Archive for October, 2015

Tom Sharpless is one of the true pioneers of panoramic and VR photography, with a background of decades in computer programming. He has contributed a number of interesting thoughts, techniques, and ideas to the panoramic photography community, most notably the “Panini” projection which is perhaps the most natural-looking way to display extremely wide angle (120-170 degrees) scenes.

At home with Tom Sharpless

A photo posted by jeffrey martin (@gigajeff) on

What is your background?
Medical imaging software engineer. In the last decade, I was a large scale integrated circuit design software engineer. I was supporting people designing chips. it’s a bit like making a movie. In the core team working on a big chip there’s probably about 600-800 engineers, divided into numerous specialist groups and they’re supported by tens of thousands of engineering workstation computers put into big farms to simulate elements of the design process. the chip has to be simulated exhaustively in 3 or 4 different levels of details before anyone will consider making a test chip because that costs a few million dollars to run. There are logic designers working in languages similar to cobol and c++ and they are good at modeling abstract logical elements. They put together little bits of logic verify that they are correct by running simulations.

I was largely supporting that level of design. The company I was working for, their speciality was one of the black arts. In the transition from pure logic to building a physical chip, the biggest problem there is getting all those idealized clocks to actually happen in a synchronized fashion because there are time delays and bugs and so on. ‘Clock Tree Insertion’ is one of the more mysterious elements of chip design. I didn’t do any of that but I did support logic designers in writing test beds for simulation at the logic level. The special expertise is how to insert instrumentation so you can diagnose what actually went wrong. There is a bit of my logic in one ATI graphics chip actually.

What was it like working with so many smart people?
it was fun, you don’t get asked stupid questions, you get asked things that make you think!

When did you start doing photography?
I never did any photography until I started doing panoramas in 2004. And then I was doing slit scan photography with a modified flatbed document scanner. I thought it would be an interesting hack. I wasn’t the first or last but I did figure it out all by myself. I hacked together a working slit camera out of a scanner and stuck a little TV lens in front of it, and it made unbelievable pictures! So I built a better one using a real 35mm camera lens, and I got the white balance calibration software working better and it made absolutely stunning pictures! you’ve seen panoscan for example, it’s the same idea. the pictures were super resolution, I was getting 30 or 50 megapixel cylindrical panoramas out of it in 2004.

My prettiest one, (pictured) was from an HP sensor but it has a bit of a crappy sensor so this one does not make as good pictures as this one:

this is made from a umax scanner, the kind that costs $49. the only modI faction was soldering ga couple wires that needed connectors. the two main functions I had to add to make it into a camera were putting an infrared blocker in front of the sensor, and a shutter so that I could get quality. the quality of flatbed sensors depends on them calibrating themselves before every scan by looking at a dark strip and white strip. the dark strip measures the noise and the white strip measures the sensitivity. the chip in the sensor as, in it, a realtime corrector to subtract the dark and white image from each pixel, and that gives them a remarkably clean response, better than any digital camera i’ve used in terms of photometric flatness. they’re noisier than slurs but the flatness of field is spectacular.

would you have put this on KS?
maybe but by the time I build the second one in 2008 I knew the rotating slit camera business was heading for oblivion. spheron had made their last new design two years before, panoscan was only making small improvements. I believe you can still buy a panoscan but i’m not sure about it. spheron hasn’t sold a slit camera in a long time.

these cameras have serious limitations. national semI made a scanner chip with wide range of adjustments between the motor stepping speed and video speed, they built the chip ike that because they were building it for so many scanner manufacturers. the customized chips that came later are useless because they’re slaves to the exact requirements of a particular scanner. also in no cases is the low level apI of the chip public! that’s why I could do it in the first place. some people have built cameras out of scanners without an apI but they’re missing a number of things. on my camera I can close the scanner and do a dark field image in order to subtract the noise. I have a white field calibration device that I use once per session which sets the brightness response correction and the white balance.

getting the black and white calibration was the hardest part and that’s what other people have had problems with. they’re not the best slit cameras that have ever been made out there, but I think they rank pretty high.


the biggest limit for me are 1. it’s very slow – each slit of pixels is a separate exposure! you have to do 10,000 exposures. so it takes minutes to scan an image. the longest scan i’ve made is 45 minutes. barely usable but is’a popular picture of mine.

The other limitation is that there is no anti-blooming circuitry in these cheap sensors. the chip in a good camera, I believe has about 60% of its circuitry is devoted to anti-blooming. Blooming is when the light hitting one pixel, leaks to neighboring pixels. CMOS is much less prone to blooming. on a CCD you see a big line when the sun hits it.

So, most of my outdoor pictures have vertical streaks in them because of blooming. you can’t take pictures of stuff with lots of specular reflections in it.

And the whole thing including the laptop hi-cad batteries ended up weighing around 35lbs, so I just sort of gave up. I started being much more interested in the pictures than the gear….. I was beginning to lose interestI in the hardware and I wanted to make panoramic pictures with people in them, and so…. I got an SLR and downloaded panotools, and being a soft are engineer, looked into panotools and was very impressed with it, and soon became aware that there was a major open source project based on panotools called Hugin that was pushing the state of the art. I signed up to be a hugin developer and learn d a great deal from that experience.

Are you still contributing to hugin?
not much anymore, i’m still on the list but not much. the last contribution I made was 4 years ago, putting in the gneral paninI projection. I use it all the time to reproject equirectangualr panos for printing. I made two of my own programs for that called PaninI and PaninI pro. But they aren’t as easy to make a nice paninI perspective view with those as it is with Hugin.

For those of you who haven’t heard it before, it’s not a sandwich and it’s not a sports car. it’s a method fro constructing an alternative projection that was developed in holland in thee 1600 and perfected in italy in the 1700’s. bruno postle and I called it paninI because we figured it out by looking at paints by Panini. 18th century italian painter and professor of perspective at the dutch academy in rome, and taught it to many great painters of the late 18th and early 19th century, paining mostly ruins in huge wide perspectives that you could tell were not real. they rearranged their ruins a lot and painted ruins that never were.

Can you explain how the PaninI projection compares visually to rectilinear or fisheye projection?

If you have seen the work of Piranesi, you’ll see what I mean. Hypothetical or made-up painting of ruins that are unbelievably spectacular, all in black and white. He made his living selling portfolios of 30-50 black and white lithographs of roman ruins or hypothetical buildings he made up himself or combinations thereof. They’re still selling well. a full set of piranesI lithographs will set you back 35 grand. The buildings he drew were so convincing that lots of archaeologists came to believe that it was how roman buildings were actually built and that was what they were going to find when they dug them up!

There is something about his perspective that is terrifically convincing. he really wanted it to look like that. things look taller than they really are.

I spent a lot of time allaying these paintings comparing angles measured in the paintings and angles in the actual buildings such as a church, and with the exception of one of the most interesting paintings, all the paintings I analyzed followed these mathematical rules very accurately.

The primary effect of the paninI projection is to compress the horizontal scale to something much smaller. so you can have a view that is nearly 180 degrees that doesn’t seem distorted. paninI projection solves the problem of showing extremely wide angles, and since most pictures are wider than they are high, this gives you a lot of freedom. and for architecture photography you need vertical lines to stay vertical, and paninI preserves vertical lines.

When I want to make the most convincing looking picture of an interior that is 170 degrees wide in reality, a 100% paninI projection is a bit too much but something like 70% works quite well for me.

The reason I like the paninI projection in hugin is that it vertically squeezes the top and bottom and for the purpose of eliminating the worst part of the paninI projection which is that horizontal lines above and below the equator are bulging a lot. in architecture that’s disturbing. in paintings they simply drew those lines straight. in a photo you can’t do that. the general paninI projection is nowhere near what a painter could do, but the squeezes at the top and bottom are nice adjustment so that horizontal lines are straighter.

Despite being 75 years old, the future is interesting and I’m involved in it. the next big tech development is 2.5d / 3d stitching – make the first spherical 3d panoramic content reliably. you can’t do it now. the big problem with spherical 3d, unless you do it with a single camera, only for stills of course, the stitcher is going to modify each spherical image according to what control points it finds and it beds them out of shape a bit. so not only you get the left-right disparity but you get a lot of other disparities due to the fact that the images are aligned differently, and that interferes with stereo viewing. so you need real 3d stitching which means the stitcher isn’t allowed to warp the control points until it knows the depths of the control points. so finding a good way to assign depths to control points is the first step. that will solve a lot of registration problems. it requires getting depth maps out of pictures before you’ve lined them up. it’s something that hasn’t been solved yet. when it is solved, it will be possible to churn out still and video 3d panos very reliably. as long as oculus keeps growing there can be a big market for that.

The next step after that is real 3d – true virtual reality with views that are not at the center of the camera array. that’s already being done in hollywood so it’s a matter of time before everyone else is doing that too. I’ve thought of a couple applications – one is taking picture of buildings where you can’t get far enough away to get the right perspective. or the building you’re interested in when you see it has telephone poles and wires in between. Some of those defects could be solved by 3d stitching, taking a bunch of images taken from different points, combining different pints of view, and you could see past wires and poles, or synthesize a new view as if you were standing much further away.


Matthias Phuong shared Matthias Phuong Fotografie‘s photo.

9 mins

Matthias Phuong Fotografie's photo.

Continue reading ‘This week in VR Photography and Video: 15-29 October 2015’ »

Hi guys! To make you Monday better, we’re back with a summary of the most wonderful panoramic photos the 360Cities photographers uploaded last week. And get ready, it’s special today!


Foggy morning in Bavaria by Jürgen Schrader (click on the picture to open the pano)

This week we start in Bavaria and this absolutely amazing aerial shot by Jürgen Schrader. The fog all around makes this pano special and the rising sun certainly adds more beauty here. This is a brilliant work you don’t get to see every day.


Cape Koganezaki by kiyoharu takamura (click on the picture to open the pano)

This time the sun goes down – at least on this pano by Kiyoharu Takamura. The scenery and the view at Cape Koganezaki the pano really deserves your attention. Great job, Kiyoharu!


Landscape Arch & Milky Way by Vincent Brady (click on the picture to open the pano)

Now, this is something extraordinary. Sure, Milky way panos are cool, but this one by Vincent Brady – especially with the Landscape Arch in Utah – is absolutely beautiful. And look at the stars? Go ahead, count them!


Autumn on Bald Peak by Vincent Lawrence (click on the picture to open the pano)

One more panoramic picture from the US. Autumn is apparently beautiful in Maine, right? Just look at all the colourful leaves! The view from the Bald Peak is also amazing. Nice job, Vincent!


Cathedral & Duomo di Milano. On the roof by Евгений Орлов (click on the picture to open the pano)

If you had no trouble with counting the stars on Vincent Brady’s pano, here’s one more task for you – count all the little towers on top of Duomo di Milano’s roof. Hope you can make it until we’re back with another summary next week!


If this was not enough for you, there’s more!


The Belvedere on the Pfingstberg – Pegasus by Ludwig (click on the picture to open the pano)

Bell turret in Rostov Veliky by Ivan Savin (click on the picture to open the pano)


See you next week!


We’re back with the most wonderful gems our community photographers uploaded last week. Check out our Editors‘ picks of the week!


The stone steps along the cliff by Dxinwei (click on the picture to open the pano)

This week we start in the Hubei Province in China on these crazy steps. This is definitely not a place for someone who’s afraid of heights – and you certainly don’t want to be there when it’s windy!


Bruce Bay Milky Way by Mike Mackinven (click on the picture to open the pano)

This was probably our number one last week – a stunning pano by Mike Mackiven from the Bruce Bay in New Zealand has it all – beach fire, waves and the Milky way above. Simply brilliant.


The Harbour City, A quiet little corner by Gil Abadines (click on the picture to open the pano)

We’re not going to move very far right now, as we’re going to have a look at the most popular places of Sydney, Australia. However, this time without tourists, Gil Abadines managed to found a quiet place on the other side of the bay. Have a look yourself!


Roman theatre4. cartagena. spain by luis davilla (click on the picture to open the pano)

Luis Davilla is one of our top community photographers and he proved it again this time with his lovely pano of the Roman theatre in Cartagena, Spain. If you want to see more, check out another Luis‘ pano from below – click here.


Eldorado Glacier by pix (click on the picture to open the pano)

Last featured Editors‘ pick was taken in Washington, US. Check out how cool the Eldorado Glacier is, but make sure you don’t miss the wonderful view from there – just turn around and have a look!


Want more? Then have a look at a couple of other panos that got our attention last week:

Laleli Mosque-(Laleli Camii) by ErcanKapkac (click on the picture to open the pano)

Park Dubki. Storm by Alex Panfiloff (click on the picture to open the pano)

Hall of Seven Hundred by Marcio Cabral (click on the picture to open the pano)

Вид с башни by Anton Fadeev (click on the picture to open the pano)


See you next week!

The Annotation feature allows you to annotate your panoramas in order to provide details about a particular area inside the panorama. Just choose the spot where you want to set the icon on your panorama. Then, write a short text about that spot (max 200 characters) and/or paste a link.

 Annotations Feature – Edit Mode

Annotations Feature – Panorama page


John Warkentin says:

On the Tram in Melbourne

(if I do more of these I need to remember to shoot a set of “hand photos” to strip in later)

Big up to Bill Bailey for the hat!!


I have now put this pano online on my site in a simple tour. I put a little mirror ball where my hand was holding the Nodal Ninja Travel Pole.

This pano was shot at 8mm on the Canon 8-15mm in 3 frames (120 degree clicks) at 1/10th, F4 and ISO 1250 on a Canon 5DMk3

The tram was not moving at the time this was shot as it was at the “Town Hall” stop on Collins Street near Swanston St at the time.

I did attempt a pano at 13mm while the tram was in motion but I have yet to review the frames as I didn’t think they would work at the time I shot them.

The 8mm version I followed up with seemed to work (in my head at least) while I was doing the capture. I feel it did come together pretty well in the end.

I did have to use PTGui’s Viewpoint correction on one of the frames to help with alignment.

John P. F. Warkentin's photo.



Jim Newberry says:

Recently finished an overhaul of my pano site; thought I’d share it. If anyone has problems viewing these, would be great to know which device/OS you’re using.

360° Panorama & Virtual Tour Photography | Panoramic Eye

Virtual Tour/VR/360° panorama photographer, based in Los Angeles, California and available for assignments around the globe.


Zeljko Soletic says:

24 hour ago, Sai head, Solepole

Arnaud Villefranque says:

 Gardens of ‪#‎Tarbes‬ Midi-Pyrénées France

Visite virtuelle des jardins de Tarbes – Hautes-Pyrénées – Midi-Pyrénées

Visite virtuelle des jardins Tarbes dans les Hautes-Pyrénées en Midi-Pyrénées





Nicholas Roemmelt says:

Yesterday at 8:41am


Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the heart of the Dolomites, is on the very top of the bucket list of nearly every landscape photographer. The sunset we were witnessing two weeks ago gives the reason why. If you are searching a little bit you are still able to find some lesser often seen perspectives on the famous and very popular mountains.…/…/

Nicholas Roemmelt's photo.

Saroj Baniya shared Saroj Baniya‘s photo.

October 12 at 4:55pm

Saroj Baniya's photo.

Saroj Baniya

October 12 at 4:24pm · Edited

A winter morning Panoramic view of ancient city “patan durbar square Nepal (one of the “UNESCO World Heritage” sites in Kathmandu valley)”. On 25 April 2015 devastating earthquake hit Nepal & destroyed many historic monuments and lost many lives.. For High resolution image & more work: visit

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Continue reading ‘This week in VR Photography and 360 Video: 7 – 15 October, 2015’ »

Another week is gone and it’s that time of the week again. Let’s have a look at the most wonderful panoramic photos of the last week – the ones we have selected as the 360Cities Editor’s picks. Here you go!


The Spanish Navy’s submarine1 ‘Mistral’ by luis davilla (click the picture to open the pano)

This time we start in Spain, but you won’t get to see any historical monument or a wonderful piece of nature. Luis Davila got a chance to make a pano inside the Spanish Navy submarine Mistral and it is SO COOL! But hey – it’s no place for someone who suffers from claustrophobia!

Also have a look at another pano from the submarine here.


Turaida Castle in autumn by Vil Muhametshin (click the picture to open the pano)

Of course, a nice aerial pano can’t be missed in any of our weekly round-ups. This time, Vil Muhametshin takes us high above Latvian woods and the Turaida castle. Check out this wonderful scenery with the Gauja river and the fairy tale-looking site below. Brilliant!


Chishui Danxia Landform by wongchichuen (click the picture to open the pano)

Wong Chi Chuen takes us to China’s Chishui Danxia Landform Park, which is actually larger than 1000 square kilometres and boasts a number of waterfalls, caves, huge forests and other beauties of nature. Just check out this waterfall on this pano – there’s actually a lot more!


Kelly Butte Trail, Cragside Switchbacks by Bill Edwards (click the picture to open the pano)

Bill Edwards captured this amazing view from the Kelly Butte Trail in Washington, US. Lovely combination of colours and Mt. Rainier looming in the backround make this pano really special. Great job.


Bell Gorge Kimberley by Tomasz Judkowiak (click the picture to open the pano)

Last week we brought you Tomasz Judkowiak’s pano from Kimberley, Australia. This week, it’s time for Tomasz Makarewicz’s pano from the same area, capturing the famous Bell Gorge. One of the most famous places in Kimberley is a busy one, but it really deserves the tourists’ attention. Have a look!


Don’t worry, we’re not done yet! Here comes more of last week’s panoramic beauty:


Mt. Kablar – Hermitage of St. Sava by Marko Randjic (click the picture to open the pano)

St. Nicholas Church Tower by Florian Knorn (click the picture to open the pano)

Atlantic Princess Wreck II by Marcio Cabral (click the picture to open the pano)

View from the walls of castle Arg Rhine by Sergej Esnault (click the picture to open the pano)

Sénégal River with traditional pirogues in Saint-Louis by Sergej Esnault (click the picture to open the pano)

Lisaandrik Winter

October 5 at 7:35pm

Hi I’ve only just joined this forum. I’m a newbie lol I want stark critism on a website I’ve just set up about all things VR. Its basic a way to introduce people to VR and a steep learning curve for me.

Hope this is allowed. Delete if not.

Web address is

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What is this thing they call Virtual Reality? (VR)

Continue reading ‘This week in VR 360 Video: 1-5 October, 2015’ »

Gumir Jamil

1 hr

My current work.

Telli Bio Boutique

Continue reading ‘This week in VR Photography: 1-7 October, 2015’ »

We are living in interesting times. Especially around 360 photography, we as a community have been rather patiently twiddling our thumbs for more than a decade, waiting for the rest of the world to catch onto what an insanely great idea 360 and VR photography really is.
Apple invented QTVR, then abandoned it. Countless startups have come and gone, trying to bring 360 photography to the mainstream.
Then Oculus happened, and this has sort of jumpstarted a rennaissance for all stuff 360.
We, as 360 photographers, sort of gave up calling ourselves “VR Photographers” in around, well, 2007 maybe? Because no one knew what it meant.
So, for those of us who have been here for the long game, it is really interesting to see who is showing up to the party, now that 360 photography is suddenly cool.
The 360 video space is interesting, and there are a few interesting rigs being built. But the one that this blog post is about, is so outrageous in so many ways, that it has started a flame war of epic proportions. This novella-length facebook thread is so great, full of sharp insults, accusations of all kinds (many of which are completely justified) that I thought it would be a tragedy to see it disappear down the “facebook memory hole”.
For those of you who aren’t willing to dive all the way down, suffice to say that this camera rig has not been built; it should not be built; if it was built, no one in their right might would want to use it; the advertised resolution is wrong by nearly an order of magnitude; there would be holes in the resulting panoramic image; and a myriad of other problems. It is nice to see that someone is enthusiastic enough to try to build something like this, but it would be nice to see some more measured claims of performance, as well as actual examples, before this monstrosity is released upon the world.
But in the end, I hope Smashing Al does build an array camera rig, because the world needs more 360 cameras. And the fact is, a certain amount of ignorance is helpful, to shield you from the reality of how hard it all really is. “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. Right? 🙂
I only hope that Smashing Al can manage to dial down the stuff that is so obviously false, and I wish him the best of luck!

Smashing Al

September 23 at 11:37pm

Hi everyone, we’re unveiling our professional VR camera system today called EYE, at Techcrunch Disrupt.

42 Blackmagic Micro Cinema (or Micro Studio) cameras, 24 microphones, global sync, global gps timecode, global remote control and more…

Main site:

Facebook Page –

We hope you like it!

Smashing Al's photo.

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