QuickTime Virtual Reality for Educators and Just Plain Folks *

Table of Contents

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Last Update: February 4, 2002

About QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR)

QuickTime is a cross-platform "operating system for media." It supports many formats of graphics, digital movies and sounds, as well as "new media" such as QTVR. See Apple's QuickTime page (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/) for the latest and most authoritative information on this technology.

QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) is a photography-based VR, an "immersive" technology that is becoming more and more accessible to schools with the introduction of easy-to-use software. There are three types of QTVR media, Panorama movies, Object movies, and Scenes. Several software packages currently exist for the creation of QTVR on both Windows and Macintosh computers. Currently, more options exist for Macintosh computers. QTVR movies, however, play equally well on Power Macs and Windows 95/98/NT computers.

QTVR Panorama (Pano) movies are created by taking several overlapping still pictures from a tripod with a panning head. Special software is used to "stitch" the pictures together, fusing them into one seamless 360 degree picture. The "stitched" picture is then converted into a QuickTime VR Panorama. You interact with the panorama by placing the cursor within the pano, holding the mouse button down, and moving the cursor in the direction you wish to "look." You can also zoom in and out of the pano movie to examine different parts of the scene. Until QuickTime 5.0, all QTVR panoramas were based on a cylinder that was formed by connecting the two ends of the of the stitched picture. This limited to the vertical pan on the panorama to about 100°.

A Stitched Panorama

A QTVR Pano Movie (RossHall.mov 100K)

The New QTVR Cubic Panorama is based on a cube and instead of a cylinder. The main distinction for this second type of panorama is the ability to look straight up and straight down (180° of vertical pan).

A Cubic Panorama (My Back Yard 680 K)

QTVR Object movies are created by placing an object on a turntable and taking a number of still pictures of the object as it is turned around on a turntable. The pictures are then used to make a linear movie and finally, a QTVR Object movie. When you put the mouse cursor over the movie, it is in the shape of an open hand. When you hold down the mouse button, the hand closes and you can turn the object in the direction you move the mouse, as if you had it in your hand and were examining it. You can zoom in on the object to look at it more closely, as well.

A QTVR Object Movie (QuilBask.mov 159K)

A QTVR Scene is a QTVR movie comprised of several QTVR Pano and/or Object movies, all tied together with hidden regions called "hot spots." QTVR Scenes can be very powerful, enabling you to navigate from panorama to panorama and virtually pick up objects inside the space. A QTVR Scene acts one stand alone movie, even though it contains several QTVR movies--it is "self-contained."

A QTVR Scene (EMallScene.mov 453K)

It is also possible to add hot spots to single QTVR panos and object movies. The hot spots can be associated with URLs when added to a web page. QTVR scenes can be simulated (that is, they are not self-contained) on a web page by using URL hot spots to launch pages with other QTVR movies.


Hardware and Software for QTVR

Technical requirements for producing QTVR Media

Digital Images: Pictures for QTVR production may come from digital cameras, scanned pictures, video cameras, or Kodak PhotoCD (camera film processed on CD-ROM discs).

Computer: A Power Macintosh with at least 40 MB of RAM (recommended), or a fast Windows computer running Windows 95/98/2000/NT/XP.

Software: Several choices exist currently. Most QTVR creation software is fairly easy to use.


QTVR Software

QuickTime VR Authoring Studio: Apple's QTVR software. This is the first fully GUI software for QTVR creation, and even though it has not been updated since it first shipped in 1998, it still has the most of features for QTVR media. Available for Macintosh only. See the Apple QTVR page(http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtvr/ ).

VR Toolbox's VR Worx: The 2.0 version of this software is available supports both Macintosh and Windows, and currently the only QTVR software that enables the creation of hot spots and scenes on the Windows platform. The recently released Version 2.1 supports Mac OS X. See the VR Toolbox web page (http://www.vrtoolbox.com).

Photovista : Actually two QTVR authoring programs, Photovista and Photovista 3D objects are also easy to use. Creates files that are QTVR-like, but are acutally a competing technology, but also outputs QTVR files. The Macintosh version is not currently available for the latest versions of these applications, but will be avalialble soon. See the MGI web page (http://www.mgisoft.com/products/webtools/macromedia/index.html) for more info.

Stitcher: Stitcher is a program that seamlessly blends photographs for various purposes. It is capable of outputting QTVR panoramas. It is now one of the two tools-of-choice for creating the new cubic QTVR that QuickTime 5.0 can display. It is available on both Macintosh and Windows. See the Realviz web site (http://www.realviz.com).

Helmut Dersch's Panorama Tools: Herr Dersch's FREE plug-in tools enable you to stitch panoramas and sphereical media which can then be displayed as QTVR (the spherical media is used to create QTVR cubic panoramas). He also offers Java players that are capable of displaying the media without QuickTime on web pages that are viewable on Macintosh, Windows, Linux and Unix. He offers the plug-in in several "flavors" that work with Photoshop, GraphicConverter, and Gimp. Gimp is a Linux application, making this the only tool for QTVR creation on the Linux platform. These tools are not as easy to use as the commercial programs. See the Panotools web page (http://www.fh-furtwangen.de/~dersch).



Other Equipment

Kaidan makes tripod pan heads especially designed for shooting QTVR panoramas, as well as object rigs for shooting QTVR objects. I have been recommending the Kaidan Kiwi+ for shooting QTVR panos. (For more info, see http://www.kaidan.com/)

Peace River Studios also makes tripod pan heads for shooting QTVR panos and object rigs. (For more info see http://www.peaceriverstudios.com/)


Technical Requirements for Playing QuickTime VR Media

QuickTime 3.0 -- 5.0 Apple's "operating system for media." Versions for both Macintosh and Windows are available for free from Apple at http://www.apple.com/quicktime/. As QuickTime gets updated, so do the capablilites of QTVR. In it's latest incarnation (5.0) QTVR added the new cubic VR capability.

A Macintosh computer or Windows 95/98/2000/NT/XP computer. Works well on all Macintosh Power Macs, G3, and G4 computers.

QuickTime Player for playback of QTVR media. It is bundled with the QuickTime 4.0 and 5.0 package.

Web browser with QuickTime 3.0 or 4.0 plug-in or Active X controller installed. Recent versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape will play QTVR media in Web pages. If the QuickTime installer does not do it for you, you may have to manually install the browser plug-in that comes with the QuickTime 3.0--5.0. The most recent Windows versions of Internet Explorer (5.5, 6.0) require Apple's Active X controller to display QTVR web content. Downloading and installing QuickTime will install the required plug-in or controller in your currently installed web browsers.

HyperStudio 3.2 - 4.0, one of the most popular educational software titles. HyperStudio 3.1 supported QTVR 1.0 movies; HyperStudio 3.2 extends the support to QTVR 2.0 movies, as well as the newer 4.0 version. For more info, go to http://www.hyperstudio.com/ This web site has free updaters for HyperStudio 3.0 or newer.
Note: Other multimedia development tools, notably Macromedia Director, will also enable you to include QTVR media, but these tools are generally too high-end for K-12 education. Hyperstudio is used by grade school students all over the country.


Software for Manipulating and Enhancing QTVR Media

The QuickTime Tools site: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/developers/tools.html This is where you can download FREE software that extends the capabilities of QuickTime and QTVR, including QTVR Thumbnail, QTVR Flattener, QTVR Converter, Plug-in Helper, QTVR Edit Object and QTVR Make Panorama 2.

VRTools: Aussie John Summer's suite of excellent tools for correcting, enhancing and tweeking QTVR movies includes conVRter and deliVRator. These are availble through the Kaidan web site (http://www.kaidan.com/vrtools/index.html).

Squamish Media Group: http://www.smgvr.com. These folks create software tools for enhancing your QTVR media. SoundsaVR enables you to add directional sound to a panorama. MapsaVR lets you add navigational maps to your panoramas with rotating arrows indicating which direction you are looking.

Helmut Dersch's Panorama Tools: http://www.fh-furtwangen.de/~dersch Herr Dersch's FREE plug-in tools enable you to correct the optics of a given photograph in numerous ways. It has been especially handy for QTVR creators who need to correct for barrel distortion or fisheye lens distortion. The software also makes it possible to do panoramic stitiching. Plug-ins work with Photoshop, GraphicConverter, and Gimp (a Linux app).

Other Sources of Information on QTVR

Web Sites and a Book

The Apple QuickTime site: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/ The jumping off place for a great deal of authoritative information about QuickTime and QTVR. The main link to the QuickTime 3.0 downloads.

The Apple QTVR site: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtvr/ Apple's QTVR page. Has links to pages with QTVR media all over the world, plus links to QTVR tutorials. Where you can purchase Apple's QTVR Authoring Studio.

The Apple QTVR Mail List: http://www.lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/quicktime-vr. This is where you register for Apple's QTVR public list. This is an ongoing discussion about QTVR by hundreds of QTVR artists all over the world. Apple's QTVR developers also participate.

The QuickTime Web Documentation: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/authoring/embed.html Documentation for the EMBED tag for displaying and utilizing QTVR on the Web. Includes info on how to use hotspots to launch WWW pages.

More QuickTime tutorials: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/products/tutorials/ A link page to numerous tutorials and documents about how to do cool things with Quicktime and QTVR.

Ken Turkowski's Web Page: http://www.worldserver.com/turk. Ken is one of the original QTVR programmers. His web site has some wonderful QTVR examples and links. It also offers some QTVR calculators that help you determine the QTVR lens parameters for a given camera and decide how many pictures to shoot with a given lens.

Outside the Lines: http://www.OutsideTheLines.com/ More valuable information on QTVR media creation and doing QTVR on a budget. Includes instructions on how to make your own QTVR tripod pan head from inexpensive materials.

QuickTime for the Web 2nd Edition, by Steve Gulie and Apple Computer. One of the few books to address the issues of QTVR on the web part the full spectrum of capabilities of QuickTime. Consider it a must-have. It includes QuickTime Pro, a $30 value in itself that helps to justify the price of the book. Available on-line at Amazon.com.