Photography - Object Movies

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Principles

Whereas a panorama can be described as having the camera rotating in place, surrounded by the subject, an Object Movie can be described as the opposite: a subject rotating in place, with the camera looking in towards it. The concept is simple enough, even if the execution is tedious, but the results can be spectacular. The object you want to record is placed on a turntable and the lighting is adjusted to create a pleasing appearance. Your camera is placed on a tripod and focused on the subject. You rotate the turntable a little bit, then take a picture. Repeat this process until you have pictures of the object all the way around. How far do you turn the subject between shots? Most often, 10 degree increments are used, giving you a total of 36 pictures. The more images you use, the smoother the finished object movie will appear. This is often used on the web to show off something that someone is selling, such as cars or power tools.

WW II Canon in Memorial Park

TIP: Drag in a circle around the object

If the object is too big to put on a turntable, the alternative is to leave the object in place and walk around it while you take pictures. That is what I did for the vintage armament in the Park you see here. There are only 34 pictures instead of the 36 I planned on because I misjudged the circumference of the circle I was walking, but it doesn't seem to matter much, does it? When you are creating object movies of large objects, be careful to center the camera on one consistent point at the center of the object, keeping the camera a constant distance from that point. This will cut down on any shaking the object will do as it rotates on your screen. If you take your pictures carefully, the results will look impressive.

Viewers

When viewed, the object movie looks like a picture of the object sitting on the computer screen. If you move your mouse over the image, you should be able to turn the object left and right as you wish. Some viewers do this by requiring you to drag the mouse in a circle around the object, and others allow you to drag the mouse left and right. Some even allow keyboard commands, and zooming.

Software

As with the panoramas, you need a special type of software to present an object movie to your audiance. Often, this will require your audiance to download a viewer plug-in onto their local computer in order to see your result properly. It is considered good manners to provide a link on your page that will take your site's visitors to another site where the appropriate browser plug-in can be downloaded for free. (Note: The object movie on this site uses a Java viewing engine. That means that if your browser has Java enabled, you can see the object movie with no plug-ins required.)

An object movie is best thought of as an active medium. Because an object movie is only viewable and meaningful on the computer screen where you can interact with it, printing it on paper makes little sense. It is a bit like trying to print a video clip on paper. You could only print a single frame, or at best, several frames. It is the user-interaction that makes the object movie a special thing.

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GoRound object movie software by Duckware

Updated:
August 16, 2005