTRL-‘ to save each image.
Note that after the very first instance of asking you to select a file location / name for your shot for image ever captured using it, the HUD will automatically save any subsequent set of shots you capture to the last location on your hard drive you used to save images captured using the snapshot floater
Producing your Panoramic Image via Hugin
Once you have taken your shots, you’ll have either 8 (“basic” camera) or 26 (Pro camera) shots of your location. These now need to be stitched together. GIMP or PhotoShop can be used for this for those proficient in using them, otherwise Illiastra recommends using the Hugin Panorama Stitcher available through Sourceforge.net. I opted to use this.
With Hugin installed and launched, proceed as follows:
- In the Assistant tab, click on Load Images…
- If you have been using the “Basic” camera, select all 8 of your shots
- If you have been using the Pro camera, selected the first 24 shots – do not include the final overhead sky shot or ground shot – these can be added later, if required.
- A dialogue box will appear. Enter a value of 90 in the Horizontal Field of View (HFOV).
- Click OK to load your images into Hugin – things will initially look a mess – don’t worry!
- Click on the Align button to initially align your shots – this may take a while to process, depending on your system, the image resolution, etc., and then may end-up upside down. Again, don’t worry!
- When Align has completed, click on the Move/Drag tab and click Straighten. If your shots are upside down, enter 180 in the Roll text box and click Apply. Your images will further align and flip the right way up.