how do we make our virtual tours?

canon 5d mark II with a 15mm fisheye

Building a virtual tour can be divided up into four parts:

  1. The Photography
  2. The Stitching & Cubing
  3. Tripod Removal & Clean-up
  4. The Interface Design

STEP 1: Photography

We use high-resolution digital photography to capture the panoramic scenes in our tours. Typically, we’ll scout our location and work with our clients to determine the best locations for the camera, best time of day for each shot, whether we need people (or in some cases – animals) in the shot, and what parts of the shot need cleaning up.

Since we are shooting completely spherical shots, we often need to remind clients that EVERYTHING will be in the shot, so you’ve got to move that trash can, or tell the person behind the camera not to move.

We use a fish-eye lens, and shoot 4 to 6 shots around and one shot straight up. The shots end up looking like this.

circlescapes virtual tours


Step 2: Stitching & Cubing

Once we take the photography, it’s time to get in front of the computer and “stitch” the images together.  In a nutshell, this means we use special software to find identical locations that appear in multiple photographs.  Once we connect all these “control points” together,  the software can begin to re-shape all the images into one flat image, like this:

circlescapes virtual tours


Now it’s time to convert the stitched image into six cube-faces. We turn to a new software program to do this. The cubed images look like this.

circlescapes virtual tours

STEP 3: Tripod Removal & Cleanup

After cubing the images, we have to do some clean-up work. The first task is to remove the tripod from the down image. Complex floor patterns and shadows make clean-up take longer. Here is a before/after look at the down image.

circlescapes virtual tours

After we remove the tripod, we look through all the other cubes and make sure they look the best they can look. We fix cracks, re-paint surfaces, and remove dirt in order to make the spinning panorama look awesome.

STEP 4: The Interface Design

Now that we have all the cubes perfect, we start to build the interface. We create a custom navigation system for each client, incorporating their branding guidelines. At this stage, insert all the marketing goodies that make a Circlescapes virtual tour so special. Those include:

  • video clips and talking-head videos
  • background music
  • voice-overs
  • clickable hotspots
  • animation
  • special effects
  • photo slideshows
  • descriptive text

The pictures above were used to create one of the spins in a virtual tour we did for the Maternity Wing of the Baptist Medical Center in Northeast Florida. It is the courtyard in the South location.

Click the image below to see the entire hospital virtual tour:

baptist hospital virtual tour by circlescapes