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Creating 360 Degree Panoramas For Second Life Part 1


Creating 360 degree panoramas in Second Life has developed side by side with the same trend in real world photography. The process involves taking 26 overlapping snapshots and 'stitching' them together using external software. To create a 360 degree panorama in Second Life you'll need a  hud that positions the camera for each of the 26 snapshots, and since the better panoramic camera huds come with comprehensive instructions, its not worth repeating them here (the process of creating the snapshots is in fact very easy). 

For the purposes of these tutorials we'll assume you've bought a hud either inworld or on the Marketplace and already have 26 snapshots to work with, so in part one of this short series we'll focus on how to use two different free apps to stitch Second Life images into a panoramic view. 

In part two we'll show how to add the necassary metadata to the panoramic image, how to preview the image before uploading it, how to upload it to Facebook, and then how to embed it on your blog.

In part three we'll show how to create a 360 degree panoramic tour for Second Life destinations.

    How To Stitch Second Life Images Into A Panoramic View

    There are plenty of software options for stitching images into a panoramic view, most of which are very costly. However there are a few free apps that will work very well for our purposes. The two we'll look at here are Hugin and Image Composite Editor, (don't let the fact ICE is made by Microsoft put you off). If you need to, click each image in turn to see full size.

    Creating A Panoramic Image With Hugin

    Hugin is free software dedicated to creating panoramic images and is the option most turn to first. By following a few simple procedures Hugin works extremelly well, although the process can be quite slow.


    1/ When you first start Hugin this is what you'll see. Hugin starts with the Assistant tab visible. Click the Load images button.


    2/ Navigate to the folder containing the 26 Second Life snapshots you took with the panorama camera hud. Click on the first image thumbnail, then holding down Shift on the keyboard click on the last. All thumbnails should now be selected. Hit Open to load the images.


    3/ The above window will open. Since Second Life snapshots naturally don't contain information from a camera the HFOV will need to be added manually. Its important to input the right number here for the panorama image to stitch correctly. Entering 90 seems to work well, although others say anything between 60 - 90 works. After entering 90 click OK.

    Theres a slight bug in Hugin which means that after hitting OK the window may open again. Simply enter 90 again and hit OK once more.


    4/ It may take a while for Hugin to load all the images, but once they're loaded they should look something similar to the above. Don't worry if the image is upside down as we'll see to that later. For now hit the Align button, highlighted in red.


    5/ A window similar to the above should open which will show Hugin working. This may take a while.



    6/ When the window closes the 26 snapshots should align themselves to form an image similar to the above. As with all stages in Hugin this can take a few minutes, so don't worry if it seems to hang. We now need to hit the Move/Drag tab, highlighted in red.


    7/ Under the Move/Drag tab we'll turn the image the correct way up by entering 180 in the Roll space then hitting Apply.


    8/ To get rid of the wavy horizon hit the Straighten button. The image should now look similar to the above. Hugin sometimes shows dark lines on the edges of the original snapshots , but these won't show in the exported panorama.


    9/ Back under the Assistant tab we're ready to export the panorama by hitting the Create panorama button.



    10/ This window will now open. Select the width for the exported panorama, and the height should be selected automatically. For the file format select JPEG, (apparently Facebook only accepts 360 degree panoramas in this format). Here the quality has been set to 100%. When you're ready hit OK.


    13/ This message will now show prompting you to save the project. Click OK, navigate to where you want to save the project and save it.


    14/ Now navigate to where you want to save the panoramic image, name it and hit Save.


    15/ Hugin will now look something like this as it works away stitching the images and finally exporting the panorama. This takes a number of minutes.


    16/ When Hugin has finally finished working this window will show the message 'Batch successfully completed' in the lower left.


    The image has now been exported from Hugin and is almost ready to be uploaded as a 360 degree view online. However, there may be some blemishes in the exported image that might need working on in Photoshop or Gimp. Turning a selection of images into panoramas is not always an entirely perfect process, but it does work well most of the time.

    Image Composite Editor

    Although Hugin is the most widely used free software for creating panoramic images there are one or two alternatives, and one we're about to use is Microsoft's Image Composite Editor (ICE for short). All panorama creating software have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst this is the case with ICE it appears to work very well with Second Life images and is much quicker than Hugin, so its at least worth trying out.


    1/ When ICE is first opened you'll see something similar to the above, (its created by Microsoft and its free, so inevitably there's an advert incorporated into it). Click on New Panorama.


    2/ Navigate to where the images for the panorama are stored, click on the first then whilst holding down the Shift key click on the last image. All of the images should now be selected. Click on Open.


    3/ The images will be imported into ICE. Now hit the Stitch button.


    4/ Whilst ICE is working on the images you'll see a progress window similar to the above.


    5/ The images have now been stitched together. Hit the Export button.


    6/ To the right of the ICE window there are some settings for the exported image. Set the width for the panorama, then select JPEG as the file format. Here the quality of the JPEG is 100%. Now hit the Export to disk button under the Quality tab.


    7/ Navigate to where you want the panorama exported to, name it then hit Save. Your panorama has now been saved to your PC.


    As with Hugin there may be one or two blemishes that need working on in Photoshop or Gimp, but the process works very well, and tends to be speedier than Hugin.


    The 360 panorama above shows the image exported from ICE. Drag your mouse over it to see how it works. In the next tutorial we'll show how to add the metadata to the JPEG in order for website locations to display it as a 360 panorama. We'll also show how to view the image on your desktop before uploading it to the web, how to upload it to Facebook and how to embed it on your blog or website.