"Spherecam" is the name of an omni-directional image shooting system developed by Dan Slater in 1992.The basic idea of the system is to put together two fisheye-mounted cameras back to back, so that a full 360x180-degree ultra-wide still image covering all possible viewing directions can be simultaneously captured at a single instance. For details, visit his page titled "A full sphere camera for point of view and VR photography" at the following URL: http://www.nearfield.com/~dan/photo/wide/sphere/sphere2/index.htm
This time, we would like to report the results of our experiment where we leverage the idea of the Spherecam as a mean to shoot full sphere panoramic motion pictures by using non-professional commercial cameras (Xacti DCS-J4 by Sanyo) and full circular fisheye lenses (FCON-02 by Olympus), with minimum additional fabrication.
"Xacti DSC-J4" is a compact digital still camera released by Sanyo in 2004, equipped with a movie feature capable of shooting a 640x480 pixels motion picture and saving it as a file in QuickTime format. "FCON-02" is a full-circular fisheye lens released in 1999 by Olympus as part of their product package consisting of the lens, a DSC camera celled "CAMEDIA C-920ZOOM, as well as a piece of stitching and publishing software named "iPIX Wizard2.2 for CAMEDIA".
What we have done first is to re-fabricate two J4 cameras to become attachable with the FCON-02 by utilizing a step-up adapter ring commercially available, and then created a camera mount to place the two cameras being apposed back-to-back manner, as shown in the picture on the right. Notable uniqueness to this camera system is that it can be used in two operation modes; "Panorama Shooting Setup" and "Stereo Shooting Setup". When used as a system to shoot 180-degree panoramic stereo movies, the two cameras can be realigned to aim at the same direction while they are normally placed to aim at the opposite directions so that each camera can capture opposite hemisphere of the full space.
In this system, shooting a movie represents a series of manual operations including; to press the start/stop buttons of the two independent cameras at the same time to begin the shooting, to capture a moving object that can be used as an identifier to synchronize the two video footages in the post-process stage, to shoot designated objects or surroundings to from a meaningful content and finally to press the start/stop buttons at the same time to terminate the video capturing stage.
Then, the two output footages are copied to an editing machine to run through a post-process operation. The process is comprised of several stages such as synchronizing the frames of the two footages by using the pre-captured identifier object, cropping two circular areas to form an equi-rectangular image after an appropriate coordinate transformation, adjusting the brightness and gamma values etc. to make the output image as seamless as possible. Actually, the post-process is carried out by using our proprietary software developed for this project.
The experimental results obtained through this movie capturing system, which we believe is the world's most affordable video solution capable of shooting and virtually recreating all possible viewing directions of the environment, can be seen in the following sample videos.
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