Ground-based QTVR panoramas

During the winter break of 2005 I started to play around with immersive bubble panoramas. This was occasioned by the recent acquisition of a Nikon Coolpix 8400 with its companion FC-E9 fisheye conversion lens. This combination yields a circular hemispherical fisheye image. With the camera pointing toward the horizon and level I have been taking three of these images spaced 120 compass degrees apart. Back home these images are converted to equirectilinear format, stitched together, and fed to the shareware program Panocube. The result is a Quicktime movie that can be embedded in a WWW page.The ultimate use of this gear will be the creation of aerial panoramas using the kite. In the meantime I am having great fun on the ground.

Use mouse or arrow keys to turn the image. Shift key zooms in; control or option key zooms out.
Scroll down a bit for an explanation of how these panoramas are assembled.

The pages subordinate to this page will contain one panorama each and will serve as destination pages for panoramic images posted on our collaborative geo-annotation maps. At the bottom of the list I will include an explanation of the process.

Posted QTVR images in reverse chronological order

22 Jan. ’06 Herons Head Park Small pool in on the raised plateau of the Herons Head wetland. Benton sampled here.
22 Jan. ’06 Islais Creek The Islais Creek Basin as seen from the Third Street Bridge.
22 Jan. ’06 Islais Creek A closer view of the control booth and details of the bridge over Islais Creek Basin.
22 Jan. ’06 Herons Head Park Small pool in on the raised plateau of the Herons Head wetland. Wayne sampled here.
22 Jan. ’06 Herons Head Park Power plant near sunset as seen from trail to the Herons Head wetlands
22 Jan. ’06 Herons Head Park India Basin and the PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant from a location near the plant’s cooling water discharge
22 Jan. ’06 Ravenswood Park A control valve for the transbay pipeline that carries brine from salt ponds on the penisula shore to Dumbarton Point.
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Pumphouse for Salt Pond N1 undergoing refurbishment
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Boat ramp at the old site of Russian / Beard’s / Mayhew’s / Jarvis Landing.
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Newark Slough footbridge and old pumphouses
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Salt pond just south of the East Anchorage of the Dumbarton Bridge
15 Jan. ’06 Coyote Hills
Regional Park
Dumbarton Quarry just north of the Dumbarton Bridge Toll Plaza
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Flow control gate (in ruins) dating back to the Arden Salt Works No. 1. This gate is situated in the “crescent’ distribution channel in what is now the LaRiviere Marsh.
15 Jan, ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Salt ponds and the LaRiviere Marsh from the ridgeline trial above Don Edwards HQ.
15 Jan. ’06 Don Edwards Refuge Salt Pond N1 from the tiny dock at the western end of the Don Edwards footbridge

Notes on how the panoramas are made

The key to my setup is the remarkable Nikon FC-E9 fisheye adapter. This lens attachment allows my Nikon Coolpix 8400 to see a circular image covering 183 degrees in the horizontal and vertical directions. The image captures the entire hemisphere in front of the camera. I had an old panorama bracket in my shop so I started with this and then made a mediating spacer to position the Nikon so that it would rotate around the entrance pupil to the lens. The prevents parallax from making subsequent stitching efforts difficult.

Panorama bracket pano rig front pano rig back

The new camera and its panorama bracket mounted on a tripod.

Camera setup in the field is straightforward. You mount the panorama bracket with camera on the tripod and level the bracket while refering to bubble levels in its base. The camera has a panorama scene mode that conveniently locks focus and exposure across the entire set of shots.
This panorama bracket is rotated to create three hemispherical fisheye images pointing toward the horizon at 120 degree intervals in plan.
quarry facing west quarry facing northeast quarry facing southeast

A triplet of fisheye images taken with the panorama bracket. These are not spaced exactly 120 degree apart — approximate intrevals are fine. The images were taken on a trail running between salt ponds and the 300-foot-deep Dumbarton Quarry.

Let me describe my panorama creation workflow on a Windows XP laptop computer.

My eight megapixel Nikon 8400 yields a circular fisheye image that is around 2300 pixels in diameter. back at the computer I load each image from a panorama set into Photoshop. There I rotate the image upright, crop it to a standard sized image circle, and save it back to the disk drive. For the next step I use PTGui, a graphic front end for Helmut Dersch’s remarkable Panotools program. In PTGui I am able to stitch the fisheye images together by designating the input images as circular, cropping each image to the image circle, and designating the output type as “equirectangular” with a 360 degree wide by 180 degree high field of view. Panotools generally does a spiffy job of aligning and blending the images. the resulting rectangular image is quite distorted but it is just what we need for the next step.

I might note that I use an old ‘patched’ version of Dersch’s pano12.dll file in order to handle fisheye lens images. More recent versions of the file are limited to narrower views due to an onerous patent by I P I X, a generally unpleasant and litigation prone company.

quarry equirectangular

An equirectangular image of the quarry trail scene made using PTGui and Panotools.

The final step involves processing the equirectangular composite image to create a Quicktime Virtual Reality movie file. My first software for doing this was Panocube, an easy to use freeware program. It works just fine and is easy to use if you follow the instructions carefully. More recently I have been experimenting with Pano2QTVR for Windows, a program that seems more elaborate. It works well too.

And here is the resulting panorama. Go ahead and give it a spin.:

The completed bubble panorama of the fire trail running between salt ponds and the Dumbarton Quarry just north of the Dumbarton Bridge Toll Plaza..

2 Responses to “Ground-based QTVR panoramas”

  1. Wayne Says:

    I think these images are excellent…!

    It seems to me that we should design a presentation scheme to use this tool.

    Consider presenting such an image, as part of an interactive display, in large-screen format, along with a mouse. The mouse [or trackball] would enable navigation without effort and without the confusion of a keyboard. In this way, the panoramic image becomes the exploration tool.

    If, for example, we could some parts of the panoramic image, so that we zoom in, we could GO TO other images. Such secondary images would have a [return] to , but might be close-up photographs, photomicrographs, or videomicrographs.

    The display might show several screens… Or, it might consist of one screen with several exploration options. My feeling is that the module with a screen should be portable, so it would have many instructional capabilities as well as serving as an exhibit display.


  2. Wicherd Says:

    What lovely work this is!

    In response to Wayne’s comment; I have seen some bubble panorama’s containing “hot points”, links to other panorama’s or more detailed close-up photo’s of the points location. Speaking of this, I just remembered an adventure game I played long ago: Altlantis. This game uses exactly this as a user interface; pano’s for locations you need to look around, hot points to pick up things or starting a small movie to “slide” from pano to pano. All that was needed to move around was a mouse. It really was a very effective way of moving around and exploring..


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