Category Archives: Tech Stuff

Quick versatile DIY studio

Setting up a studio in a small space may sound like an easy task but believe me, a small space really comes with its own set of problems.

In my case I moved from a 400sqm studio into a 95sqm and issue that I never had to deal with like white walls and bounce have become a huge problem that while not insurmountable, can become very annoying.

You can of course modify the space with curtains etc but that’s assuming your landlord doesn’t mind you drilling holes everywhere which mine does.

The solution ironically came to me when I got my background stand. Normally I would just mount brackets onto the wall but that would have meant drilling holes which I can’t do so I opted for the two stands and cross bar solution.

Now don’t get me wrong, these are nice setups but at full extension they can get a little rickety and ironically it was solving the stability issue that gave rise to the final solution.

I realised that if one takes 2 stand kits and gets two additional cross poles you can essentially create a square framework which greatly stabilises the structure. Note the background kit design also helps us here.

The kit has an upright stand with a spigot sticking up and the cross pole slips over the spigot and you secure it with wing nuts.

All we have to do is instead of screwing on the wing nut, is just screw on another spigot which holds the first pole in place and acts as mount for the second pole.

The wingnut then goes onto the second spigot to hold the second pole in place.

So what we end up with is 4 stands with 4 cross poles between them creating a very stable structure. The back cross pole supports the background materials but we have 3 very useful remaining poles to use.

A problem you encounter in small spaces is controlling bounce or fill off walls and you have to either paint the walls black or use black polyboards to  control this but in this case we have two very functional and handy curtain rails to which we can attach white or black curtains depending on what we are shooting.

I would go for a curtain made up of various segments, all wider than required, so that you have space to stick lights through but essentially the confined space and studio colour is not longer an issue.

The only remaining issue is adding or removing bounce from the top and again we have a very handy front cross pole that we can fix fabric to and stretch it across to the back pole.

The great thing is with the added stability, this can be used almost anywhere assuming there is not too much wind.

 

 

Shooting the Sphere

Panoramic photography has been around for a long time and I have written a few articles on it but with the advent of new cameras, including cell phones with panoramic modes, it’s becoming more accessible to the masses and unfortunately that mean a lot of BS from people who have no clue what’s really going on.

Essentially with the Advent of Virtual Tours, what we are trying to do is capture a full 360° x 180° spheres that allow the user to move around and view the scene as if they were there.

Recently cheap options like these (image above courtesy of softpedia.com) have exploded onto the market and many photographers are running around telling people that they have a unique new state of the art camera system. What they actually have is a very low end solution that has been around internationally for some time, comes in many forms and varieties and is based on the way we used to shoot panoramas in the dark ages. The method that was used was to take a mirror ball and shoot the image reflected and then unwrap it, which is pretty much what these systems do.

The biggest and most annoying problem is that some of the owners of these cameras are making claims that they have the first system capable of shooting 360° images which is untrue for two reasons.

Firstly many of us have been shooting high resolution stitched panoramic images that cover and area of 360° x 180° for a number of years and secondly the mirror camera don’t shoot a full 360° x 180° degrees. Most only shoot 360° x 110° – 130° which is not ideal for spherical imaging.

In fairness, the cameras do have a few good points in that they are small, compact, they are relatively cheap and can capture the image in a single shot. They also however have some not so good points namely that they are very low resolution (compared to panoramas produced by the robotic and panoramic heads, they can only capture a vertical view of up to 130° and they are pretty useless for full spherical photography.

So now that we have moved out of the amateur arena, let’s look at what the pros generally opt for.

Well as far as one shot solutions go, the same company that makes one of the Toys has also just released a very high end solution that consists of a body with 3 fisheye lenses and 3 x 10mp sensors. Like the mirror option it can capture a 360° in a single shot but unlike the cheaper option which is only 8mp, the Girocam captures the image at 30mp. It’s still not a perfect solution as its limited to a vertical view of 150° but it’s getting far closer to what is needed and in most cases can produce a more than useable image.

Right so the one shot solutions have a huge advantage in that they easily eliminate the problem of people or objects moving due to only needing a single shot to compete the image but even at 30mp the one shot cameras don’t always produce images that are large enough for all needs.

 

This is where the manual and robotic precision panoramic heads enter the equations and this genre is currently dominated by 360prescion for manual solutions and by Gigapan Systems for the robotic alternative.

Both companies produce a range of products that work on the same principal, being that exposures are taken in rows and columns buy revolving and tilting through the lenses entrance pupil. The focal length of the lens determines how many rows and columns will be needed and the final results are then stitched together using software like PTGUI.

The upside of these systems is that they can produce absolutely massive images but the down side is that they require multiple images to be shot and moving objects can become a headache that requires a lot of post-production to correct.

Which would I recommend, well for real estate and very low end work, the mirror systems should suffice? For higher end interior and VR work, I would look at the new Girocam and for landscapes and high end panoramic imaging I would go for the manual or Robotic panoramic heads although the actual heads are actually easier to use despite what may think.

 

LInks:

http://www.360precision.com

http://gigapan.org/cms/create-make

http://www.girocam.com/