360° VR Time-lapse (8K) of Coronet Peak, Queenstown + Tutorial

We’ve been 360-ing again, giving us yet another excuse to modify some gear slightly and head up a mountain to show you the view. This time around we headed up Coronet Peak in Queenstown, to check out this Winter’s offerings.

The 360 rig we built uses three cameras (Nikon D750s to be exact) set up in portrait with fish eye lenses that have a 180° field of view. These were then synced using a single Genie Mini that uses a splitter to trigger each camera. For post processing frame is compiled into a 360° panorama and then once you have your sequence of panorama, they’re processed into a 360° video. It sounds complicated, and it kind of was, but we’ll get to everything, including post processing, down the page. But first, check out the BTS of the shoot:

 

 

Here’s a list of the gear we used:

Syrp Gear

  • Genie Mini
  • Turntable
  • 3 x Link Cable
  • 3 x Ballhead

Cameras

  • Nikon D750 x 3
  • Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5 ED x 3
  • 64GB SD x6

Other

  • 2.5mm Male to 3.5mm Female 3 Pole Adapter
  • 3.5mm Male to 2.5mm Female 3 Pole Adapter x 3
  • 3.5mm Male to 2 x 3.5mm Female 3 Pole Splitter x 2
  • 3 Legged Thing QR10-L Quick Release Plate and L-Bracket x 3
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • 3/8th Bolt x3

Tools

  • Imperial Allen Key
  • Spanner
  • W or m10 Drill bit
  • Drill

What you need to do

The first step is to modify the Product Turntable to hold the three cameras:

  • The bracket comes with holes for all types of arrangements, however as we need 3 holes there is no existing cut-outs for this. Mark out three spots on the outer most ring 120° apart
  • Drill holes at these spots
  • Using an Allen Key, remove the Arca-Swiss quick release plates off the top of the ballheads,
  • Attach the three Arca-Swiss quick release plates to the Turntable by slotting the bolts through the holes you have drilled and using the Allen Key and spanner to tighten them down to the turntable using your 3/8th bolts

Note – We also machined an aluminium plate that went under the turntable to increase the rigidity of the system and stop shake in windy conditions.

Pre-Setup – it’s best to set up and test before you go out into the field:

  • Attach the three brackets to the cameras and then using the quick release plates attach the brackets to the Turntable.
  • You will want to adjust the cameras positions so that they are angled back slightly so that the bracket is not in frame. This way there is also plenty of overlap for stitching the sky.
  • Make sure there is enough clearance for the three link cables
  • Now you have it all set up you can detach the brackets using the quick release, for quick setup in the field.

Setting up in the field

  • Find your ideal location and setup your tripod. You will want to set the height of the tripod to the same height the time-lapse will be viewed at. We set it at about head-height.
  • Attach the Turntable to the tripod. If possible, mount using both the ¼”-20 mounts in the bottom of the Turntable as this will be more ridged.
  • Attach the three cameras using the quick release plates.
  • Using your splitter and adapters, connect all three cameras so that they are triggered by the Genie Mini

Setting up the Genie Mini

  • Framerate - 360 time lapses are best viewed when played back at 50 – 60 frames per second. This provides smooth playback for VR headsets. Go into the settings menu in the Syrp Genie app and change the frame rate setting to the value you’d like.
  • Play Time – You will want to have a long play time so that the viewer will get time to look in all directions. We set ours to 40 seconds.  Note - Long playtimes and high framerates will result in many frames captured. You will want to make sure that you have enough storage, we used a dual SD slot camera and set Slot B to overflow with two 64GB cards.
  • Interval – This is the same as setting this in any other time lapse. Just remember to leave enough time for the pictures to write to the cameras.
  • Movement – Make sure you set the rotation on the Genie Mini to 0 degrees. If your Genie Mini rotates during the time lapse this will cause a lot of work and hassle in post.

Camera Settings

  • Exposure - On each of the cameras you will need to set the exposure. It may be hard to adjust the settings when attached to the turn table. It may be easier to remove the camera and take a picture in the direction it is facing and set it that way. Depending on which post production process you are going to follow you will either want to set all the cameras to the same exposure for the simple post production process. For the advanced post process, you will want to optimise the exposure of each camera for the direction it is facing.
  • Focus - Set the focus of all the lenses to infinity so that they all match and make sure they are all set to manual focus.
  • Aperture – Depending on your lens, you may want to set your aperture as open as possible to prevent aperture flicker, this can also be solved by twisting your lenses slightly so that the contacts don’t touch.

Recording the ‘lapse

  • Before pressing record, take one picture on each of the cameras with your hand covering the lenses, this will provide a reference to sync the cameras later in post.
  • Press record in the App. Don’t forget to move yourself an all of your gear out of the frame. You can check the App for progress.

So you’ve shot it – now what?

Organising your files

Although this may seem trivial, this is a time-consuming process and if done wrong it can make your life in post hell. We used a free tool called http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Download.php to help speed up the renaming process.

  • First you will want to make three folders for each of the cameras, in each folder you want to make sure that the first frame from each camera match. You need to delete all files that are not part of the time-lapse. Use the frames covered by your hand as a starting reference
  • Using a bulk renaming utility, rename all the images in each folder so that they count up sequentially.

Simple Post Process

This post process uses Adobe Camera Raw (Lightroom or Photoshop), Adobe After Effects and PT Gui

  • Load all your images into your raw editor and adjust them to your liking. You will want to make sure that the same settings are applied to all the images. If you want to be really fancy you can use LR Time-lapse to create keyframes, although make sure that the pictures taken at the same time always have the same settings applied.
  • Create 3 new folders and export the image sequences from each camera into the three new folders. Exporting as 16 bit TIFF provides the best quality.
  • In PT Gui, drop in three pictures from any point in your time-lapse. Press Align Images
  • Once complete go to the Create Panorama tab. In here you will want to set your export settings. Click Set optimum size, set your file format to TIFF and set the Layers to Blended Panorama.
  • Save the PT Gui project and open the PT Gui Batch Builder: Tools > Batch builder
  • Here you set up a Batch process to merge all your panoramas.  For Use Template, select Use Current Project.
  • Press Generate Projects and set them going in the Batch Stitcher
  • You should now have an image sequence which you can load into After Effects. For export settings this will depend on where the time lapse is going. If you want to export for YouTube refer to: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6178631?hl=en

Note – You will need to use a Meta Data injector to tell YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook that the video is a 360

Advanced Post Process

This is the method we used - it provides much more flexibility as well as the ability to process bulb ramped time lapses and fix the gap at the bottom of the 360 caused by the tripod. The software used is DC Raw, Python, PT Gui (CarVR can be used however this project was created before it was out) and Nuke.

  • First you will need to convert all your images into a linear colour-space. We used a Python script and DC Raw to convert the images into 16 Bit EXR files in the ACES AP0 Color Space. We also set the RGB multipliers to 1.0 and turned of all highlight reconstruction
  •  The next step is to correct distortions in the fisheye lenses. In PT Gui, load in and aligned the first frame. In the Panorama Settings tab set the Projection Type to Rectilinear and the Field of view to 90 degrees. Set up a batch stich as mentioned in the Simple Post Process and export each fisheye lenses as its own Cube Map.
  • In Nuke create 3 camera rigs, each with 6 cameras. Feed in the 6 sides of the cube maps to each of the six cameras. Create a sphere and project the 3 camera rigs onto the inside.
  • Go to the Image Parameters Tab inside PT Gui and copy the Yaw Pitch Roll information for each of the camera angles to align them on the inside of the sphere in Nuke.
  • You can now stabilize the three cameras manually using the CameraTracker.  Once complete use the average movement of the three cameras and apply this movement to all the cameras.
  • Create a new Camera and a ScanlineRender node and set the Projection Mode to Spherical, you will want to render out each of the 3 cameras separately.
  • You can now de-flicker each angle using the CurveTool node and match the exposures of the three angles using the Exposure or Multiply node.
  • Merge the three separate angles together and use a GridWarp node to fix any parallax errors between the cameras
  • Set the White Balance using a Multiply node and adjust the RGB multipliers to get a balanced shot.
  • Grade the image and add any other effects you desire
  • Using SphericalTransform you can rotate the 360 time lapse to clean up and remove the tripod using RotoPaint
  • Your time lapse should now be ready for export, reformat it to the resolution you require and press export.

So there you go – a sort-of-complicated-but-still-achievable method for creating your very own 360° time-lapse!

 

Sep 13, 2017