The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

Quicktime Virtual Reality Panoramas
Tony Makepeace
Program date: May 20, 2009

Tony Makepeace
Tony Makepeace

Mount for Quicktime VR images
Hand made mount

mount details
Mount detail

Ninja Mount
Ninja Kit

Nunja Mount
Ninja mount setup

trim pano
Trim merged pano

PTmac screen
PTmac screen

Tony Makepeace is a Toronto based photographer, writer, and teacher with numerous solo and group exhibitions. His work is displayed in a number of private and corporate collections. Tony has contributed portfolios and essays to magazines like View Camera, PhotoLife, PhotoEd, and LensWork. He holds a B.A.A. degree in Photographic Arts from Ryerson University and has recently completed a Master’s degree in Education at Central Michigan University.

Tony saw promise in Quick Time Virtual Reality in the 1990s when it was a complex command line program offered by Apple. A friendlier version came out a few years later but Apple lost interest and when they moved to their modern OS X operating system in 2000, QTVR was left behind. The concept was then embraced by Ipix who developed proprietary software. At this stage, QTVR movie makers needed to license very expensive software and buy pricey special equipment. As a result, the product failed and QTVR would have disappeared into the history of novel technologies except for Helmut Dercsh.

Dercsh developed the algorithms for stitching images in 360 degrees horizontally and vertically to make huge panoramas and used these algorithms to make his very popular Pano Tools program. He generously made the code open source which led to others creating inexpensive programs for Windows and the Mac. These programs created QTVR movies which were viewed using the readily available Quicktime, Java, and Flash browser plugins. Today, QTVR has a much larger following in Europe than America. Tony teaches QTVR technique and makes QTVR movies as a hobby.

After a look at the new “Content-Aware Scale” tool in Photoshop CS4, Tony took us through the brief history of QTVR, the basics of the technology, the hardware and software tools, and a live demonstration of how to make a QTVR movie. The first trick is to take a half dozen or so overlapping images around a full circle. The camera must rotate around the lens's "nodal point" and be dead level for the most realistic result. Tony used a camera support constructed from aluminum bar material (see photos). He mounted a small bubble level on the apparatus and added index marks to the scale on his tripod head to simplify setting each image. For the less handy types, universal camera supports like the Ninja Kit are available. Once the images are ready, they are processed with software that stitches them together while adjusting for lens distortions. The resulting panorama image is then wrapped "around a cube" in a second program and converted to a Quicktime VR movie for viewing with the various image readers.

Now on to the demonstration: Tony placed his tripod, with a Nikon DSLR and wide angle lens mounted on his special bracket and rotating head, in the centre of the audience. He checked that the head was level, then took the series of images in sequence around a full 360 degrees of the room. The seven shots he took had a generous overlap of about 25% to aid in stitching. He then took a single shot straight up, skipping the optional straight down shot. He noted that an image editing program like Photoshop can “fill in the hole” with a blank circle or a special effect like a mirror ball.

He imported the raw format images into Adobe Bridge to make exposure adjustments and correct any colour cast. If further corrections are needed the images can passed from Bridge over to Photoshop. The adjusted images were saved out of Bridge in jpeg format ready to be imported into the stitching program. Tony used PTGui to accurately stitch the images together. This program and PTMac allow both automatic and manual placement of stitching points to correct for any lens distortion.

Once the images were stitched together as a linear panorama, Tony imported the panorama file into another program called CubicConverter. This program (and Pano2VR) “wraps” the linear panorama around a cube and adds the top and bottom images. We are all familiar with the “linear” panorama image, now picture that panorama made to record 360 degrees and wrapped around a cube with the image facing into the cube. Add a top and bottom image and a way to view the result from inside the cube - that’s Quicktime Virtual Reality. You can move any direction including zooming in and out.

PTGui can also stitch layers of rows of images a la Gigapan, to make large high resolution linear panorama scenes viewable on screen or in print.

Visit Tony’s Quicktime VR site ( and his Panoramaist site to see examples of the astounding capabilities of QTVR movies.

Click on any of the icons below to visit the associated software site. All the program sites have online tutorials. The fifth icon at the far right links to the International VR Photography Association (IVRPA) web site. The IVRPA site has a wealth of information on VR and the tools to create VR movies.

PTgui program
PTmac program
Cubic Converter
Cubic Converter

This page was designed in Dreamweaver CS4 on an iMac running OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Unless otherwise noted, images on this page were taken with a Sony F828 digital still camera and subsequently adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V2.2 and Photoshop CS4. Presentation images are ©2009 by SPEAKER and may not be used with out his permission. Contents and all other images are ©2009 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Copies of photographs displayed during this presentation may not be used without the copyright holder's permission. Contact PHSC at if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

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