The beginning of 360˚ interactive product photography: Part 2

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Blog | No Comments

When we began the startup company, we realized that the turntable was a fantastic tool for the online market.

But, there was one thing that bothered us. The turntable had a limitation; we could not photograph a live model on a turntable. Maybe I should rephrase that, we can photograph live models on a turntable, but the interactive photo images weren’t as seamless as the product images. There were several major online companies attempted to use live models on a turntable, but you could see that the results weren’t successful. You can detect the slight movements of a model during the exposure on majority of images. This is more apparent once the photographs are stitched together and rotated.

The only way to capture multiple images at once of a live model was to use an array of cameras on a ring. This was a big financial commitment because we would have to buy minimum of eight DSLR cameras and as many as ninety-six DSLR cameras and hire a software developer to write the software to operate the system. Also, we needed a large space to accommodate the ring system; we named it Multi-Camera System.

The next thing we needed to figure out was how to trigger all connected cameras at once. We made a triggering device and daisy chained to all available DSLR cameras using ethernet cables and to a master trigger controller to connected to a computer. We  out sourced the software that will communicate and activate the shutter of all connected DSLR cameras. The first version had a simple user interface with information window to display connected DSLR cameras and with basic settings such as aperture, shutter speed, IOS, and white balance.

Setting up an array of DSLR cameras on a ring was given. However, the diameter of the ring was determined by the size of a space and focal length of a camera lens. Since we were using 18mm-55mm zoom lens that came with the DSLR body; we were  flexible with the size of the ring. I believe we went with a 320 inch diameter ring.

The next issue we had to deal with was how to position the cameras on the ring. Because it’s impossible to replicate the X, Y, and Z position of all cameras on the ring, the easiest solution was to manipulate the pixels.  We came up with an idea of using two round objects as a target to capture the initial images to calculate the X, Y, and Z values of each image and apply the calculated values to subsequent images. It wasn’t the most elegant workflow, but it worked well.

We also had to deal with some minor bugs in the software and a major hardware issue. For example, we were using the software to trigger the cameras, and it caused several seconds of shutter lag. To remedy it, we hardwired the electronic shutter release to the master controller, and it made a huge difference. Now, the shutter delay was more like several tenth of second. Finally, we made a wireless triggering device and that finally solved the shutter lag. It took us another 2 to 3 months to make the Multi-Camera System marketable.

To be continued. . .

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