Editing 360 Photos for Virtual Reality

posted in: "How To" Guides, Virtual Reality | 0

I day-hiked Mt. Whitney the other day. Sure, it was pretty cool. Incredible alpine landscapes, sapphire blue lakes sparkling in the sun. Twenty-two miles round-trip, 6,000 feet of elevation gain, took me 16 hours.

But really I was just there to get some 360 images to make some smashing virtual reality experiences using Captivate 2019.

I’m still pretty excited about Captivate’s new virtual reality features! So I picked up a cheap-ish 360 camera because there’s not a lot out there in the way of openly licensed 360 content, and I go some pretty cool places sometimes and it would be awesome to make my own images. Also, I swear I’m still working on a fun VR game.

But as with any new-to-me technology, there are always unanticipated hurdles to making the VR of my dreams! And, I swear, it always seems to come back to photo editing.

As an instructional designer, you’ve got to be good at a lot of things. Learning science is always chief among those things, of course, but you’ve got to be good at computers, at voice overs and audio editing, at video editing, and of course, graphic design and editing. These sometimes seem like peripheral skills that I shouldn’t have to spend too much time on, but they are actually very time-consuming. And I am most decidedly not a graphic designer. I took one semester-long course on graphic design and that is it. I got really good at using Photoshop in that one semester, but as with all things technology, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Editing 360 photos for virtual reality

So. Here we are again with a new problem. I have this fun 360 camera, I went on this awesome hike, but I don’t have a tripod (nor did I want to carry a tripod), so I stuck with attaching the camera to my phone, setting a three-second time delay for the shutter, and holding it up above my head to get the shot.

Look how awesome I look in this photo taken at the summit of Mt. Whitney, highest point in the continental United States (look down). The top of my head never looked so good:

CLEARLY seeing my hand and the top of my head in any virtual reality experiences I use these images in is not going to help foster an immersive experience for my learners. What’s an ID to do?

Enter YouTube, natch. Adobe did this fantastic to-the-point video on editing 360 images using Photoshop. The newest version of Photoshop allows you to view your 360 images as they should be – in 360! And you can edit them that way! Very cool:

So, again, I am not a graphic designer. I use Photoshop very poorly. But, following that video’s instructions, here’s what I came up with:

Not the worst thing ever! And again, the 360 camera I used was cheap, so the photo quality is very poor. But that’s great, because the blurry mess at the bottom is practically unnoticeable.

I used the image above along with an image of the inside of the Mt Whitney hut to make a test virtual reality project. Check it out:

View the VR project in fullscreen.

I originally used Panoraven to host the 360 photos, but it unexpectedly locked my content. Now I’m using Momento360. Both free.

Update 10/21/18 – Straightening 360 Photos

Playing around with my new Yi 360, I ended up with crooked 360 photos! The Yi 360 doesn’t auto-correct or manually correct off-kilter horizons! Disappointing, especially because the Insta360 Air app does allow you to correct horizons.

I could not for the life of me figure out how to do this quickly in Photoshop, so after lots of googling and YouTube watching, I finally plunked down $6 for the edit360 (formerly THETA Converter Pro) app on my Android phone. This app is intended for use with the Ricoh Theta 360 camera, but I was able to import my Yi 360 photos just fine and it allows easy fixing of my horizons!

Update 3/20/19 – Removing tripod/photographer

A colleague of mine recorded a quick video demonstrating how to remove a tripod or photographer from a 360 image using Photoshop’s content aware tool. It’s very quick and easy! Check it out.