National Geographic Channels is currently airing a show called Hard Time, a look at Georgia’s paramilitary correctional system. From NGC: “Hard Time takes viewers on a yearlong journey behind
bars, following the lives of those who work and serve time in two of
Georgia’s toughest maximum-security prisons.”
Before the first airing, I was hired to shoot a few 360-degree panoramic photographs of the interior of a prison: the cells, the yard, the common areas, etc. I spent the day with Executive Producer Greg Henry of Part2Pictures at Hays State Prison, near Rome, Georgia.
Click here to see the resulting virtual tour of a prison cell and the yard.
Technically, shooting a 360-degree panoramic for this type of virtual tour is straightforward. Almost any camera and lens combination will work, but the wider the field of view of each shot, the fewer shots you will need to cover the entire 360-degree field of view. The critical part, if you want to do it well, is using a tripod that will allow you to rotate your camera about the lens rather than the camera base. This eliminates parallax errors when you are stitching the images together (Tricky to do handheld – try it.) Ideally you will use a tripod that can do this rotation horizontally (hula hooping) as well as vertically (jumping rope). Then you can get the sky and the ground while the camera is still attached to the tripod. Crank those images through some special software and voila: QTVR, or in this case, a Flash VR.
I couldnt get my hands on a true 360 “spherical” pano head in time for this shoot, only one that gave me proper offset horizontal “cylindrical” swivel. No problem: With a full frame camera and 8mm fisheye lens, you can get nearly full 360-degree coverage in 3 shots. Yes, I know, for you pano experts out there, there were some nadir and zenith issues. Don’t sweat me. We nailed it.
I took the photos on a Nikon D3 with a Sigma 8mm lens, and a Manfrotto 303PLUS tripod head. The folks at Channels did the stitching. Temporary accomodations provided by the State of Georgia.