blog added 15/12/2006

One of the major issues 360 degree panoramic photography is how to display your panorama on the web. Simple pictures don't convey the scale or interactivity of immersive 360 degree views, so additional software is required to view them in 3D. The most common tools to do this have been Apple's QuickTime, Java, and Adobe Shockwave. Most  bought computers from say Dell, SONY or HP have the first two installed already, Adobe Shockwave is not commonly found pre-installed. All three, if they need to be installed, require users to have full administrator rights on the computer to allow installation, this is fine for home users but not business users. So as a result often visitors have problems viewing the 360 degree 3D panoramas. The quoted installation base of these three add on are commonly 60%, 88% and 50% respectively, however, often this doesn't take into account issues with out of date version of these tools. Another problem was each of these tools required the visitor to stop viewing your website, download sometimes large packages, run the installer, sometimes restart computer and even close the browser down. Hoping your visitors would return, is a faint hope to say the least.

The holy grail of interactive panorama display has been if it was possible to display them using Adobe Flash. Until now this has been tried many times, but with very poor performance and lots of bad distortion, this was not fault of the developers but was because Adobe (Macromedia) Flash was designed as a 2D vector line drawing tool not as a 3D bitmap render engine.

Recent releases of Adobe Flash versions 8 and 9 have now made it possible to provide 3D bitmap projections. The installed user base Adobe Flash v 8 is in excess of 96% and it is a simple upgrade to get to v9.

Two major software tools have released to enable Flash panorama technology: Pano2QTVR (http://www.pano2qtvr.com/)  and ImmerVision (http://www.immervision.com).

I have been using both these tools and they show great potential. The Immervison tool is free, as long as your can create .ivp files - either using their own authoring package or RealViz Stitcher - which has .ivp export.

Here is an example Immervision Flash panorama. The link will open in a new window, this is resizable and they show that is possible to get rather good full-screen panoramas, I need to work on the quality settings but this is a huge step forward. Oh this does require Adobe Flash v9 to work.

The future is FLASH.