In this post, I am hoping to give you a simple overview about photo-spheres or what is also known as 360° photography. We hear the buzz about 360° spherical cameras and how this new technology is revolutionising the way we take still images and shoot videos. As if this was not enough, the technology has also challenged us to adopt and adapt to a completely different way of viewing and experiencing them.
What are 360° photographs?
A 360° photograph is very different from a 2D flat (conventional) photo, the former is produced by capturing an image in a 360° circle or a spherical view. When a scene is photographed in this manner, the viewer can see everything that has been captured by rotating the image in different directions (up, down, left and right). The fun doesn’t stop there, these images can then be converted into a 3D environment resulting in what is called an immersive photograph or a VR photograph. The beauty of this is that with the use of a VR viewer, i.e.: Google Cardboard, the user is automatically placed inside an experience. So, instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and in the case of video for example even able to interact with 3D worlds.
Do I need to purchase a 360° camera?
It all depends.
If you are looking at experimenting with 360° images only, all you need at this stage is a smart mobile phone. There are quite a few apps that once installed on your phone will turn your humble device into a 360° camera allowing you to take spherical images. An example of these is the Google Street View app (Google Play Store, Apple Store). Bear in mind that the process will take patient, persistence, some very slow movement, a bit of time and more than just one click, but I can assure you that the final result is more than just satisfactory, in fact if you have a mobile phone with a pretty advanced in-built camera the image produced once the stitching is completed is pretty amazing.
However, if you are wishing to record 360° videos then you will require to purchase a spherical video camera. There is currently a few 360° cameras available on the market. An example of these is the Ricoh Theta S (picture below) which is designed to take spherical images and videos, making it a great device for personal use. Although this camera carries a relatively affordable price tag (over AUS $350) as compared to other products such as the Bublcam, Giroptic 360cam, 360fly 4K or the Nokia OZO at a whopping $60,000 not everyone is able to purchase one. This however, should not deter you from experimenting with 360° photos.
Now, if you have more than $500 to spend, do some research and get yourself one!
What phone do I need?
- An Android or Apple mobile device. I have done some testing with my two years old Sony Xperia Z and I did not experience any problems.
What apps do I need to install?
There are several apps that will allows you to take spherical photos. However, if you want your images to be able to be viewed as VR photos I will recommend you to download and install the following apps:
If you want to experiment with other apps, you might like to check out:
- Panorama 360 (Google Play Store), keep in mind that this app will only allow you to take panoramic photos
- Sphere (Google Play Store, Apple Store)
Do I need anything else?
- A Google Cardboard or another generic VR Goggle.
How do I take my first 360° photo?
Open Google Street View
- Click the “+” icon
- Click the “camera” icon to launch the camera viewer
- Hold the phone steady and point at the dot, move up and down in order to capture the complete scene. The phone will take the photos automatically
- Once you have captured everything click the “tick” icon
- Wait for the application to complete the stitching
- Once the stitching is done you are ready to view your first 360° photo, which you can publish or keep private
- To view the image as a VR photograph, you just need to click on the Cardboard Google icon, place your phone inside you cardboard and voila!
How do I share my 360°photos?
At this moment 360°photos taken with a camera or a mobile phone can only be viewed in the platforms supported by the device you used to take the images with or you can sign up with Flickr VR.