Making a 360° Animation

Way back in college when Apple was pushing Quicktime VR, I use to take sequences around small and large objects (like buildings). The resulting images could be rotated by grabbing the image and moving left or right, but essentially these were movie files with one photo per frame and that had different controls (on the screen rather than on a horizontal scrollbar). Quicktime knew to give you the different controls when it saw a few flags in the file.

You can sometimes get a similar effect by grabbing the horizontal scrollbar and moving it (it depends on the video viewer). If the video sequence is done counterclockwise, you would see it seem to rotate the direction you scroll. (Unfortunately, with this free version of WordPress, I can’t add video to give you examples to play with.)

But another way to display the image is to create a GIF animation.

Fuji X100T Metro Grip 360

The trick is to have consistent changes in the photo. I do this with tick marks in the Lazy Susan at 15° increments (you can see the silver tape sometimes in the background) — that way I have the 90° and 45° photos and a transition photo in between. Keep in mind that having more photos creates a smoother animation, but also creates a bigger file.

In this example, I placed the camera on a Lazy Susan, gave it a seamless background using poster board and used flashes to get the look that I wanted.

(Yes, this was done on a foosball table in our basement.)

The flashes are set forward and aimed forward to reduce the shadows on the front of the object. An alternative to this is to bounce light into the object, but I was trying to get this done quickly.

I don’t have any particular technique on aiming the camera. I just rotate the object and see if tweaks need to be made.

Don’t forget to lock your exposure and white balance so the photos look the same. (I forgot to lock the white balance. Oops!)

If your object has doors or parts that move like a pop-up flash, one of your frames could be those features. Don’t forget to get one before and after with the parts closed (it can be the same photo) to make the animation make sense.

Once you have the photos, scroll through them and it should look like the animation you want. Reduce their size to keep the GIF from being too large especially if you are posting on the web or have a lot of frames. 640×480 is a good place to start. You can use websites like ezgif.com/maker or gifcreator.me to create GIFs like these. I used AnimateGIF on my Windows computer and set it to 500ms between frames (that’s 1/2 a sec).

That’s the basics. The rest is trial-and-error. Good luck!

🙂


I could also have:

  • hid the Lazy Susan with a large enough round piece of paper (this would have also fixed the warm reflection)
  • controlled the reflections by covering the surrounding area with black fabric (and hid myself better by stepping back)
  • given the camera a more even (hovering) lighting using a light tent (big enough to encase the Lazy Susan.
  • put the entire object in focus using a smaller aperture
  • and corrected the white balance error

These (and many other tweaks) are the things that I would do if I was doing this for a living, but this would also add 10x to 100x the effort. That’s the 20/80 rule in practice and is up to you to decide what is needed.

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