Javier has a degree in optics, is a photographer and stereography professional and has a long career in video, film and 3D television. His achievements include the first 3D video ever made for the Carl Zeiss Cinemizer (100 Years Of Stereoscopy), the 3D post-production workflow that he created for the Panasonic AG 3D A1 camera, the methodology for implementing (DCP / 3D) in Final Cut Pro, and the medium length-film, Be a Hero 3D, that he presented at the 62nd San Sebastian Film Festival.
- What led you to begin creating stereoscopic panoramas?
It was the news that Google was giving away five million Victorian stereoscopes cardboards. It was at that moment that I felt the rebirth of stereography in its original state.
It was stereography that led me to learn spherical photography in the first place. First, I created cylindrical panoramas with two Sony Nex 5s and later I had to learn to do omnidirectional capture using the 16mm optics that I already had.
- What is so valuable about stereo images in comparison with other images?
They are different products. Professional spherical photography will continue to be more prevalent for all kinds of printed material. Spherical stereoscopic photography is a product intended to be experienced specifically in a GEAR VR environment.
The style of photography that I pursue creates an environment in which the dimensions, distances and depth are the same in real life as in the virtual environment. Stereography provides the volume and allows the viewer to feel totally immersed in a photographic moment that occurred at another time, in another place.
- Why or how did you decide to start your own stereo hardware project?
We stereographers have been used to making our own cameras for “centuries”. I design the prototypes in Autodesk 360 and print them in PLA for my own use. I can assure you that the decision to share them has not been financial but as a passionate stereographer.
When I got a notification for a patent presentation, I could not believe that I got there before any multidisciplinary team in California. Suddenly I saw that everything had been solved from preproduction to publication and I felt the need to communicate it, and share my designs.
- Can you tell us about your patent?
Yes, of course, it’s not a secret. It is published under the title: “Omnidirectional stereoscopic camera system”. I describe the way to match the NPP of the rig with the intermediate point of the hypothetical segment that joins the nodal points of each of the two cameras, which I have called the rotation nodal stereoscopic point.
- Then your patent is needed to make this type of image?
No, no, no, not at all. Neither the patent nor any of my toys are necessary. I have patented it so that the industry doesn’t bother us. Any professional photographer can do it with the tools they already have and very little else. You’ll see how easy it is:
Get a rotator with slider, put your Ninja on top, and align your camera as you always do. Now what you’re going to do is to move the rig two centimeters to the right using a new slider, and you can start making the photo on the right, but do not rotate from the Ninja, you have to rotate the entire rig from the new rotator. When you finish, move the rig 4 cm to the left, take the second photo and you’re done.
- If it is so easy, and anyone can do it, why is it not as popular as conventional images? What do you think is the handicap?
If the market was open, everyone would be working with it. The problem is that the media agencies are still unaware that this technology exists. There are many photographers who are already doing tests and are being trained for this imminent future, even if they do not publish their photos to stock agencies.
Very soon there will be VR 3D 360 Apps of tourist destinations for the new Oculus GO, which will create a lot of interest for this technique.
- What workflow do you use?
I use several capture systems. If I am asked to shoot the “Museo del Prado”, I would probably use two A6000 / 6300/6500 and two CZ Batis of 18mm, in a motorized panning head, but if I am asked to shoot 25 panoramas in a single day, I would use a different system with a higher capture speed.
As for post production I was forced to work from scratch, because I did not find any stitching software that could manage stereoscopic panoramas, and at that time, unfortunately, I did not know Thomas Sharpless.
The idea was deduced from the cartography section of an old optical book from 1925 (Optician’s Manual, “Gleichen & Klein”), which I summarize as follows:
Align your two panoramas separately vertically and horizontally, as we always do, now convert both panoramas into 180º fisheye images and choose the same pixel on the horizon as the geometric center for both panoramas: “Homologous points”.
Now, imagine that your two panoramas are two vinyl records, on one side we will have 180 songs and on the other side the other 180. The LP hole is the first homologous point that we have selected in both scenarios. Now put the two records in two record players side by side, and both records will rotate from the same point.
Now we only have to choose the second anchor point, which we will do on the outer edge of the record, looking for the exact point where the song begins to sound, the “Homologous points again”. Stop both record players at that point, and your panoramas will be perfectly aligned the one with the other, and you can now convert them to equirectangular projections and export them.
- Do you work with GoPro?
I have used them, in fact the report “A walk at dawn” composed of 30 stereo panoramas is made with two Hero Session 4, and now I always carry them in my bag in case an occasional shot arises. However, the system for GoPro was designed for photojournalists and ephemeral photography.
I shot the Ritz-Carlton Abama Hotel with two Sony AZ1s, because their optical quality is infinitely higher due to its Carl Zeiss optics and to the 12Mp Exmor sensor. Its automatic Bionz processor gives me exactly what I need; depth of field and a perfect focus, unconditional premises in stereography. With this system, I get photos of 13.5K x 13.5K at 350 dpi, a higher quality to the one that the best VR Gear on the market allow these days.
- Do you think the community of stereo photographers will grow hand-in-hand with the VR industry?
The stereoscope has been used to view stereoscopic images since 1838 and now nothing is going to change. When manufacturers empty their warehouses of 2D spherical video cameras, and the Lobby allows it, everyone will jump to 3D, and that will be a good time for us, since we know that a video frame is not a photograph.
- A last tip?
The marketing departments of hotels love to see VR 3D 360 photographs of other establishments. When they see them in 3D in a GEAR VR, they do not beat around the bush, they ask you directly: How much?