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Your Choice of Tripod For 360 Product Photography

by WebRotate 360 April 10, 2011 21:56

Unlike regular still photography, 360 product photography requires extra consideration when it comes to picking a tripod and a tripod head. Yes, it has to be sturdy enough to support your camera and the lens, but there's a bit more to that when you photograph products rotating in 360 degrees. Let's start with a tripod..


   

An important thing about the tripod is that you don't have to move it much in the studio. Quite opposite, it's essential for the tripod to stay fixed precisely in the same spot while you are shooting a batch of products. Precisions is a key here as even a slight touch can alter you camera alignment with the center of the turntable pretty much ruining your photography and wasting a lot of time. So if your tripod is heavy and can sit firmly on the floor - it's a good thing with 360 product photography!

Another point to consider is how easy it is to change tripod's height without tilting the camera as often you would need to adjust the height of your camera to accommodate for products of different dimensions. Camera should be carefully aligned with the turntable to ensure that both are sitting on two parallel planes such that products don't wobble up and down on final images. So tilting the camera during height adjustment will require realigning it with the table which is also a pretty time consuming operation. The problem here is that most tripods on the market have telescoping legs that have just 2 or 3 fixed positions. Only these fixed positions can be used reliably to change the height of your tripod without altering camera's tilt. Your best bet here is having more telescopic leg sections in your tripod and have a taller center column (the one that you can slide up and down without adjusting the legs).

There are couple of quirks with the tripod head also. For one thing you don't need a ball head as there are only two types of head movement when aligning camera for 360 product photography - camera panning and tilting (tilting towards a product). That's why a 2-way pan / tilt head is the best. Secondly the panning handle should be as short as possible to allow for quick access to camera controls without risking to shift the camera which is quite possible when you use those hybrid photo/video tripod heads with longer panning handles.

Happy 360 Product Photography!


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Sample 360 Product View of iPhone 4 with PaySaber Credit Card Scanner

by WebRotate 360 March 21, 2011 15:47

Here's an interesting 360 product view (click on the image below) that we just finished among other 360 product photos for USA ePay here in Los Angeles. Even though it looks pretty simple and straightforward, there were couple of issues that had to be considered:

  • The phone is very reflective on the front and the back - we don't want to show our 360 product photography studio surroundings reflected on its surfaces.
  • iPhone would look better on a black background as it has this bright chrome-like enclosure on the sides but since we had to show it with the scanner, the black background wouldn't be a good option.
  • Our client wanted to show their iPhone app running - this is not something unusual, though this post-production step takes plenty of time.
  • The view is made of two parts - the phone itself and the black credit card scanner that light up differently on different angles and so exposure and the lights had to be tested carefully to show good details without blowing off the chrome enclosure or the screen while keeping the rest of the 360 product view well lit and consistent. This is relatively simple when shooting a still composition... not so much with 360 product photography. A reflector card was used pretty much on every shot to remove glare, etc.
  • The main subject here is the scanner - so we want to shoot the scene almost from the bottom up to bring viewer's attention to the scanner rather than the phone. This is a bit tricky since the lower camera angles show the reflection of our 360 product photography turntable right on the front panel of the phone, so we had to raise the product up on a very narrow platform to cut out the table reflections.
  • The end result is slightly dimmer overall than what we would want to see on our final 360 degree product spin, but given all of the above it's a pretty solid product presentation nevertheless.

 

[June 8th, 12 - this sample has been removed as part of our new website deployment. You can find our latest samples here]

 

PS: this is not the trickiest 360 product photography we have done by any means, though it definitely required some extra care and preparation. We will be releasing our updated website pretty soon and will try to incorporate some of the most interesting samples there as well. In the meantime check out a couple of our not-so-very-recent 360 product views on our new 360 Degree Product Viewer page (still under construction).

 

 

Cool New 3D Product Exploration Tool

by WebRotate 360 March 05, 2011 19:41

Have you seen our latest interactive showcase that we produced for Triton Showers in cooperation with our partner in UK? Check it out on on Triton's home page or using the links below. This was a cool project that brought several pieces of our 360 product viewer technology together and allowed us to showcase rich-media interactivity in couple of different ways. 15 components have been produced all together, featuring the same set of 360 product photography packaged in different sizes, colors, and using some of our add-on components including gallery module, color picker, and info panels. See it in action by clicking the links below!

 

 


Roomset viewer with our color-picker module that can be activate from the main 3D showcase:

         Interactive 3D product view configurator
 


Going forward all of our custom projects will be based of our commercial 3D product viewer that you can download here and use for free. Stay tuned!


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Our New 360 Degree Poll. Please Vote!

by WebRotate 360 February 19, 2011 13:49

Finally here's our new poll. This time we want to find out what our online visitors are looking for when they arrive on our blog. We have plenty of ideas for 2011 in terms of helpful content, new products and services, and your input in this poll will be invaluable. The poll will remain active throughout the year and will be permanently fixed in the right column of this blog.

What information are you looking for?

  • 360 product photography Tips & Tricks 
  • Shopping for 360 product photography equipment
  • Researching vendors to outsource photography
  • Need details about your 360 product viewer
  • Want to learn more about WebRotate 360 
  • Just browsing!
  • Other
       

See the poll running to the right of this post. Please Vote Today!


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Production and Preparation of Images for Your 360 Product Viewer

by WebRotate 360 February 05, 2011 15:52

In our 360 product photography projects we usually produce 20-36 images per product and this is what we recommend to most of our clients. 20 images in particular offer a good balance between smoothness of the animation, download/wait times, and the amount of required photography and post-production efforts.

The next question to consider is viewer dimensions when placed on your web pages and its zoom depth. For example, if your viewer is configured to be 500 x 375px on the product pages and you want to support x 2 zoom, the images should be at least twice the size of the viewer to present in good quality when zoomed in, or about 1000 x 750px (NOTE: for sharpest product presentation we recommend producing 360 images that are just a bit larger than what they would appear when zoomed in full). This will result in JPG images being ~80-100 KB per image for an average product image with no background and with a decent JPG quality, which is a ~2 MB download for 20 images. For the average broadband cable speeds at about 3 Mbit/sec (read more), this is ~4-5 sec wait time for a complete view to load. This wait should work well for the majority of e-commerce applications. Note that WebRotate 360 viewer downloads and shows the first pre-loader image immediately so your web page visitor has something to look at while the rest of the images are downloaded and processed.

Same applies to the full-screen mode where to keep the original sharpness of the images you will need to produce images that are noticeably larger than your original viewing box on the product pages. WebRotate's 360 product viewer has two settings that control image presentation in full screen mode (maxZoomFullScreen and fullScreenStretch).

 

When saving images, always use the Save for Web option if available so you can optimize your 360 degree product photography specifically for Web presentation. Don't over-optimize as even high quality JPG compression (~80%) will result in relatively small files that should work for most 360 product presentations.

IMPORTANT: Due to the zooming algorithm used by the Flash player/browser, it's important to keep image width to height ratio same or similar to the ratio of the viewer. This will ensure that you have sharpest presentation of the images inside the viewer. For example, if your viewer is 480 x 320px, the images can have either the same size or smaller (recommended for best quality if no zoom/full-screen is required) or stretched proportionally, i.e. 576 x 384, 720 x 480, 960 x 640, etc.

You can download the FREE edition of our 360 Product Viewer here


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Our 360 Product Photography Poll

by WebRotate 360 January 24, 2011 23:07

Last year around this time we published a quick poll on our blog with a simple idea - learn more about our website visitors. There are many folks out there wishing to create 360 product views and understanding where they are coming from is our top priority - it really helps us to tailor our offering towards the actual needs and demands. The poll is still running and before we bring it down (will happen shortly), we thought it would be interesting to publish the results for our readers here..

     

    You are interested in 360-degree product views because you are...

  • Owner of an online store - 37.5%  
  • Hired Web Developer - 25%
  • Marketing agency representative - 16.67%
  • Manufacturer of your own products - 12.5% 
  • Other answer - 8.33%


This is pretty interesting and although it could be very specific to our current business, it does shed some light on who is actively involved in evaluating 360 product photography and similar rich media options. It shouldn't come as a surprise that e-commerce owners are at the top of the list - at the end they are decision makers and should care most about their online businesses. Most likely the majority of these votes though are coming from relatively small companies as larger firms tend to outsource rich media tasks to marketing agencies which are running at ~17% on our poll. Other votes included photographers and couple of folks contemplating starting their own 360 product photography businesses - we love a healthy competition.

Please vote too! - our poll is still running in the right column of this blog page just below the Twitter feed.


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Rich Media for E-commerce. Year-End Summary 2010

by WebRotate 360 January 01, 2011 15:50

Well, it has been a busy year for us here at WebRotate 360. Looking back at what was achieved in 2010 vs 2009, it's an improvement all around. I'm personally extremely happy that we finally got a grip on the image quality and post-production optimization that allowed us to compete even with high-quality still photography studios. On the other hand, we upgraded equipment and developed 360 photography setups/rigs for many complex products such as guitars, helmets, clothing, scuba diving equipment, and many others. Though maybe the most interesting development in the past year was our custom rich media development service that finally got some wings. Mostly by way of bringing on board a new partner (an old friend of ours), a seasoned software developer who was able to contribute consistently on different projects throughout the year. Our custom product presentations with the elements of 3D product rotations, animated graphics, interactive product viewing tools are now used by many respected brands in different countries. In fact in 2010 we broke the boundaries, and now have clients in UK, Australia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Canada, Germany and Netherlands, while our US customer base grew 6 fold.

The interest in this area is growing and goes inline with the projected 2010 numbers from Adobe that we originally reviewed and published here. I think Europe is still way ahead but the gap is closing. Surprisingly though we've seen our major competitors here in the US going out of business or significantly reducing their operations. One prominent example is MediaSpin 360, folks whom we admired for keeping constant pressure both technologically and in terms of their marketing efforts. 3DRev have also announced their closing and sale of assets, which was upsetting as they were here when we just started and in some way gave us the needed inspiration.

We also had problems, which mostly revolved around the issues of not having enough time for moving our online presence/marketing forward. In particular, our website is now outdated. It no longer reflects our current quality, services, capabilities, client profiles and testimonials. This is going to be fixed very soon though. Ah, this blog could have done better also - so mush helpful information was ready for publishing and it never happened. We will work on this also.

What to expect in 2011? The trend with the interactive rich media in E-commerce is pretty consistent and will not go away any time soon. We would like to push it further and expend our efforts beyond the 360 product photography and our rich media development services.. Please bear with us while we update our website and our offerings - it's exciting times.

Happy New Year!


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360 Product Photography On The Cheap

by WebRotate 360 November 24, 2010 12:16

How involved is 360 product photography? Folks often think that capturing say 20-40 images of a product rotating around its center and integrating it all into a 360 product viewer is not that big of a deal. And they would be right!

It's true, you can just put a product on a turntable, adjust camera and lights, click start, wait for the Ortery table to go a full circle, click another button or two to generate a generic viewer, and done - ready for publishing! True, we could have been doing it this way also.. Though our goal from the very beginning was to make it a perfection, make it such that each image is consistent, light is even, product branding is clear, alignment is spot on, background is pure, reflections are smooth, etc, etc, etc.
It was tough and hundreds of small iterative improvements were required before we could start feeling comfortable with our quality.

Just couple of days ago via a blog post HERE we found a company in UK that produced and published a 360 degree product view of exactly the same product as the one we have been working on here a couple of months ago (one of many in both cases). So we thought it would be interesting to compare the two in the context of this post.

Click on these images to see 360 views of the same scuba buoyancy compensator (BCD).

[June 8th, 12 - these samples have been removed as part of our new website deployment. You can find our latest samples here]     

It's understandable that folks who produced the first 360 view had limited resources/time and probably couldn't hire a professional studio given the number of SKU's they sell on their properties. Though this is a good illustration of what the difference can be when it comes to 360 product photography. We're pretty sure we spent much more efforts on our product view even with the experience we gained in the recent years.

Here's what makes our product view standout:

  • Light: we have plenty of power in our continuous lighting setups. This allows bringing nice highlights and good contrast that is essential for still photography and is not always straightforward to achieve for video or rotational photography. Often to maintain consistent lighting across multiple 360 degree product photos of a single product (especially if it's reflective or has too much contrast going on, i.e black and white parts) we re-position the lights on every single shot.
  • Positioning: putting the compensator on a turntable to let it sit there "as is" was something we did consider but this was rejected as it would be impossible to keep the shape of the product intact. Also the rotation would almost certainly be off balance. A special rig was built to allow hanging the product from above. On top of that, we spent enough time making the product look good: cleaning, attaching straps, belts, hoses, etc with double-sided tape, wires, fishing lines.
  • Background: we always remove background from our images (and everything else that is not beneficial for a product view). Hand-drawn clipping path on a couple of dozen 360 degree product photos per product is not the most exciting part of our work, but we always do this.
  • Post-production: in addition to background removal, there's color balancing, exposure, levels, contrast, etc, etc.
  • Viewer: that's where time is less of an issue as we have our own viewer technology and software tools that makes it fun actually. Indeed, it gets pretty exciting around here every time a new 360 degree product view is released - so much efforts transform into a nice looking presentation that excites not just us but our clients and their website visitors as well!

PS: Our current website samples and 360 product view tour have not been updated for a while now and the quality of these samples is not 100% representative of our latest offerings.       

Our Magento Extension and 360 Product Viewer is Live on JonWye.com

by WebRotate 360 November 15, 2010 09:18

Very pleased to announce that our customized 360 product viewer and Magento Extension is now live on a new and very trendy e-commerce clothing store at JonWye.com. All the development and integration went without major hiccups, and except for a couple of bugs in our supplementary editing software that we had to fix per feedback from Jon Wye's team, everything else was a good example of a teamwork.



New features and functionality that were introduced in this Magento extension will be soon incorporated and uploaded to our Magento Connect profile so the broader community can benefit from this work. In particular, the previous version of the extension was relying on Magento's product image title tags for enabling/disabling 360 viewers. This was not a practical solution as folks would still want to use these tags for SEO and better navigation. With this new addition, the image titles are not used as we have a much cleaner way managing which products have 360 product views enabled via Magento's custom product attributes. More details will follow..


[June 8th, 12 - these samples have been removed as part of our new website deployment. You can find our latest samples here] 

Building a DIY Multirow/Spherical 360 Product Photography Rig

by WebRotate 360 October 30, 2010 19:52

Just read a photo forum post the other day about building a DIY 360 product photography equipment for spherical (or multi-row) photography. Spherical photography is interesting in that it allows you to rotate products in 360 degrees not just horizontally but vertically as well, giving you an impression that you rotate a product in any direction. To implement this kind of virtual 3D rotation, in addition to rotating your 360 photography turntable you would also need to move you camera in a circular motion vertically.

Two companies that manufacture commercial grade machines for this type of product photography are Fotorobot in Europe and Ortery here in California, and as with any specialty market these tools are quite expensive (although Ortery has an edge on price vs functionality).

So one idea that immediately came up after reading the DIY forum question was to use our Mathew's C-stands with their steel arms and a couple of flexible grips that come with them. One steel arm would go between the C-stands and the other one, the boom arm, would be attached at the end of the first arm using adjustable grip at the end of that arm as shown on the images below. This grip can turn 360 degrees, essentially allowing you to position the second/boom arm above the turntable. Next step is to attach a camera onto the end of the boom arm and it's all set!


DIY 3D product photography rig for vertical rotational photography

Then we would shoot one row at one angle, then turn the first arm (the one sitting between the C-sands) to another degree and shoot another row of 360 degree product photos. Should be neat! 

At this point this is just an idea and a quick one - though we will try it sometime soon and publish a report. Also, here's our recent post on building a DIY 360 product photography turntable that can be easily used for this setup.



 

 


BTW: we have few of these C-stands and the amount of flexibility is amazing...

UPDATE: Before we had a chance to experiment with this setup, Richard who brought up the question on fredmiranda.com had already tried it and with some promising results! Check out how he did it with images of his rig in the original forum post here.


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About this Blog

WebRotate 360 are specialists in interactive e-commerce solutions, web and software development for Internet retailers, product manufacturers, and marketing agencies.

We're a team of great individuals who bring our commitment, passion and skills to help you showcase your products online.


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