How to create an immersive virtual tour with your smartphone

Creating an immersive virtual tour is not time consuming or hard. In fact, with the right hardware it’s actually quick and easy. Investing some time up front to learn will be required, but once you know what you’re doing, the return on investment will definitely be worth the effort.

In this blog, I’ll walk you through the entire process – from taking 360 panoramas, to creating an immersive tour on NockNock. So let’s begin, I’ll try not to go into too much details so you can get up and running quick. But if you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Here’s the example tour we’ll create: Saybrooke Apartments

 

360 panoramas with a smartphone

A lot of people might not know this, but since the release of Android 4.1, Google added a feature to the default camera application called Photo Sphere. Photo Sphere is also available for iOS in a stand alone app called Street View in App Store. If you’re not using vanilla Android you can also download Street View from Android Play store.

This apps allowed you to take full 360 panorama pictures with just your smartphone. It’s not hard to learn, just follow the on screen instructions.

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Street View app with Photosphere

Google Camera App

Default camera app on Nexus 5X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll quickly realize however, these photospheres taken by hand often results in sub optimal pictures and generally not very representative of what you’re trying to capture.

Photo Sphere

Picture tears and misalignment

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More tears and misalignment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tears and misalignment you see is called parallax errors. These errors are caused by the phone (more precisely, the lens of the camera) not being held in the same position as it was being rotated around. Parallax errors are exacerbated when the objects in the surrounding are near. If you’re capturing outdoors these issues are not as apparent.

So how do you fix this error?

The easy answer is – keep the lens perfectly steady and in one position while you rotate. This will take practice and some people can do it pretty well, but for me it is almost IMPOSSIBLE… You can go ahead and practice it yourself, but I think you end up with the same conclusion as I did. So instead, here’s my solution: use a 360 degree phone mount.

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Phone mount front

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Phone mount back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This phone mount is unique in that there are three joints. They’re used to adjust the phone so that it’s camera lens will always be at the center of rotation (pan or tilt). You’ll need to make sure that the mount/tripod is on a flat surface so that as you pan the phone all shots are leveled. Usually, your tripod should have a bubble level, but I recommend to take this one step further. Do a bubble level measurement from the perspective of the phone itself, you can use an app called Bubble Level for Android or Bubble Level for iOS.

After you’ve installed the app, keep the phone in the upright position as show below. Then make a full 360 rotation. While the phone is being rotated make sure the bubble leveler stays within the bounds. This solves our parallax errors for the most part. It will still require some practice to get things right, but it’s A LOT easier than trying to keep the camera still by hand. Go ahead and take a few full 360 panoramas. After you’re done you’ll need to transfer them to your PC for uploading to NockNock.

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Phone mount on tripod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upload and create tour in NockNock

For this second part, instead of explaining things, I created a video which will help you understand the process better. The video is a short 6 minutes long so please take some time to watch it. You’ll be on your way to creating immersive virtual tours in no time!

 

 

 

broody

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