for librarians, researchers and educators interested in information management

Panoramas for a virtual library tour

panorama library2

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to a few presentations at Curtin’s HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch)  that have demonstrated the variety of applications for the Dome, a four-metre diameter domed screen that displays 360 panoramas, videos and virtual worlds.  When you stand in front of the dome, the screen fills your primary and peripheral vision thus providing an immersive experience that allows you to look around at different parts of the scene and feel like you are there.   You can experience flying over the earth, drifting inside a cell, watching a Turkish cultural dance festival – the possibilities are endless.    In short, it’s very cool.

Inevitably I come away from these events feeling totally awed, excited and inspired, but also convinced that such projects result from an elusive, mysterious process that is obviously very technical and complicated, possibly very expensive and time consuming, and probably beyond anything I could actually do, even if I was able to think up an awesome idea.

Until yesterday, that is, when I attended a workshop at the HIVE, where Paul Bourke, director of the iVEC facility at the University of Western Australia, led us through the actual process of developing content for Dome displays.

Paul conducted the workshop as a follow up to an earlier session when he presented an overview of the history and types of panoromas and dome displays, various applications for this technology, and the different ways content could be created for the Dome.  The follow up workshop was designed to show the ‘behind the scenes’ process from capturing the image to editing it to the point at which it was able to be displayed.

We witnessed the process of creating a 360 degree still panorama using a zoom fish eye lens on a Canon 5D SLR camera, followed by the Red Scarlet, a gigapixel camera on a special mount which takes very high resolution photos (great for capturing a lot of detail in a heritage site, for example).  We also learned about the LadyBug -5, which has five video cameras with fish eye lenses capturing 360 panoramic video footage and briefly touched on the process involved in creating an interactive environment using the game software Unity 3D.  We took some sample footage outside the building using this equipment and then worked through the process of stitching together the photos using Photoshop (and After Effects for the video content), editing and then cropping the images for the particular requirements of the Dome.

Although the workshop was focussed on creating content for an immersive experience in the Dome display, we also talked about how they could be viewed online, thus potentially reaching a greater audience.  Kolor’s Panotour is a program that will allow you to view the 360 panorama on desktop or ipad, including zooming in and spinning around the room.  Used to create virtual tours, the additional ability of Panotour to embed video, images, pdfs and links opens the possibility of creating an interactive, learning experience.   You can see some examples in their gallery.

Naturally, I then began to think that a wonderful project would be to create a virtual tour of Curtin Library using 360 panaromas of the spaces in the library, with embedded information about how to access services and resources – what a great way for both on and off-campus students to engage with, and learn about the library!

I found some other examples of library tours using this technology, although none have embedded information – just 360 views of the spaces: State Library of VictoriaCal Poly Pomana and Strahov library.

Andrew Woods, manager at the HIVE, alerted me to examples of libraries using 360 panaroma’s through Google Maps – see 10 libraries to visit with Google street view.  At Curtin, the OT department in the Health Sciences Faculty have also used Google Maps to create 360 panoramas.

After the workshop I put my learning into practice using a few free tools.  I created a full 360 panoroma on my iphone using Photosynth, exported it as a jpeg and uploaded it to a free online panorama viewer Dermander to play with it on my laptop. Needless to say, I was a wee bit chuffed.

For me, the workshop was a valuable learning experience.   Understanding the process – even if I don’t comprehend all the finer details – enabled me to see how it works and what is involved, and thus to consider and realistically assess possible projects based on this knowledge.



Image credits:  “Hovedbygningen – Aulaen”  Photo: Kai T. Dragland   Stitching: Rune M. Andersen


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This entry was posted on August 15, 2014 by in digital humanities, library space.
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