There are multiple ways to produce imagery for 360 product views:

1. Professional 360 product photography using still images.

This usually involves a specialized 360 product photography turntable with a stop-motion action, a camera, and turntable control software that runs either on desktop or some mobile device that synchronizes the turntable motion with camera trigger. This is how most of the e-commerce 360 product photography you see everywhere is produced. Note that you don't always need a turntable as other options exist (e.g., "walk-around" 360 object photography, 360-degree camera array).

2. 360 product photography using video recording.

This is where instead of capturing multiple still images one by one, we record a video of an object as it spins on a turntable or by simply walking around our subject. The latter is how auto dealerships often produce 360 product views of their cars.

3. 3D product modeling and rendering.

Here a skillful 3D designer creates a photo-realistic representation of an object in 3D design software by assembling a 3D product model from a number of polygons, meshes, textures, materials, etc. Once a 3D model is created, it's rendered as a sequence of 360-degree images by animating the rotation of a virtual camera or the object itself. Here's one such example: 360 product view in Blender. It's also one of the services we offer at WebRotate 360 and it's gaining popularity as more and more companies start their product design by first creating quality models of their products in 3D.

4. 3D object scanning or Photogrammetry.

This method usually involves some combination of the first three options. The key here is that there's a specialized equipment that can scan a product using multiple cameras and/or a laser and then a combination of "scanned" 3D data and photographic images is processed further in 3D software to produce a photo-realistic 3D model of an object. The model can be then rendered as a set of images and loaded into WebRotate 360 Product Viewer. This option is very time consuming and produces mixed results. We see this mostly used for preserving historical artifacts.

Let's talk about 360 product photography using video recording, i.e option #2.

The major benefit of 360 product videos is the speed of image production as it's much faster to record a video vs waiting for the turntable to finish its stop-motion action as discussed in #1. There are also lower hardware requirements as you don't need a specialized turntable and can get a way with a cheap motorized display stand (there's a bunch on eBay). This comes at the cost of image quality as the imagery in the video is not as sharp as with still photography in #1. Still, it's a very popular option with our users.

One of the popular questions we get here is how one can take a 360-degree video of a product and make it an interactive 360 product view they can integrate online. Even today we're gearing up to help a jewelry client who has an existing catalog of 7000 videos of their products in 360 degrees and they want to make it interactive!

The answer is that we need to extract still images from the video first. For this exercise we will use this 360-degree product video of a diamond. It's 43 seconds long and was recorded in 4K. The result of the video conversion will look like this:

Demo video to 360 product view conversion (120 images).

1 There are different software options for extracting individual image frames from videos (example for macOS). For advanced options, we recommend FFmpeg that you can download for free here for either Mac, Windows or Linux. Let's download Windows version and extract it to our desktop.

Download free FFmpeg tool for your OS.

2 We will also download VLC video player as it works everywhere too and will allow us to quickly note the timestamps in the video for the interval with a complete 360 spin.

Download free VLC player to track timestamps.

3 Let's fire up VLC with our video and note that the start of our spin is at 0 seconds and the end is somewhere at 38 seconds with a slight overlap to give us some flexibility to synchronize the sequence once it's loaded into WebRotate 360 software.

To prepare for the next step, we also need to agree on the number of images that our interactive 360 product spin will be comprised of. For jewellery, there's a tendency to go with a higher number of images per 360 view to get that smooth spin even at the expense of slower loading times and longer production times. And so for our demo diamond we chose to go with 120 images which means we need to extract about 3.16 images per second (i.e 120 / 38).

Demo 360 video makes a full loop at 38 sec.

4 Now we can run FFmpeg by pasting this command in cmd or PowerShell on Windows (or Terminal on macOS), where --ss is the extraction start time, --to is the end time where we want the extraction to stop, and fps is the number of frames per second to extract. We also tell it where the video is on our hard-drive and where we want the images to get extracted, making sure to extract in PNG format to not lose any quality. For this exercise, the individual images will be named according to this format "image-%04d.png" (i.e., image-0001.png, image-0002.png, etc).

C:\Users\Me\Desktop\ffmpeg.exe -ss 00:00:00 -to 00:00:38 -i C:\Users\Me\Desktop\ -vf "fps=3.16" C:\Users\Me\Desktop\out\image-%04d.png

5 Once images are extracted, we create a new project in WebRotate 360 SpotEditor and possibly remove a couple of odd frames at the end or beginning of the sequence that are overlapping.

Remove any overlapping 360 images.

6 After necessary edits are applied to viewer dimensions, image crop, drag speed & direction, etc, we can publish the project to test locally. As our input images were PNGs, it's important to select JPG format on the Publish form to ensure our images are compressed and lightweight.

Publish 360 product view to your hard-drive and test.

7 Once we are happy with the local preview, we can upload it online using PixRiot to give us the final URL or embed code we can share or integrate elsewhere using WebRotate 360 Product Viewer plugins or APIs (see user guide).

Upload to WebRotate's PixRiot for fast delivery.