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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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Magento Extension for Our 360 Product Viewers is Live on Magento Connect

by WebRotate 360 September 19, 2010 20:58

Our official extension for Magento e-commerce just got approved and is now featured on Magento Connect. This is great news as it makes it so simple to integrate our 360 product viewers with Magento powered ecommerce stores. Although the integration code has been available for a while now (read our press release) it was still quite painful to install without the ease of Magento Connect. Now getting and enabling the extension practically excludes any manual, error-prone mangling with the xml files and php code. And best of all, we made the configuration of the product viewer a breeze with a simple Settings tab that lets you configure your 360 product spins in couple of simple steps while having the flexibility to enable it on per product basis.

Checkout these screenshots with our sample 360 product viewer and the configuration options running on our test Magento store or visit our extension page on Magento Connect that has installation and usage details.

Click HERE to visit our Magento Extension page. 

 

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

 

Current version of the extension is 2.11 and it's free!

We are looking forward to further growth of Magento platform and will continue providing our clients with the same peace of mind and without the technical limitations.


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360 Product Photography Equipment - Do it Yourself Guide to Building a Turntable

by WebRotate 360 August 28, 2010 16:57

360 degree product photography is a so delicate and involved topic because products come in so many shapes and sizes. Some may be very reflective, some may have dimensions that will prevent you from simply dropping them on a turntable, and some may have features that can be only highlighted when shot from a specific angle while hanging from the top and with a certain lighting setup.

The more constraints you have in your 360 product photography setup the less options you get at your disposal for creating smooth 360 product views. It's also very important to be able to quickly assess how your product appear from different angles with a given setup before you start on the actual production of 360 product images.

So before you go ahead and spend your hard earned money on a computerized equipment (which is invaluable if you do this commercially), here's a simple guide for building a DIY turntable that will likely solve some of your 360 degree product photography needs. The good news? It will only cost you a trip to a hardware store (Ace Hardware or similar), $40 and an hour of your time to get it all assembled together!

What you need:

  • 2 x 23" disks of round plywood - $28
  • 1 x 12" Lazy Susan Bearing - $6
  • 1 sheet of white paper enough to cover the top of plywood disks

360 product photography equipment

So our 360 photography turntable will be built using two disks of round plywood and a lazy susan bearing attached between the disks to provide a smooth and steady movement. The bearing is tough enough to deal with weights of up to 400-500 lbs or even 1000 lbs depending on a brand, so the weak link is the plywood. If you go with Shepherd's bearing (featured in the picture), they come with pretty good assembly instructions. The key is to find and mark the center on the plywood disks. This is pretty simple as long as the disks are perfect circles:

First, you will need to find something that has a 90 degree corner like a piece of a white paper sheet. Place the right-angle corner of the sheet at any point on the edge of the plywood disk and mark the other two points where it crosses the edges on the plywood. Then draw a straight line between the two marks and connect the marks with a straight line. Now repeat the same procedure using another point on the plywood. The intersection between the two lines is the center of the disk.


The rest of the assembly is pretty straightforward - just follow instructions on the bearing package!

Now that the major work is done, you need to decide how many frames your 360 product views will be comprised of. We usually recommend going with 20 to 40 or so 360 degree product photos as this gives a nice balance between the total size of the images / download speed and the smoothness of your 360 product spins. To get 20 product shots, our turntable should be able to rotate in 18 degree increments. The key is to mark the top plywood disk in such way that you can easily identify the increments. Our approach is to put numbered marks on the side of the disk as shown in the picture. Since you already have found the center on the top disk, creating the 18-degree marks is pretty simple with a protractor.


The final step is to attach a piece of white paper on the top of the plywood disk where you will be placing your products and put a measuring mark on the bottom plywood base. Now put your camera on, align it with the measuring mark on the bottom and the center of the rotation, then place your product on the table and you are good to go.

If you plan to work on 360 views often and rather prefer to use a specialized 360 photography machine with robotic control, check out our new 360 photography equipment store where we offer a variety of sturdy turntables built to simplify the process and save time. Also download our free 360 product viewer to package your images in a few simple steps and publish it on your website with hot-spots, zoom, full-screen, and more! Download HERE.

Happy 360 Product Photography!

 

UPDATE (May 17th, 2011) - we have a new article (a guest post by TINYenormous) on how to extend this design even further and build a fully automated rig! You can read it HERE.

UPDATE (October 25th, 2012) - find more helpful tips in Part I of Mastering 360 Product Photography on PhotoGear360.com.


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PayPal to our clients: the credit card you entered cannot be used for this payment..

by WebRotate 360 June 03, 2010 14:05

 We love PayPal. It gives us great flexibility, low transaction fees, truly global coverage, and many other great goodies. Though we have been struggling with the service in the last few months. Some of our customers have experienced odd issues when submitting credit card payments for our 360 product views without signing into PayPal. Regardless of the type of credit card they used, PayPal would always come back with an error, saying "The credit card you entered cannot be used for this payment. Please enter a different credit card number". This is pretty embarrassing when you can not accept a payment from your client, especially after the frustration of going back and forth on e-mail/phone trying to resolve the issue together. The problem here is that PayPal wouldn't really specify why this can happen...

It appears that this is a pretty well known PayPal glitch. Based on the article here, there are several possible causes:

  • Credit card is linked or associated with an existing PayPal account
  • Credit card was previously used with a PayPal account or assigned to a closed PayPal account
  • PayPal has a limit on non-member credit card usage
  • Credit card or email address raised a red flag during transaction
  • Leftover PayPal browser cookie on user machine

Unfortunately we couldn't really find a reliable solution and that prompted us to sign-up with a dedicated credit card processing service (2Checkout), which is now offered on our customer invoices in addition to PayPal. Yes, it has higher transaction fees, though the piece of mind it gives to our clients will definitely worth it.


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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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