Your 3D virtual store display
Francis D'sa | 21 July 2010
Your 3D virtual store display
Increase online sales with enhanced product listings using 360-degree angles. Here’s how you can do it yourself at home.
By Francis D'Sa
While shopping websites such as eBay.in, Indiatimes.com, and Rediff.com provide a platform to take your business online, you may want to do a little bit extra to make your product stand out from the crowd. Print ads are one-dimensional and fairly expensive, while TV ads, where you can showcase your product more effectively, are completely out of reach. But can you showcase your product in a comprehensive manner and still avoid the high costs associated with advertising?
On the internet, you can show off your product in various angles and levels of detail, but having too many images to browse through might prove tiresome for prospective buyers. Some shopping websites display their goods in the form of a video or via Flash files, where the product is seen rotating automatically (360-degrees). This is usually done with the help of animated GIF files, where a product is shot from multiple angles and then animated using a GIF animation utility. At the browser end, the viewer cannot control the speed or stop and view a particular angle for a better view. But what if you could? If using your mouse, you could rotate the product in any direction or even zoom into a particular portion to get a better look, it would add more value to your product and allow the viewer to get a better idea about the product, and therefore make an informed buying decision.
This can be done in a few simple steps. All you need is a digital camera to shoot the product from different angles, good lighting for product illumination, a tripod for a steady shot, consistent distance and angle, a photo editing software to cut out the product from the background, and a utility to stitch the multiple images into a single interactive animated video. We will show you how it is done in a few basic steps. This tutorial shows how you can get started and later on you can move into advanced modes for a professional touch.
Product shots from different angles
Step 1: For this, you will need to set up a table with an appropriate white or black background depending on the product. Set up the tripod at a distance to fill the product in the entire frame. The product to be shot needs to be kept still and well balanced because it has to be rotated. To rotate the product, you can make a rotating turntable using two wooden discs with a nail in the center. Make sure the top disc can rotate smoothly. Alternatively, you can make one using a motorized disc or your own contraption.
Step 2: Click a test shot of the product and verify that the settings are good enough with an adequate exposurelevel. Once this is done, you will need to start taking the final product shots. Accordingly, set the lighting, angles, camera exposures, etc to make sure you get the best result.
Step 3: Place the product with its front facing the camera. Click a photo. Rotate the product left or right by around 10 or 15 degrees. Then click another photo. Repeatedly take shots by rotating the product by 10 or 15 degrees.
Note: The smaller the angles, the smoother the final 3D object Flash video will be. Also keep in mind that greater resolutions and a larger number of shots will also tend to increase the size of the final 3D object flash video. You might need to experiment a few times.
Image editing and processing
Step 4: Once the shoot is done, transfer the images to your computer. These images must now be processed individually. Each image must be cut out and the required layers must be saved as new files after being color corrected. To do this, you can use Adobe Photoshop or any other image editing software that you are accustomed with. Store the final images in a separate folder. Do not discard the original images as they might come in handy later.
Creating the 360-degree product view:
Step 5: Creating the final 3D object flash video requires two applications to be downloaded and installed on the computer. Modelweaver trial can be downloaded from www.easypano.com, and Apple QuickTime can be obtained freely from www.apple.com. Modelweaver is very easy to use and it can be purchased for around Rs 7,500. The trial version can be used for testing and it will leave a watermark on the video.
Step 6: Start Modelweaver. Click on ‘File | Open images’ and point to the folder that stores the final processed images. The left window will display all the images present in the folder. Add all the images to the right window and click ‘OK’.
Step 7: A new window will pop up displaying the product, where you must define the zone of the images. Using the mouse pointer, decrease the area around the product till the window is filled with the product only and the white space (background) is eliminated. Then rotate the image using the mouse itself and ensure that no part of the product is being chopped or left out. Once you are satisfied, click ‘OK’.
Step 8: The next step is a crucial one. Here you have the option of choosing the images you want to keep and the ones you want to discard or move up or down in order before you finally make the 3D object movie. On the right window, you will find two buttons - ‘Point alignment’ and ‘Move alignment’. The ‘Point alignment’ button enables you to align each individual image to form a smooth overlap when the final image is rotating. In cases where there might be a mismatch in the alignment between two images, this can be corrected at this stage. The ‘Move alignment’ button allows you to choose the product image which can be posted as a link on your website.
Step 9: Customizing the final viewing window can be done using the ‘Customize Viewer’ button. Using the settings here, you can tweak the play, forward and zoom buttons, loading and button images, and speed of playback of the final file. Either use the default images or create and add your personalized ones.
Step 10: Once you have adjusted all these settings, it is time to create the 3D object flash video. Click on the ‘Export Object Movie’ button and you will be prompted for inputs such as file name and destination. You will also be given a choice of file formats - Flash, Java applet or QuickTime. Once done, hit the ‘Publish’ button and wait till your files are generated. Once the processing is done, the application will automatically open the folder where the files have been generated. You can finally view and upload the files to your website. The folder contains additional information of codes, HTML files and a thumbnail that can be implanted into your website for easy access.
Modelweaver is very easy-to-use tool. It also has the ability of extracting images from a video file of the product shot from 360 degrees. Apart from this, if you have a webcam, you can also take product shots using the application directly, but the image quality will not be as good.