Archive for June, 2010

Take the following list:

Brazil, UK, Spain, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Germany, United States, and the Netherlands

If asked what these places have in common, it wouldn’t take long to start thinking soccer (football for those who are unaware that a football isn’t always round).

But if we were to extend the list to include:

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, China, Bulgaria, New Caledonia, and the Faroe Islands

and if we were to add the hint “relates to 360 Cities”…what would be the answer?

Care to guess?

These are three of almost a hundred business panoramas uploaded to 360 Cities in last two weeks by PRO account holders.

Restaurant of Hotel fazenda Eco Resort Recanto Alvorada


Restaurant of Hotel fazenda Eco Resort Recanto Alvorada in Brotas SP

Noumea Dentist New Caledonia


Noumea Dentist New Caledonia in Noumea

Oyster restaurant


Oyster restaurant In tibau do sul near pipa and natal in Brazil

Do you want to be featured in next week’s update? Leave a link to your recently published pano in the comments below or send it to us directly via the contact form. If you send us email or a Skype message please mention a link to this blog post.

Here’s our list of our favorite panos uploaded to 360cities.net last week:

How many animals can you count in this one?


Big Pine Mountain, San Rafael Mountains, Santa Barbara in California

Stunning Skydiving Panorama During Freefall


Free Fly Skydiving in Péronne in France

London Naked Bike Ride


London World Naked Bike Ride 2010 in London

For the newest panos uploaded to 360cities.net, check out our Recent Activity and discover the new and exciting images on your own.

For years people have been asking us for paid accounts with extra features.

For months we’ve been thinking about it.

And for weeks working on it.

360 Cities PRO Account

Introducing 360 Cities PRO

The 360 Cities PRO account has everything that the free account has, plus some extra adorable add-ons. 360 Cities PRO accounts are designed for professional panorama photographers who want to use 360 Cities for business purposes. The key benefit is that they allow you to publish panoramas that clearly promote a business. This is very useful for promoting hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, etc. If you name the images properly then thanks to our search engine optimization don’t be surprised if the panoramas end up ranking better than your company website. :)

Our publishing system completely automates the process of putting panoramas online. All you have to do is upload stitched panoramas. Our system does everything else like creating many different image versions and sizes and locating it properly on the map based on a range of data you input using our content management system, a forms-based user interface that gives you the ability to add descriptive text and control a number of settings. .

Other benefit of a PRO account is that you can put your company name in your account name. Your account name is the name that appears visually on the site as your photographer’s credit so it’s a good way to promote your company via 360 Cities.

Sign up for a PRO account today. For more information, please check out our PRO Account FAQ.


Today we are launching what we announced yesterday: Business Panorama Publishing, which moves us one step closer to the official launch of PRO accounts. Now anybody who signs up for a PRO account will be able to upload panoramas that promote a business to 360 Cities. If you name the images properly then thanks to our search engine optimization don’t be surprised if the panoramas will end up ranking better than your company website :)

Compare free and PRO accounts

An example panorama promoting a business:

Kampa Park by Jeffrey Martin
Kampa Park by Jeffrey Martin (click on the image to open the interactive version)

Deluxe Hotel Room by Riefa Istamar
Deluxe Hotel Room by Riefa Istamar (click on the image to open the interactive version)


A couple of weeks ago we started reviewing your newly uploaded panoramas to check if they promote a business or not. It was a preview of the upcoming PRO account feature we announced more than a month ago: Business panorama publishing on 360 Cities. The initial phase was used as a way for us to get feedback from you and now it’s over. Today (Monday June 14th) is the last day you can publish business panoramas for free. After this date you will need to have a PRO account to publish your business panoramas.

Just to be clear: This applies only to newly uploaded business panoramas published on 360 Cities after June 14th. Existing business panoramas uploaded on or before this date will stay published in your account and the business status won’t apply to them.

We won’t unpublish your newly uploaded business panoramas immediately after the review, at least not during the first weeks, but we will mark them as business and will ask you to either sign up for a PRO account or to unpublish them. Eventually we will start unpublishing business panoramas immediately after the review for free account holders.

Q: Do you have any examples of panoramas promoting business?
A: Yes, here are some examples.

Q: I don’t understand why one of my panos was marked as a pano that promotes a business!
You can always contact us to request a second review (please always include links to the pano in question).

Q: How does the review process work?

Each pano you publish on 360cities.net is manually reviewed. If your pano is marked as promoting a business by the review team and you have a free account, the pano is unpublished. More information

If you have any questions whatsoever feel free to ask questions below this blog post, in the forum or contact us directly.

This article is the second in a series of articles first posted on 360 Cities site in 2008 by David Martin, Jeffrey Martin and the 360 Cities team. The first article was about what the spherical panorama is and how it can be used. Today let’s show you how to create one! The information is still interesting and relevant even after 2 years so I’ve left most of the text the same. I updated only some parts (marked in italics) where the information was not accurate anymore. -Jan

To create a high quality spherical panoramic image, you need some special photographic equipment and some special software. Typical photographic equipment includes a digital SLR, a fisheye lens such as the Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG or the Samyang 8mm f3.5, a tripod, and a panoramic tripod head. Because no lens can capture the entire image sphere in one shot, one needs to cover the sphere with several shots. The special tripod head is optional but it helps to rotate the camera without changing the viewpoint. If the lens nodal point moves between shots, then parallax will make the next step of stitching the photos together very hard. With a fisheye lens, one covers the sphere with 2-6 shots, depending on the equipment, circumstances, and desired quality.

Stitching the images together

The next step is to combine the individual images into a spherical panoramic image in equirectangular format. The process of doing this is far beyond the scope of this article. There is a good free and open source tool called Hugin that many photographers use for this purpose. There are also commercial programs available like PtGUI or Autopano. The process is currently semi-automatic, becoming more automatic as time goes on. (Update: The situation is now much better than it was in 2008. If you know how to take the images properly the stitching process is a very straightforward these days. When you want to erase your shadow or tripod from the image it can still be a bit of work, though.)

Publishing the panorama to 360 Cities

Once you have created a panoramic image in the 2:1 aspect equirectangular format, it is a simple matter to publish it on the 360 Cities platform, which will make the image available not only on the web but on Google Earth as well (if the image is approved for Google Earth). Once you have joined 360 cities, you can immediately upload your image. We recommend a minimum resolution of 5000×2500 6000×3000 pixels. You can upload any size, but the practical maximum resolution is currently 16384×8192 65536 x 32768 pixels. The image will then appear in your pending images list while our system processes it (see below). When processing is complete, the image will move to your unpublished images list. Before publishing your image, you should edit the image metadata to set at least the title, description, geo location, and heading. Within a few minutes, your uploaded equirect will be available for viewing on the web and in Google Earth. During those couple minutes, our system converts the image into a variety of formats that enable efficient viewing at full resolution on various platforms.

Viewing the panorama

Once uploaded and converted, you may view the image both on the web and in Google Earth. Note that the very nice fullscreen mode. Click and drag on the image to pan; press the shift and control keys to zoom in and out.

The birth of Benjamin Martin in Czech Republic

Old Town Square Christmas Market in Prague

You can view an image as an PhotoOverlay on Google Earth (birth and market). You may have to double click on the downloaded KML file in order to launch it in Google Earth.) The Google Earth panoramic image viewer is not as slick as krpano, but it does the job. Click and drag to pan the image; there is also a pan and zoom control in the top right corner. If you exit the photo, the overlay is rendered as a floating sphere! Double-click on the sphere to fly into it.

In either format, as you pan around or zoom in and out, you’ll see tiles loaded as needed, just as happens in Google Maps. Krpano and Google Earth load only the tiles from the multiresolution pyramid that are needed to render the current view. The tiled pyramids provide a representation that makes these resolution-independent viewers possible.

Getting Started

Getting Started With Panoramic Photography Guide

Useful links

PanoTools Wiki – information hub for panoramic photography
PanoTools – Panorama Tools
PTgui – GUI for Panorama Tools
hugin – panorama photo stitcher
autopano – automatic panorama stitching
enblend/enfuse – image blending and HDR fusion tools
Panorama Tutorials – more links

This article was first posted on 360 Cities site in 2008 by David Martin, Jeffrey Martin and the 360 Cities team. The information is still interesting and relevant so let me repost it here. I’ve left most of the text exactly the same but I changed some of the links and inserted comments in italics where the information was not accurate anymore. -Jan


You are probably already familiar with medium of 360 degree panoramic images from either Google Street View or KML PhotoOverlays in Google Earth (from the GigapxlGigapan, or 360 Cities layers). Tools for authoring panoramic images are getting very good, but the process of preparing and presenting such images on the web is still difficult. That is part of the motivation behind the creation of 360cities.net: panoramic photographers use our site to replace the otherwise difficult and time-consuming process of publishing their geotagged panoramas to the web.

You can turn on the 360 Cities gallery layer in Google Earth to view panoramas from our system (Update: 360 Cities is now a part of the default layer in Google Earth). The screenshots below show how these panoramas appear in Google Earth. From top left to bottom right, these images show (1) the 360 Cities icons marking the locations of panoramas; (2) the info window that opens when you click on one of those icons; (3) the floating sphere that appears when you get close to one of the images, and (4) the view from inside the spherical image. In this article we will demonstrate our technique of creating these spherical panoramic PhotoOverlays for Google Earth.

Google Earth Screenshots (click to view larger images)

What Is a Spherical Panoramic Image?

A panoramic image is the ultimate wide angle image. A normal photo shows you what the world looks like in an instant in time from a single viewpoint over some limited field of view. The widest wide angle lens, a fisheye lens, can show you up to a 180 degree field of view, which covers half the viewing sphere (Update: there are now lenses that can cover more than 180 degrees). A spherical panoramic image, on the other hand, covers the entire viewing sphere, so that you can look in any direction. A spherical panoramic image is not a 3D image: It is still a single viewpoint image, but its field of view is not limited. (Update: There are now so-called one shot cameras that cover the whole 360 degrees. They are great for taking spherical photos without any knowledge of stitching, but their image quality is still mediocre).

Because a panoramic image shows you what the world looks like from a single viewpoint, it is shaped like a sphere. Computers aren’t so good at representing spheres, however, so panoramic images are stored as regular rectangular images. One could use any cartographic mapping to unwrap the sphere onto a rectangle. The most common representation used for panoramic images is the equirectangular projection, which looks like this:


The Birth of Benjamin Martin by Jeffrey Martin

In an equirectangular projection, the equator and all lines of longitude are undistorted. You can picture the projection as follows: Prick a hole in the north and south poles of the sphere, and cut the date line. Now unwrap the sphere onto a flat surface by stretching at the poles without stretching the lines of longitude so that the image forms a rectangle. In an equirectangular projection, the lines of longitude and latitude form a grid of equal sized squares. The equator is the central horizontal line; the north pole is all along the top, and the south pole all along the bottom. Distortion is minimal at the equator, and infinite at the poles. The aspect ratio of an equirectangular image is 2:1, because the equator is twice the length of each line of longitude.

One does not typically view the equirectangular image, or “equirect”, directly because of the severe distortions in the polar regions. The equirect is simply a means of storing the underlying spherical image. Special software can render an equirectangular image into an immersive panoramic experience. Click on the image above or below to view it in the 360 Cities system. Make sure to click and drag on the image at 360 Cities to pan; shift and control keys zoom in and out.


Old Town Square Christmas Market by Jeffrey Martin

Conclusion

Panoramic images provide a compelling immersive experience that cannot be matched by traditional imagery. There exist good tools for creating and rendering these images, but managing and publishing them yourself is difficult and tedious. 360 Cities is a platform that fills that crucial gap in the tool chain. Not only does 360 Cities make embedding high resolution panoramic images on the web a snap, the image may be viewed in Google Earth as well. Now you have an excuse to buy that cool fisheye lens…

At 360 Cities we are obsessed with photography.  We understand that travel is a crucial element in making photography happen and relevant to so many viewers.  Our friends at Make Travel Fair are obsessed with travel and they understand the value of excellent photography as well.

And what about the relationship between travel and writing?  It would be a mistake to overstate the truth of that saying about a picture being worth a thousand words, as the world would be a sadder place without the ability of writers to articulate what makes travel and destinations so interesting.  That’s why we are pleased to have friends who are so passionate about travel writing that they are sponsoring a competition, that has some excellent prizes…by the way…

One last thing to think about, if a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, how many words is a high resolution spherical panorama worth?