I often get asked for advice on setting up a home shop so I started writing a series of posts on selecting tools and arranging your work space when I realized I wanted to include one of those cool interactive 360º scrollable & zoomable panoramic pictures you often see on web sites advertising vacation spots. These images offer users a virtual tour of the environment and just look really cool. I begin the process of learning how to create these images with one goal in mind. It had to be free! I wasn’t going to buy some panoramic lens for my camera, I wasn’t going to pay some company to produce it, and I wasn’t going to shell out any money for software. After 2 weeks of research and failed experiments I finally put all the pieces together. Below you can see the results of the experiment and a step by step how-to guide if you would like to make your own virtual tour (for free).
Click here to take a virtual tour of my shop
(4 Mb file)
To begin, you simply need a camera and a tripod. Take a series of pictures (15-20) rotating the camera a few degrees each time. When finished, you should have a set of pictures covering the entire 360º view. Try to make sure your pictures have some overlap as this helps the software when it stitches together the final panorama. I also found it usefull to put the camera in manual mode. In auto mode the camera adjusts the picture based on lighting. As the lighting may change for different angles, your pictures may not all look the same. This will make your final panorama have obvious seams. Manual mode fixes that. Here are the images I took of the shop. As you can see, each picture shows a slightly different area of the shop (and you can see the jatoba table waiting to be completed on the floor…).
Now you need to download the software that will create the single panoramic image from your photos. The best free tool I found was AutoStitch. After downloading and launching AutoStitch you can play with a few settings (although I used most of the defaults). I did change the scale value (edit>options) to 50% to increase the detail of the final product.
Now click file>open and select all the images from earlier. As soon as you click OK, AutoStitch will begin to create your panoramic image and save it as pano.jpg in the same directory as the original files. Be sure to move or rename the file if you want to try again as AutoStitch will overwrite without warning. Mine looked like this when it was complete.
The next tool you need is some software to take your panoramic image and turn it into an interactive movie. I found that the free version of Pano2QVTR worked great. It can even add clickable hotspots to your movie but I choose not to use that feature. After installing and launching Pano2QVTR you’ll need to change one setting. The default setting for image type is equirectangular but you need to choose cylindrical.
Next you need to tell it where to find your panoramic image (pano.jpg) from AutoStitch. Click the … button next to the “Cylindrical image” field and locate your panoramic image file
Under the “QuickTime Output filename” you can choose the location for your completed movie. Under the settings tab you can also change the size and quality of the final movie. When you are ready click “Create” and Pano2QVTR will take care of the rest. It’s surprisingly fast (about 30 seconds) and upon completion it will show you a preview of your movie. After that you can email or post it to the web if you choose. If you are posting to a web site, here is the minimum code for embeding a quicktime movie.
<param name=”src” value=”garage.mov”>
<param name=”controller” value=”true”>
There are other options you can choose to include such as an auto download of the QuickTime plugin. A excellent explanation for all the embedding options can be found here.
Have fun making your own panoramic movies!
PS the shop setup posts are coming soon…