Planning and Capture

Choosing your Subject

Standard 360 cameras capture in all directions at once, whereas PanoMoments only allow you to see ~120 horizontal degrees at a given instant. This fundamental difference allows you to more easily direct both the subjects and the viewer’s attention. With the exception of the extreme edges of the frame, everything captured by the camera during its rotation will be seen by the viewer as they pan around. One of your goals as a photographer should be to make sure there are interesting elements throughout the 360 degrees rotation, whether that’s movement, interesting visual details, etc.

Number of Frames

You can capture a PanoMoment in as few as 36 shots with a full circular fisheye lens, but if you really want the PanoMoment to feel engaging and smooth (if you're capturing with parallax - see below), you’ll likely want to capture many more frames. Note that the exact number doesn’t matter; it could be 127, 363, or 4101 frames (though the uploader is limited to 540 frames for now). We typically like to shoot between around 300 frames.

Your camera’s capture frame rate directly controls the type of motion you can capture - either smooth or stop motion. Even though most modern still cameras advertise high burst rates (ie. 10-15fps), they typically are only capable of recording 1-3fps in long (over 60 seconds) periods. Make sure to test your camera’s capabilities and to use the fastest compatible memory card to maximize your capture rate. Even with a modest capture rate of 2fps you’ll be able to capture interesting stop motion PanoMoments in a 60-180 second rotation. Note that pretty much any camera is capable of capturing long timelapse PanoMoments (> 3 minute rotations) since the effective capture rate is extremely low. Take a look through the Required Gear section for a growing list of camera models and their capabilities.

If you’d like your PanoMoment to have smoother movement (ie. people moving or water flowing) then you’ll need to use a video camera recording at least 30fps. This likely means you’ll need to capture in a compressed format like .MP4 or .MOV which will result in a lower quality capture compared to a still camera capturing in RAW or high quality JPEG. Also remember that when shooting in video modes you’ll likely have a narrower vertical field of view (16:9 vs. 3:2 or 4:3) compounded by a larger crop factor (some cameras sample from the entire sensor in video mode, and some crop from the middle) - so you might need to use a difference fisheye lens with a smaller image circle when shooting in video mode on a still camera.

Parallax

Typically when you shoot panoramic photos you want to position your camera on the ‘No Parallax Point’ (NPP). This allows the camera to be rotated about its optical center and results in seamless stitching. However, this isn’t how your eyes see things when you rotate your head. While it does allow you to pan around a panoramic photo, it ends up feeling very static as you don’t get to “see around” objects as you pan your view. Since PanoMoments don’t rely on standard photographic stitching, you are free to position your camera away from the NPP (80mm in front of NPP is about ideal). This allows you to capture realistic motion parallax in the horizontal direction and feels much more natural during panning.

If you choose to shoot with horizontal parallax you’ll need to capture more frames to create smooth transitions, even for entirely still scenes with no movement. This is due to the nature of parallax where objects at various depths in your scene will move at different speeds relative to each other. If you have too few frames you’ll see visual parallax “pop/jump” when you pan. If you are capturing with parallax, we recommend a minimum of 180 frames.

If you’d like to shoot without horizontal parallax, you’re free to lower the frames to around 36, but you may still want to capture many more if there is motion in the scene.

NPP Offset

Time period of the Rotation

There is no right answer for calculating the time period for a rotation. It’s mainly a creative choice, but light conditions and camera capabilities do play a role. If you’re shooting outside on a bright sunny day and have a camera capable of high frame rate capture (> 30fps), you can complete a continuous shooting rotation in a little as 10 seconds (any shorter and you may have issues with rolling shutter), but you should also experiment with slower captures (60-180 seconds) or even crazy long multi hour/day captures. The key point to remember is that the capture time influences the speed of motion on playback. Ie. Capturing a rotation in 120 seconds and rotating the full 360 degrees on viewing in 12 seconds would result in 10x realtime playback speed, ie. fast forward. It is important to note that if there is no motion in the scene, the time speed up/down effect will not be discernible.

Depending on light conditions, you’ll be able to shoot in two primary rotation modes using your automatic panorama rotating head: SMS (shoot, move, shoot) and Continuous (capture while rotating). The former is useful for shooting in lower light conditions where motion blur due to camera rotation is a concern, and the latter is useful for when you want a faster rotation and you have enough light to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze any blurring effect of the camera rotation.

Tip - When shooting with artificial lighting (in particular indoors), you'll most likely need to shoot with a shutter speed <= 1/100th second to eliminate any lighting flicker. This means that you won't be able to do rotations faster than around 30 seconds (see the Min Shutter Speed equation in the section below).

Also important to consider is that when shooting in burst or video mode, you don't want to be recording when the rotator is on its acceleration/deceleration phases. To compensate for this, you should rotate a little bit more than 360 degrees (380 - 400 degrees is good) and then trim the excess frames from the beginning/end of the photo set.

Exposure

While light conditions are likely different at various points around the 360 degree rotation, you most likely don’t want to shoot in any automatic exposure mode (P, A, S, or Auto) as the light levels will jump too abruptly (in ⅓ or ½ exposure stops) as you pan around the PanoMoment. We recommend shooting in full manual exposure and white balance modes. That way you don’t have any exposure jumps as you pan, and if you find that you must adjust light levels, you can do it in post processing with much more granularity than ⅓ or ½ exposure stops.

Regardless of shooting in SMS (shoot, move, shoot) or Continuous capture modes, you’ll need to pay special attention to your shutter speeds. Sometimes you may want blurring of moving subjects in your scene, but you likely don’t want the still environment to be blurred. For continuous rotations, a good rule of thumb is to keep the Min Shutter Speed = 100 * Capture RPM Ie. if you're rotating at 2 RPM (30 second rotation) you should shoot at 1/200th second shutter or faster.

If you're shooting in SMS we recommend shooting in your camera’s RAW capture mode. This provides the highest possible quality and much more freedom in post processing compared to JPEG. Burst mode still capture most likely will require you to shoot in JPEG as RAW files take up more more buffer memory per shot. If you’re shooting with a video camera you most likely won’t have a RAW option (except in high end cinema or machine vision cameras) so you’ll want to choose whatever the highest quality/resolution setting your video camera provides.

Capture

Depending on your camera/rotator setup and capture mode (SMS vs. Continuous) you may end up using your camera’s built-in intervalometer, video capture mode, continuous burst mode, or the rotator’s trigger to start the capturing process. Set up your rig at home and test out a slow rotation with your rotator’s SMS mode, then take it outdoors in bright sunlight to try a continuous capture. The most important detail of the capture is ensuring that each frame is at an equal angular distance (ie. for 360 frames each frame should be at 1 degree increments). If there is large deviation between frames then you will notice alignment errors (ie. judder / jumping) when viewing the PanoMoment.