The World’s First 3D Virtual Tour – 6 Years on

Six years ago, I created the world’s first 3D virtual tour, which allowed people to take a step back in time and browse the historic Hurd Library. A comprehensive account of how I did this can be found on the Behance Network.

As at the time, there were was no other viable method; the tour is rendered as an anaglyph. Because of the colour loss, this method causes I shot the tour using the high dynamic range, so each node is made up of low, regular and high exposure.

The process involved taking three images on each channel (left and right) and repeating this process from 20 sequential angles, meaning each stereo panorama in the tour is the culmination of 120 raw images.

To tackle the issue of parallax discrepancy, I invented the MK.9, a simple aluminium based tripod-mounted slider that allowed me consistently accurate left and right channel images.

The 3D virtual tour can be found below. Please note that this tour is over six years old, so it uses Adobe Flash and, therefore, will not work on iPhones or iPads and may not display correctly on devices with small screens.

Link removed as Flash is no longer a thing.

If you are using an iPhone or iPad, you can still the 3D Virtual Tour on youtube (you’ll need red/cyan 3D glasses)

The project was well received and was featured on countless blogs and news sites, but three years on, it would be an understatement to say that in the wake of my virtual tour, the bar has been raised.

In the three years since the project launched, I’ve been bombarded with questions about the methods I used and suggestions for possible improvements. I absolutely loved receiving links to other people’s 3D virtual tours and was intrigued by some of the methods used and amazed by some of the results.

The Evolution of 3D Virtual Tours

I’m going to highlight two virtual tours that absolutely blew me away:

The first was created by Dorin Godja runs the site where he showcases his 360° interactive panoramas, which are usually captured at live events.

What makes Dorin’s work so impressive is the speed at which he can capture and process his panoramas (a matter of minutes) which is especially remarkable when he shoots them in stereoscopic 3D.

When I was first sent a link to Dorin’s images, I was sure they had to be post-processed, but I was wrong!

“I used for these two combos Canon 350D+Sigma 8mm fish-eye lens. As I have only one combo, the second one had to be borrowed when I want to produce a 3D event. The success of the 3D live Panos seems to be quite important, and that makes me think about upgrading to 2 twin combos (crop cameras) instead to a full-frame camera, on a full-frame camera the black area up/down can be fixed as the Sigma 8mm produces a circle 180° on a sensor.”

I would go as far as to say that Dorin is the most prolific and proficient stereo tour maker in the world!
You can sample his wares by clicking the image below…

Though Dorin’s method is exceptional, the guys over at definitely win on the subject matter. AirPano is a group of 8 Moscow photographers who capture some of the world’s most beautiful vistas, usually from a helicopter and turn them into stunning interactive panoramas.

Their regular 2D work is breathtaking, and they’ve also had a crack at a 3D stereoscopic panorama which you can see below.

“A new spherical stereo panorama, photographed from the rooftop of the 301-meters high “Moscow City” tower – the tallest building in Europe.”

This image was post-produced in stereo, which is probably the best way to make these sort of images as you can completely avoid parallax discrepancy.

Hopefully, you enjoyed these 3D virtual tours as much as I did! In the not so distant future, I’m looking forward to the kind of immersion devices like the Oculus Rift will be able to add to this sort of experience.

Will Carey

About the Author

Will Carey is the founder of The Big Dot Company and Creative Chair. He started experimenting with digital design in the 90’s, turning it into a business after obtaining a degree in graphic design in 2012.