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CALTIM Designs
163 Valleyview Road
Mooresville, NC  28117
704-500-1834
Email the Webmaster

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TECHNICAL NOTES

How iPIX Images are Produced

CALTIM Designs uses the high-end 3.34 MegaPixel Nikon CoolPix 990 digital camera with a Nikon fisheye lens attachment to capture the raw images onsite. Each iPIX image is composed of two raw images that are "seamed" together using iPIX software (see example on "What is iPIX?" page). To produce the standard, high resolution iPIX images, CALTIM Designs uses Internet Picture Corporation's professional Builder 4.0 software. (Many other iPIX photographers build inferior images with the iPIX "Wizard" software -- just make sure you know what you are paying for.) To produce the Real Estate Virtual Tours (REVT), a specialized iPIX product for the Real Estate industry, we use the Real Estate Wizard 2.0 (the only software available for REVTs). The Builder software allows us to first build "proof" iPIX images to send clients for review. Each proof image is covered with white vertical lines to identify it as a proof. (Proof images are not available for standard REVTs.)

After reviewing proof images, the client chooses the images they want to use, and CALTIM Designs finalizes the images by using digital keys from iPIX. Every time an iPIX image is created, one digital key must be used. Each digital key can only be used once and CALTIM Designs must pay Internet Pictures Corp. for every key. Key prices vary. They are most expensive for standard iPIX images produced using the Builder 4.0 software and least expensive for the Real Estate Virtual Tour images. The prices are set by Internet Pictures Corporation which maintains a monopoly on the technology and digital keys. All iPIX photographers unfortunately must pass on this cost to their clients.

After the standard iPIX images are "keyed" they are digitally edited to remove minor flaws and enhance them to the greatest extent possible (within reason, of course) using Adobe Photoshop 5.5. Editing the images is very taxing on a system and therefore CALTIM Designs uses a 700 MHz Pentium III machine with 256MB RAM running Windows 98. Why do we mention this? Because we can do more editing on the images in a given amount of time, making CALTIM Designs iPIX images that much better.

Limitations & Constraints

The Seam

After the raw images are shot onsite they are uploaded into the computer and "seamed together" using iPIX software. Each raw, hemispherical image covers a 185-degree field of view. There is therefore 5-degree overlap between the two images -- think of placing two bowls together with their openings touching to form a sphere. (The area all around the bowls where they meet is the seam.) The seam goes all the way around the image and is precisely aligned by the software.

The lighting in each hemisphere greatly affects the visibility of the seam. The seam is almost always visible - the extent of which is determined by the lighting conditions at the time the raw images are shot AND the precise placement of the camera by the photographer.

There are two important considerations to make about camera placement: the position of the dominant light source and subject matter. Both are crucial to the visibility of the seam. The seam is most visible when shooting outdoors with a sunny clear blue sky or indoors with a plain, solid color ceiling. CALTIM Designs edits standard iPIX images to "blend away" the seam to the greatest extent possible (within reason), but it will almost always be visible, however subtle.


Action Shots and Other Movement

Two raw images are needed for each finalized iPIX image. Therefore if someone or some thing is in the first raw image and they then move to the other side of the camera before the photographer repositions the camera to shoot the second raw image, they will be in the finalized iPIX image twice! Similarly, if an element of the image is split by the seam (e.g., half of a car or person is in the first raw image), and they move when the photographer repositions the camera, only part of that car or person will appear in the finalized iPIX image. CALTIM Designs can, in some cases, add the missing half, but in most cases we will digitally remove them completely (again, only standard iPIX images are editable after creation; the REVT images cannot be edited in this manner).

About the formats - Plug-In and Java Versions

For standard iPIX Virtual Tours (as opposed to Real Estate Virtual Tours), CALTIM Designs creates iPIX images in three formats: a high resolution version (around 650k) suitable for distribution on CD-ROM or a corporate Intranet; a plug-in version (150-200k) for use on Web sites with the free iPIX plug-in for either Netscape or Internet Explorer/AOL; and a Java-compatible version (70-90k) for use with the iPIX Java Applet (software). iPIX images use a JPeG compression algorithm to achieve their small file size. Hence when you zoom in to the maximum extent possible on an iPIX image, you will see the typical JPeG "shower door" effect.

The current Java Applet version number is 2.4, but many other iPIX photographers do not keep up with changes in the technology and continue to provide their clients with outdated Java applets. It is easy to tell what version is in use -- when the Java iPIX image loads you see a start up screen that gives the version number. The current version's start-up screen has a white background with a black, blue and yellow iPIX logo, and it has a loading progress display. The older versions have a black background with white text.

The online Real Estate Virtual Tours (REVTs) utilize Java-compatible iPIX images run by the Java applet. No plug-ins are required. The Real Estate Wizard 2.0 software from Internet Pictures Corporation also produces a "self-contained" REVT -- a single, self-executing file (.exe file extension) that incorporates the iPIX Viewer software and the iPIX images. The file is small enough to fit on a single floppy disk or be attached to an e-mail. REVTs are composed of four or more iPIX images, additional images can be added for a nominal fee - call CALTIM Designs for the latest pricing information.

Note:  All iPIX images can be viewed offline with the free iPIX Viewer software.

The Tripod Cap - or Lack Thereof

Since the camera with its fisheye lens attachment captures raw images with a 185-degree field of view, the tripod supporting the camera is visible when the iPIX image is initially built on the computer.

There are two options for dealing with the tripod. The first is to place a circular, customized graphic over this part of the iPIX image - this is referred to as the "tripod cap." The second is to digitally "erase" the tripod altogether. In actually, this process involves covering the tripod with flooring/ground captured from other parts of the iPIX image and pasting it over the tripod. This is truly digital art and CALTIM Designs strives to be the leader in this technique. Examples in the iPIX Gallery include both images with customized tripod caps and images where the tripod has been digitally erased. 

Editing Capabilities

Several examples of CALTIM Designs iPIX digital editing expertise are provided via the links below. In each case, the finalized, edited image is provided first with a link to the unedited version. The first two examples illustrate a common problem (and solution) in iPIX photography -- lighting conditions that differ dramatically from indoors to outdoors.

When shooting indoor iPIX images, views out a door or window will be completely "washed out" by sunlight or "blacked out" when shooting indoors at night). This happens because the photographer must use the correct exposure for the lighting inside and therefore must ignore the lighting outside. CALTIM Designs shoots the raw images anticipating this problem and potential solutions to implement later when the images are imported into Adobe Photoshop.


ONLINE GALLERY
Below are links to five before and after examples. These images are available in the iPIX Plug-In version only. If you have yet to install the iPIX Plug-In you can get it FREE online, right now.   Enjoy!

 

 
 

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CALTIM DESIGNS
163 VALLEYVIEW ROAD
RACE CITY USA, NC 28117-4105
TEL: 704-500-1834 FAX: 704-660-3932
Email: Webmaster

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