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Frequently Asked Questions

What is ROUNDUS?

ROUNDUS is a team of people in Lincoln, Nebraska committed to building a virtual tour of the whole world and empowering others to help. ROUNDUS is the idea that all information should eventually be accessible from your personal computer, for free. ROUNDUS is determined to produce the highest quality images and the most immersive experiences possible.

Starting with Midwestern cities, we plan to provide the free ROUNDUS service to every community in the Unites States within the next five years. We have already started on parts of Europe and we intend to go global during that same 5 year period.

Why can't I see the panoramas?

To view the interactive content on ROUNDUS.com you will need the latest version of Flash Player, which you can download here. If you have Flash installed and you are still having problems viewing panoramas please verify that Javascript is turned on in your browser.

How do I use ROUNDUS?

People use ROUNDUS to explore the world around them. You can search out specific places to see what they have to offer, then compare them to related places, read what people have to say about them, link to their websites, and then share with friends. We let users contribute in a variety of ways. You can tag listings, leave comments, upload you own panoramas, upload photo collages to be viewed virtually, tag things within the panoramas, set connections to other panoramas, and collect lists of your favorite spaces.

If you think of something you would like to do with the panoramas that we do not currently offer, help us out and let us know at info@roundus.com.

Who owns the content?

Any content uploaded by users are owned entirely by the user that uploaded the content, assuming they have the right to upload said content. Otherwise, everything else on Roundus.com is owned entirely by ROUNDUS, LLC, a private company in Lincoln, Nebraska. For inquiries into our intellectual property and the use thereof please contact us at info@roundus.com.

I found myself in an image and want to be removed!

ROUNDUS shoots panoramas in many public and private places so inevitably we will include some unwilling participants in some of our panoramas. Through the wonders of post-production we can now simply remove you from the image instead of having to take down the image itself. Please record the name of the panorama and send it and your removal request to info@roundus.com and you will be removed from the public content within one week.

Point-and-Shoot Panorama

You can use any kind of camera to make a panorama, but we're going to focus on how to make one using a basic digital point-and-shoot camera. Not using a point-and-shoot? These tips apply to just about any combination of equipment.

To capture a panorama with a point-and-shoot you will take a series of overlapping images (we call these frames or component images) that will be combined using stitching software to create a single panoramic image. We've broken down the process into a few steps:

  1. 1. Preparing your camera
  2. 2. Shoot
  3. 3. Stitch
  4. 4. Edit and upload

1. Preparing your camera

The first step is to check your camera settings. You can shoot using the automatic settings, but checking the exposure and white balance will help you get the best images and will make assembling your panorama much easier. The location of these setting varies by camera, so if you aren't sure if your camera allows you to do this, check the camera manual or visit the manufacturers website for more info.

The first setting to check is camera exposure.

Exposure

If your camera allows you to lock the exposure, you will want to do this before capturing the series of images that will eventually come together to make your panorama. Locking the exposure will ensure consistent exposure in each of the component images and will make them easier to combine later.

The next setting to check is the white balance.

White Balance

Locking the white balance will keep the color temperature consistent in each frame of your panorama and will make them easier to combine later. Most digital cameras give you a few white balance presets designed to match a range of shooting conditions. Select the preset that is appropriate for your situation.

2. Shooting the panorama

The most important part of shooting a panorama is your point of rotation. Make sure to rotate around the camera and not your body! The goal is to shoot each image in the rotation from the same position in space. Like this:

Ben Spin

Tips:

3. Stitch

Stitching is the process of combining a your photos into a single final panoramic image. This requires separate software, however there are a number of free, trial, and inexpensive programs available:

Free:

Trial:

Inexpensive:

Note: If you are using Photoshop CS2 or higher, you can stitch your images using the Photomerge feature found under File -> Automate -> Photomerge.

4. Edit & upload

When you have finished stitching your panorama, you may want to use a photo editing application, such as Photoshop, to touch it up and color correct your image.

If you do not have Photoshop, here are some free and inexpensive alternatives:

Free:

To upload:

Just save the file as a JPG, find it in the browse bar, and click "upload."

Stitching a Panorama

There are many options for stitching software available on the web today. Some applications are cheap, lightweight, and simple, while others are more expensive, complex, and give users much more control in each stage of stitching and rendering panoramas. We recommend users try a few stitching applications before considering making a software purchase. Some users are comfortable shelling out $350 for a copy of Stitcher Unlimited, while other users are satisfied using more affordable applications like AutoPano Pro or Calico. Below is a short list of stitching applications we’ve used, sorted by price, that should give users a place to start their research:

Regardless of the stitching application, one must always keep in mind a few basic rules for shooting panoramas. Always make sure your tripod head is level, check your camera settings, and if you’re shooting without a panoramic head make sure to allow a 30% overlap between images to ensure a successful stitch.

At ROUNDUS we use Stitcher Unlimited to stitch most of our panoramas. Our panoramas are shot with a Canon 5D with a 15mm fisheye lens and a 360 Precision Absolute panoramic head. The 15mm fisheye lens allows us to capture a complete 360º panorama in just 7 shots:

(If you are shooting with a non-fisheye lens you will probably need to take more images to capture a complete panorama.)

Pano Component Images

These are the seven images we will use to show each step of the stitching process.

First, launch the Stitcher Unlimited application. Next, drag the seven component images into the Stitcher workspace. Stitcher will load the images and incorrectly assume we are using a Rectilinear lens type with a focal length of 15mm. A dialogue box will open asking if we want to keep the settings Stitcher selected automatically. Click “No” and the Properties window will appear. We need to set the Camera Lens Type to Fisheye Full Frame in the Properties window, as shown below:

Stitcher Properties Window

After setting the lens type, click Autostitch in the menu in the top left of the workspace.

Stitcher Left Navigation Bar

The Autostitch will take a moment or two, depending on the speed of your computer. After the stitch is complete you may rotate the view by holding the Option key and clicking and dragging with the mouse. If Stitcher couldn’t place one of the images in the panorama, you can manually pull it from your dock onto the workspace and finesse it into place. Once it is properly positioned, right click on the image and select the Stitch Shots.

If the Stitch Shots command doesn’t work, place the image again and right click and choose Force Stitch. Keep in mind that the Force Stitch method can cause parallax, and if it does, you will need to use the stencil tool to remove it in the next step.

Stitcher Stitching

Pay close attention to the seams of each image in the panorama, as this is where you will most likely find parallax if there is any in your panorama. As we stated above, to remove this parallax you will need to use the Stencil tool within Stitcher. Play around with the tool until you feel comfortable using it. It can be tricky at first, but a little bit of practice will go a long way to making your panorama look nice and crispy.

Stitcher also has an Equalize Images option, which blends together the light and dark areas of the combined images. I find that in certain circumstances this option is useful and in others it does more harm than good. If you decide to equalize your panorama this is a good time to do so.

After stenciling and equalizing, save your Stitcher file. After saving you are ready to render the final panoramic image. You can use the left hand navigation bar or the keystroke Command R to get to the Render Properties dialog box.

Stitcher Rendering

From the Render Properties dialogue you can choose from many different render options and modes, and choose the size of your final image. We recommend rendering out with the following settings:

(For best results, we recommend rendering panoramas at maximum resolution in TIFF format, retouching and color-correcting at full-resolution, then scaling down to 5000px by 2500px and compressing the image before uploading to the site.)

After entering the desired settings, click Render to initiate the final render process. The render process can take up to thirty minutes (or longer, for gigantic panoramas) and changes depending on the size of the component images, the final output size, the interpolation method, and the system specifications of your computer. When the render is complete your panorama will be located in the save destination assigned to it in the Render Properties dialogue. Happy pano-makings!

Three Pano Setups

Our advanced set-up consists of the following components:

Advanced Setup

Full-frame DSLR:

Full-frame refers to a camera that's image sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame. This allows us to use a Fisheye lens (15mm) with the same angle of view.

Fisheye lens (15mm):

The wide angle of the fisheye lens allows us to shoot a the minimum amount of images while still capturing all of the information needed to create a spherical panorama.

360 Precision Absolut head:

Machined to the specifics of your DSLR. 360 Precision claims that "no other panoramic head on the market today features such an accurate mounting solution.

Leveling tripod:

To ensure that the horizon in your panorama is level and not distorted.

Remote shutter release:

To avoid blurring caused by movement when the shutter button is depressed.

Our intermediate setup consists of the following components:

Intermediate Setup

Digital SLR (not full frame):

Non full-frame DSLR cameras have an image sensor smaller than a 35mm film frame. This causes the edges of the captured image to be cropped, and distortion similar to zooming in on the center section of the imaging area.

Wide-angle zoom lens 17-40mm:

Flat lenses will require more images to create a full spherical panorama. They may also cause parallax where there is not enough overlap and/or lens distortion.

Standard panoramic tripod head:

Panoramic heads similar to this one require the photographer to adjust according to their camera and lens.

Non-leveling tripod:

With a non-leveling tripod there may be some distortion in your horizon.

Our novice setup consists of the following components:

Novice Setup

Digital SLR (not fullframe):

Non full-frame DSLR cameras have an image sensor smaller than a 35mm film frame. This causes the edges of the captured image to be cropped, and distortion similar to zooming in on the center section of the imaging area.

Kit Lens:

Flat lenses will require more images to create a full spherical panorama. They may also cause parallax where there is not enough overlap and/or lens distortion.

Non-leveling tripod:

With a non-leveling tripod there may be some distortion in your horizon.

Preparing Panos for Upload

There are two different ways to up load your panos onto Roundus. The first is in equirectangular or cylindrical format. The maximum pixel size that you are able to upload in this format is 5000px wide by 2500px tall. You can render your pano to our maximum size limit or render it in full resolution and reduce it in photo editing software later. Rendering your panos in full resolution is a good idea if you are planning on using your panos for other projects that might need a higher resolution. Whatever pixel size you decide to upload make sure that your spherical panos are a 2:1 ratio, and that the file size on spherical and cylindrical does not exceed 8MB in .jpg format.

The second way to upload is in cube face format. Some stitching software allows you to render your panos out in cube faces, but we find it easier to tone one large image rather than toning 6 separate images. We render our panos in spherical format and after we are finished editing them we cube them in a program called cubic converter. Your cube face dimensions should not exceed 2000px by 2000px. You must have six cube face images, with the correct suffixes (_f.jpg, _b.jpg, _r.jpg, _l.jpg, _u.jpg, _d.jpg) on each cube face. Your file size for each cube face should not exceed 4MB in .jpg format.

If you find that reducing the pixel size isn’t trimming down the file size enough you can reduce the quality of your pano in your photo editing software, but remember that reducing the quality will affect how your end product looks so be careful. We also recommend uploading in cube face format; it greatly reduces the load time for viewers.

Types of Panoramic Projections

There are two commonly used ways of saving a full spherical stitched panorama to flat image files (in most cases and for everything on ROUNDUS, a jpeg).

Spherical Equirectangular Panoramas

Spherical equirectangular panoramas are produced by saving the entire 360 degree view to a single image file with the image's width being equal to twice the height and usually with the horizon of the panorama running horizontally through the center. The simplest and most recognizable example of this is an equirectangular projection map of the earth.

Spherical Equirectangular earth

As you can see, the lines of longitude are mapped linearly (i.e. the distance between the 10 degree and 20 degree line is the same as the distance between the 70 degree and 80 degree line) to vertical lines and the lines of latitude are mapped linearly to horizontal lines with the zenith (top point or north pole) mapped to the entire top line and the nadir (bottom point or south pole) mapped to the entire bottom line. A sphere has 360 degrees of longitude and 180 degrees of latitude, so the resulting image has a 2:1 ratio of width to height.

Because lines of latitude shorten as they move away from the equator, lines of latitude must be stretched to fit on the flat image. This results in objects far from the equator seeming wider in the flat spherical image than when they are viewed on a 3-dimensional sphere or in the pano viewer. For example, in the above image, Greenland appears to be roughly the same width as Africa when it is actually about a sixth as wide.

When a spherical equirectangular image is put into the pano viewer, the easiest way to visualize what happens is to imagine wrapping the flat image horizontally to join the left and right ends and then pinching the top and bottom together to form a sphere.

Cube Faces

The other method of saving panoramas to flat image files is to use cube faces. This method projects the image onto the faces of a cube. You can think of this as building a cube around the outside of your sphere and then drawing lines from the center of the sphere out and mapping the intersection of the line and the sphere to the intersection of the line and the cube. This gives you 6 equally-sized, square images. Here is our previous example in cube faces:

The standard naming of these files (from top to bottom, left to right) is up, left, front, right, back, and down, with file names--as used by ROUNDUS and many other pano applications--being _u.jpg, _l.jpg, _f.jpg, _r.jpg, _b.jpg, and _d.jpg.

The orientation of the left, front, right, and back faces are what you would expect (with up being up) but the up and down cube faces are a bit trickier. The up cube face should be oriented so that its bottom edge matches up with the top edge of the front face and the down cube face should be oriented so that its top edge matches up with the bottom edge of the front face. This is easy to see with the up face in our example, both the bottom edge of the up face and the top edge of the front face cut through Europe and can be seamlessly glued together.

Most stitching software that outputs cube faces will usually name and orient these files properly but if you are using a new program, you should check to make sure that the files are what you expect.

When cube faces are loaded into the pano viewer, the pano viewer constructs the cube which you can then rotate around you. Cube faces are the native format that our viewer supports, so even though it can handle equirectangular images, cube faces load much faster and look much smoother. So if you are capable of uploading either types of files to ROUNDUS, we recommend uploading cube faces.

Others

Our pano viewer also supports non-spherical panoramas such as full-cylindrical and partial-cylindrical panos.

Full-cylindrical images are similar to spherical equirectangular images but do not extend all the way to the zenith and nadir and thus have widths greater than twice the height. For example, here is our spherical equirectangular pano again but with the top and bottom shaded out, leaving a full-cylindrical panorama.

Full-cylindrical earth

Partial-cylindrical panoramas are like full-cylindrical panoramas but they do not wrap all the way around horizontally, it is best to manually pad these to ensure that they are handled properly by the viewer.

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