Environment Map Capture

Hack a 360 degree camera

In Rendering spherical (360°), high dynamic range (HDR) images are used as backgrounds and for lighting 3D objects with a realistic light source. For most cases, outdoor captures are used to mimic a realistic sky and sun illumination.

Traditionally, a capture setup for these images consists of a heavy tripod with a panoramic head that can rotate a high-end DSLR around its central point. This gear allows for capturing several pictures in different directions with several exposures that are all taken from one single point. Later in post-processing step, these get stitched to a single panoramic and HDR image. We possess such a setup and use it frequently to capture images of clouds.

Unfortunately all this gear is very heavy and bulky to carry around. We are looking for a more portable solution, that can be setup quickly and delivers not as precise, but reasonable images. For this we bought a state-of-the-art, 360°, pocket camera that is easy to setup and can be controled wirelessly. The factory app does not allow for an easy capture of HDR images though, which is why we started looking for a custom software solution. Initial tests on reverse-engineering the communication protocol showed it is possible to communicate with the camera using a few tricks.

We would like to develop a platform-independent (mobile/web) app that can talk to the camera and capture time lapses as well as exposure-varying sequences. This would allow for the camera to be taken on daily trips and capture environment images wherever you are in the background. This data is supporting machine-learning efforts in our other sky related projects.
This project is intended as an individual software project (NPRG045).