Robot programmer, VFX TD, and friend, Jon Tojek handled the reality capture for our VR experience. Here's a roundup of his best practices for shooting great environments.
OUTDOOR VS. INDOOR ENVIRONMENTS
Outdoor environments are great but in addition to your scan, be sure to capture an HDR panoramic of the remaining environment, like sky, sun, clouds, avoiding direct sunlight and strong shadows as you'll want a full environment for VR. Cloudy overcast weather will yield even ambient light. It’s always ideal to have three walls – think a defined space between buildings. Tracking markers are your friend so for interiors, grungy areas with natural decay and lots of detail will give you excellent results. Large unmarked surfaces, repeating patterns, clean, reflective spaces, and moving objects will process poorly due to highlights.
KEEP IT CONTROLLED
For best results, go for a small, controlled environment like a studio or an office. Something big, like an abandoned hotel, will definitely prove more challenging, leaving more room for people and other unexpected, outside forces to interfere with your shoot.
Use a quality DSLR camera with a decent fixed prime lens. Research your lens to find its sharpest aperture at your chosen widest fixed focal length. Blurriness is bad, so for stability, use a tripod with remote control so that you never touch or shake the camera. If you must shoot handheld, use the 2-second timer so you can take a breath, and brace your stance.
GET READY, AND SET
Ideally, you’re using a fixed 24mm lens with fixed focus. Utilize a constant, lowest possible ISO for little noise, and constant, sharpest aperture on your lens. 1/10 or 1/12 is in the normal range. Your camera settings are critical and can make or break your shoot so prepare ahead of time and consider running through a written or mental checklist before starting.
You can shoot in portrait or landscape position, or both together. Settings should be set to Manual, though you’ll manually adjust shutter speed to maintain consistent lighting. Shoot in RAW for larger color range and shoot at the highest resolution your camera can manage.
Be sure to shoot the widest field of view possible so you can capture as much of your space as possible.
LOCK YOUR EXPOSURE
Your exposure will very likely change while you’re shooting but keep it incremental. Remember, you’re looking for as much consistency in your photos as possible.
MORE IS BETTER
Look to shoot around 500 shots. 200 would be your bare minimum but more will minimize bubbling and bad data in your scan. And keep in mind, every detail in your environment needs to be in multiple photos, so maximize your coverage and overlap.
TIPS FOR MOVING
Move side to side and shoot your subject straight on. Your motion should be consistent. Be perpendicular to your wall and move your camera about 1-inch for every shot. Shoot about three meters from your subject – any more than that is likely won't give you the detail you want. And note: simply turning the camera won't cut it. Pick up the tripod and move it the 1-inch.