Shooting 360º Panoramas with Google Street View:
There are many options for creating 3D like imagery. You can use a DSLR camera, a smart phone, or a dedicated 360 camera like the Ricoh Theta or the NCTech Iris 360.
Using a smart phone, there are plenty of programs to choose from. I like the Google Street View application because it integrates with Google Maps. Launch the app, and follow the orange circles to shoot a panorama (usually 24 photos). It automatically stitches them all together for you. The images can be published public (private by default) and the public ones are counted for the number of views by Google. You can also download the images in high resolution to your computer, but touch-ups can’t be reloaded to Street View as far as I can tell.
It is best to use a tripod for optimal results, especially with objects that are near. The closer the object, the more crucial this is. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get indoor panorama’s to stitch everything without some parallax error. Even with a tripod, utility poles and power lines usually always require touch-ups, as well as the tripod image itself.
Shooting with a DSLR is more accurate. Use a fish-eye lens and a tripod mount that has a calibrated nodal point. Stitching can be done with Adobe Lightroom or PTGui software for instance. But like the smart phone, this requires 24+ shoots per panoramic position (sphere). When shooting in HDR, this can multiply the photographic equation considerably.
If you are shooting a panoramic tour, there can be a lot of moving parts with all the images. For speed of use, a dedicated 360 camera is a good option. The Theta, at around $350, is a good value. But if you want to shoot professional Street View Virtual Tours, the resolution is not high enough. There are two high-end camera’s that are popular for professional use: the Matterport, used by many professional real estate photographers, and the NCTech Iris 360. But for the highest resolution and clarity, a DSLR still has the best results.
To publish a Google Virtual Tour (GVT), you must be a Trusted Google Photographer. I was invited to join after the total views of all my photography on Google Maps passed the 500,000 mark (pano’s and stills combined – but mostly panos). GVT has its own software for organizing the tour images, which is accessible online only to certified shooters. Google Tours cannot be used for real estate sales.
For integrated 360 tours (including real estate listings), I like Pan2VR Pro software. The basic version is only $99, but if you want to interconnect multiple spheres, you will need the $500 pro version. It has a lot of integrations, including “hot spots” for info boxes, website links, sound, photo and video embeds. It integrates with Google Maps, Open Street Map, MapQuest and ArcGIS for correcting geographical points. It also links to Adobe Photoshop for super quick touch-ups. Outputs can be HTML, Quicktime VR, MPEG and Flash. It also supports a responsive design for mobile devices. Tech support by email is good (U.K. based) and they have plenty of detailed video tutorials online.
How to use the Google Street View Application with an iPhone 6S:
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