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HDR 360° Panorama Tutorial

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by EarthQuake, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    For my day job I work for a software company that specializes in 3d rendering, and one of the things we are sort of known for is a technique called image-based lighting, which uses a 360° HDR panorama capture to recreate the lighting from a real world environment. One of the most difficult aspects of doing this sort of photography is making sure you have a portable setup that is easy to transport, and being able to set up and shoot really, really fast.

    I've done this work with a few other camera systems with mixed results, but when I got my EM1 about a year ago I really started doing it a lot more. The EM1 along with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens and a compact tripod + Nodal Ninja panohead works really well, and I especially love the exposure bracketing options on the EM1, which allow me to take 7 shots in 2 EV increments and produces files with up to 21 stops of dynamic range (if my calculation are correct at least).

    This is what the final panoramas typically look like:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I got permission from the company I work for to write up a tutorial documenting the process and gear that I use, including scouting for locations, dos and donts, the typical setup and how I process the and stitch the final panoramas. I'm not sure how much interest there is for this sort of thing, but you can check out the tutorial here: http://www.marmoset.co/toolbag/learn/hdr-panos

    I will also be happy to answer questions if anyone wants to know more about specific aspects of the process.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    interesting, I've never used skyshop, or unity; but I sure love to play with new software so I'll be sure to check it out. I've been using Kolor which was .swf, and had an html plug in but is now all html5. I've had really good results with that especially for packaging up to real estate people. I've also been using a panasauraus head, pain in the butt for initial set up but once it's done it's set for one lens, and it's cheap.

    HDR for these quick pano's is great, I find they get complicated when some wants a lit scene though... good tutorial though, I remember stumbling around awhile because no decent tutorial existed a few years ago. This will help people to not make as many weird mistakes that can happen. One thing I'd add to the gear bag, a square level line it up to the front of the lens to make sure the axis is really straight, works better than hotshoe or in camera levels in my experience.
  3. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Unity is really a game engine, so I'm not sure how much useful it would be for typical photographer oriented panorama presentation, but certainly an interesting thought.

    Also yeah, a decent level is important, my Nodal Ninja has a built in bubble level which seems to work well enough (minnor adjustments can be corrected in PTGui). I've never been a fan of the hotshoe mount levels as they don't really seem accurate at all.
  4. Totoro

    Totoro Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 12, 2011
    St. Louis, MO
    I think this tutorial is great too. I've made a few pano's over the last couple years and I also would have loved to find something like this in the past.

    I'm still very amateurish (in panos and photography in general) but I've been able to create at least a couple good ones. We are taking a two week road trip to California this summer (driving from Missouri with short stays in San Francisco, Yosemite, Disneyland, and the Grand Canyon). I figured that I better brush up on my skills and before then. (Both at getting good quality photos and also being able to setup the gear and get the shots more quickly.)

    It's funny, I was surprised to see that not counting the camera, we have the exact same setup - down to the tripod (I have an E-P3.) I read through your article hoping to compare notes :) 

    By the looks of your photos, it appears that you have the nadir adapter for your Nodal Ninja. Do you have any tips for how you mark the ground and move your tripod for the Nadir shot? (I find this to be the trickiest part of my process. I have a piece of string with a screw on it for weight, that drop down from the bottom of the tripod. I have a knot tied on the string that's basically the distance that the lens focal point moved when you swing the nadir adapter around. I drop a quarter or something on the ground and then slide the tripod back so that the view finder is centered on that mark. I have no idea if this what other people do, but it seems to work, it just takes more effort than I would like.) Also noting that the bubble level on the Nodal Ninja works well for me too. (Although it can be a pain for me to adjust the MeFoto legs to get it level.)

    Also, I've never tried a panorama with HDR shots. So I want to experiment with that too.

    Once I have my shots, I export them from LightRoom, and then I stitch them together with Hugin. It really sucks compared to PTGui (I tried the trial version), but Hugin is free and it does work after a fair amount of fiddling with the alignment points.

    Finally, I've been using Pano2Vr for the viewer. I'm very happy with it and I love how it works on a phone with the gyroscope.

    Here are some of my panoramas (pay no attention to my crappy website in general. It's more of a coding sandbox/playground than anything else.)

    Disney World last summer (Again, I'm not the most experienced photographer. Most of my vacation photos turned out very clear and crisp, but most of these have a haze on them. I don't know if it was condensation/humidity or what. Sort of a bummer.)

    Disneyland in 2013 (the actual photos look better than the Disney World ones, but I've gotten better at stitching since then.)


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