Quicktime VR for Instruction
Being There and Not
1. Types of Panoramas
•Linear -- Think Postcard
•Cylindrical - 360 wrap around view, but limited vertical field of view
•Cubic - Almost complete immersion
2. Content Creation and Delivery Formats
QTVR is still the most common, due to Apple's licensing model, cross platform compatibility and developer support
Iseemedia is an activeX control based viewer
iPix is a commercial solution, limited by their licensing model (pay for each panorama you create)
A variety of Java based viewers that require no plug in at all are available as well.
There are even options for PocketPC and Palm devices.
3. What do I need?
Digital or Film cameras will work. High end work was traditionally done with film cameras, but the cost advantage and resolution increase of digital cameras have made them the overwhelming choice for VR work.
While more resolution is better, for traditional panoramas, needs are well within most of our budgets. A good 2 -3 megapixel camera is adequate for multiple image panoramas.
For one shot solutions, however,
Many camera's come with a "panorama" mode, or stitch assist mode, which makes it easy to build panoramas. With a little practice It may not even be necessary to have a tripod for simple linear panoramas.
Tripod and camera bracket
Building a good cylinidrical panorama requires the use of a tripod, and a special bracket. The bracket positions the camera so that the lenses's nodal point is centered on the pivot point on the tripod. This gives you a good, consistent Panorama. These brackets can either be bought, or made. If this scares you, take a look at one-shot Panorama solutions.
Peaceriver Studios -- Motorised Panorama Mount
Manfrotto -- makes high quality tripods and QTVR compatible pan heads
It's possible to speed the process of making a panorama by using optional lenses.
Wide angle Lenses theoretically could reduce the number of pictures you would need for a panorama, but your software must support this as an option (many packages do not).
The One Shot Approach
iPix, Kaidan and others offer kits that allow you to take a panorama shot with just one picture. This has some obvious advantages.
Faster to make
Pontentially less hairpulling and cussing
Potential for better vertical field of view
One shot means you can shoot busy scenes, and avoid aberrations such as disappearing people, etc.
The downside of these solutions is that they are not cheap. Kaidan and it's competitors offer solutions that range from $600 on up.
If you have time on your hands, are handy with tools, and don't mind less than perfect results, you can always experiment with a mirror ball -- these are also called "Gazing Balls" -- available from any garden supply house. There are a whole host of tools and techniques for utilizing this approach. The results may not be quite a good as a more expensive solution, but it does work.
While most people associate panoramas with Apple's QTVR, the reality is that the majority of the authoring software is for the Windows platform.
In addition, it's important to note that there are indeed several free solutions for creating Panoramic images, for both Windows, Mac and likely other operating systems.
PanoGuide is by far the best, most complete source that I have found. Well worth a read.