Home     Image Gallery      Panoramas     Links     Technical     About



Intro to Panoramas and QTVRs


Rogers Centre (formerly known as the Skydome), Toronto



I hope the following information will help you understand the entire process in creating these panoramic images.  I’m not the authority on this subject matter.  I’m simply sharing information obtained from my hands on experience and research.  There are detailed information on this subject available on the internet.   There are also many other ways of creating panoramas with different hardware and software.  The following process is based on hardware and software that I am currently using and is by no means the only way to produce panoramas.  If you have detailed information; a different process; or correction to mine, and willing to share them please don’t hesitate to contact me.   




Terms you should know 


The following descriptions have been intentionally defined as simple as possible without getting into technical details.  Detailed information are readily available on the internet..  If my diagrams are not accurate enough or need more detail please let me know.  Thanks!



Cropped Circular Fisheye Image

Cubical Projection

The corners are unusable as they are at the outside of the circular image.

A panorama converted to a straight, flat, six-sided image.

Cylindrical Panoramas

Equirectangular Panoramas

 A 360° panoramic image.


A single stitched image that has a 2:1 (width: height) ratio.  Requires a panorama viewer to view the image.

Full Circular Fisheye Image

Full Frame Fisheye Image

A 180° image horizontally and vertically.

From either Canon's 15mm or Nikon's10.5mm fisheye lens. 

Nadir Parallax

The view directly below..  "Down" shot.

Occurs when the images to stitch were not shot at the same “nodal” area (a shift).


Nodal Point, Entrance Pupil, No-Parallax Point


In short, it's the “point” or “area” where the camera’s lens rotates that will produce the least amount or no parallax at all. 


That's trying very hard to define it in one sentence...  Not even close.



For example, the "No-Parallax Point" on Nikon's 10.5mm Fisheye is approximately just behind the gold band.




Rectilinear Projection

QuickTime Virtual Reality.  A type of movie, created by multiple stitched images, that allows viewing interaction.


Click on the image!


A type of projection for mapping out surface of a spherical image converting it to a “flat” and straight image. 


Useful for editing purposes.  For example creating "nadir" or "zenith" caps. 



VR Head Zenith

A specialized tripod head used for shooting panoramic images.  A camera mount on a tripod that allows precise adjustment for the camera lens’ entrance pupil.


This particular model is Nodal Ninja's VR head.  They are based in California.  Click on the image to visit their web site.


Bill Bailey from Nodal Ninja will more than be willing to correspond with you.

The view directly above.  "Up" shot.













Camera & Lens


You can use any camera (digital or film) for panoramic use.  A VR head and tripod should be used for accuracy and to limit parallax. 


DSLRs are more flexible compared to point-n-shoot cameras but...


A Point & Shoot camera cost less, easier to use, lighter, and with a fisheye converter will require less images for a full 360° BUT cannot change lens.


Work with whatever camera you have. 



For cylindrical or partial panoramas use any lens and body combination that is compatible with the VR head.

For a full 360°x180° spherical panorama QTVRs a camera with a fisheye lens or a fisheye converter could be used to minimize the number of shots.  Although you can create a full 360°x180° spherical panorama just the same without fisheye lenses.  You just have to shoot more images.  ...Multi-Row...


(Nikon image)


A P&S (Point-and-Shoot) camera will require a fisheye converter if you wanted to take less images.


For example  the Nikon Coolpix cameras has a fisheye converter, the FC-E8 / 9, that can produce an image between 180° to 190° “full circular” fisheye, depending which camera it's mounted on, thereby requiring fewer images to stitch; around 2 – 3 photos.



NOTE:  Be careful when choosing a VR head to purchase when using fisheye converters.  Some VR heads will not be compatible with this type of lens due to its size.


For example, Nodal Ninja's NN3 will not support Nikon's FC-E9.



A DSLR (Digital SLR) camera’s fisheye lenses will either be a “cropped circular” or a “Full-frame” fisheye image.   


At least four images are required for a cropped circular fisheye lens and around 8 – 10 images are required for a full frame fisheye; six shots (one at every 60°), one zenith, and one to three nadir  shots. 















Tripod & VR head


Use a tripod when creating panoramic or QTVR images.  When I was first learning this art I was hand holding my panoramic shots.  It's definitely not a guaranteed technique and will require more post processing as the images will require manual manipulation to properly align each image.  Stitching software will do its best to stitch the images but will not be 100% accurate.  Manual manipulation will still be required with Photoshop and/or stitching software.


There is a method to aid hand held shots or if budget is a concern.  I got in touch with the creator himself, Philo. Nicknamed after himself, the “Philopod”, it’s a technique that gives hand held shots a bit more precision.  It requires some sort or weight (plumb bob), a string and a level.   Still not a 100% solution to avoiding parallax but a better average than a normal hand held shots.  Click on the image to go to his site for his explanation.


(Philo's image)

The "Philopod"




There are many different types of VR heads.  Which to choose will depend on the task; and keep budget in mind. 


As you do your research you will find many people will have different opinions on the use of VR heads.  Some will say it's not necessary, some swear by them and some go in between by creating their own.  Only experience will dictate what you need.  So, try it for yourself; with and without a VR head. 



Single Row VR Head

Kaidan's Standard VR head

(no longer available)


Multi-Row VR Head

Manfrotto 303SPH


A single-row VR head; for cylindrical panoramas.  This simply rotates a full 360°.  This VR head comes with a rotation base that has a graduated scale along it's circumference and interchangeable detent discs, camera mount and sliding camera bracket to align the lens’ nodal point.


Click on the image for more info.


(Kaidan image)


A multi-row VR head.  For equirectangular or full spherical panoramas.


Manfrotto 303SPH, a multi-row VR head that rotates 360° horizontally and vertically allowing a zenith and nadir shot to complete a full 360° spherical panorama. 


Click on the image for more info.





NOTE:  Some VR heads are not compatible with DSLRs with battery grips or large camera bodies like Canon's 1Ds Mark II and most medium format cameras.





Some camera or VR head manufacturers will supply bundled software (or offer a rebate on a purchase) that will allow photo-stitching capabilities.  There are many out there.



PTGui is a panoramic stitching program for Windows.  PTMac for Mac users.


Click on the image to visit the site.


Software to convert equirectangular image into a cubic projection or a QTVR (QuickTime movie).  Again, there are a couple them out there. 


Click on the image to visit the site.

Another excellent application from Garden Gnome.


Pano2VR can convert cubical or spherical images to various file formats such as QuickTime and Flash.  Customizable skins, hotspots and directional sound are other features of the software.

Cubic Converter Photoshop CS3

Another excellent software for converting to cubic projection, for MACs only, is Cubic Converter


They are based in Australia.  Click on the image to visit the site.




For creating a “nadir” cap or “hiding” the tripod from the image, you will need some creativity.  You will need a photo editing software.  A popular one is Adobe's Photoshop.  A cubic converter software and Photoshop goes hand-in-hand. 


Click on the image to visit the site.


For Nikonians out there, there is a feature with Nikon Capture 4 that can "defish" or flatten a fisheye image in a single click.  This is very useful when editing the nadir shot (bottom image) or zenith (upward image) in a cubical image.


As an alternative you can also use PTGUI to defish a fisheye image.


Click on the image to visit the site.

Nikon Capture 4