360 Degree Video For Next-to-nothing

[Luis], a regular Hackaday reader, sent in some info about his 360 degree video experiments. He wanted a cheap device to use with a video camera, producing video that can be displayed using a free Flash software library.

The hardware consists of a mirrored light bulb, a square of glass, and some threaded rod. The camera lens attaches to the glass with the rod right in the middle. The lens will capture a donut image reflected in the mirror of the bulb. [Luis] then processes the result and uses Ryubin’s Flash Panorama to handle playback. He’s posted two clips as examples, the first of an “Existentialist Suburb Walker” and the second is some test footage while setting up for a shot. You can click-and-rotate the video while it’s playing to look around the area.

This could produce some great driving videos, without the need for multiple cameras. [Luis] does point out some problems with oscillation as the mirror on the end of a rod will amplify the effect of movement on the image.

50 thoughts on “360 Degree Video For Next-to-nothing

  1. Would be great for a collision avoidance, and blind spot awareness system. I’m all for the hacked look but I wonder how long it will take a major auto manufacturer to make it look sexy and mount it on Audi.

  2. So … where does the camera go?

    Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see where the camera would be mounted so that the rod isn’t visible.

    The videos are nice, but I don’t really understand how the hardware fits together.

  3. josh, here’s my guess…The camera goes underneath the glass, pointing up at the mirrored bulb. That’s why the base has to be glass, and why the resuting image will be donut shaped, because the rod comes right down the middle.

  4. I’ve seen similar arrangements in the robotic vision field. I think many have moved on to parabolic rather than hemisphere for better overall resolution.

    Hmmm… I wonder if you can combine this with ToF depth sensor for a nearly 360 depth field at 100fps. That would be a sight to behold.

  5. @Josh: The lens goes under the glass, pointing upwards, with the rod positioned right in the middle of the lens. This does create a ‘blind spot’, but this just becomes the bottom edge of the panoramic image when it’s ‘unwrapped’, and can be cropped out (in the same way as the outer edge of the reflector becomes the top edge).

  6. Didn’t see it say anything about this, but mouse wheel changes FOV.

    Very neat.
    Kinda wish someone could host this somewhere faster, or at least take the load off if that’s why it’s loading so slow.

  7. Nice job been waiting for this hack. Ten years ago my dads department had a videoconferencibg camera that worked like this although had a tripod. It was ingenious and supposedly (dads coworker informed) used in the military on some robots. I didn’t think it too complex to mimic but this is really nice.

  8. If you look at the raw footage it should be clear the reflectivity of the lightbulb is not sufficient. You can see shading of the mirrored surface on the lighted side meaning you’d have to have uniform or zero lighting on the bulb and probably a better material to mirror it with.

  9. Here is a better arrangement:

    Get a clear perspex (or equivalent) tube, which has a diameter slightly smaller than the bulb. The tube stands upright, with the mirror finish of the bulb glued at top end, and the camera pointing upwards. You get an unobstructed view of the panorama. This setup will allow you to experiment with other types of mirrors as well, such as hyperbolic or parabolic. Hyperbolics will give you the best results, because the curve towards the edge approaches a linear asymptote.

  10. So I was watching the first video of the dude walking by…so I looked to the left down the road…then I kept turning to see where the guy went, and then BAM! There he is right there, next to the camera…freaked me the hell out…

  11. Set it to full screen.
    Point it forward.
    Zoom in a bit.
    Watch intently.
    Pick an approaching object.
    Track it as it zooms buy.
    Keep spinning fully around until you are pointing forward again.
    There goes lunch.

  12. @Tachikoma hyperbolic mirrors aren’t cheap.

    I’ve experimented with a number of mirrors expecially christmas bulbs, but I haven’t found a usable object yet. The almost perfect half mirrored bulb is a great idea.

    I like the idea of using a clear tube to support the mirror.

    Has anyone else had any success experience with found mirrors, of cheap suppliers? The best I’ve seen so far is http://www.volksbot.de ‘s mirrors.

  13. Has anyone combined this with directional / surround sound audio? I was thinking that if you had 3 microphones you could create a cool effect where the sound would change depending on which direction you are facing in the video.

  14. I work for a video security company. We had a couple different models of video cameras like this in the R&D department. Not sure what i can say about them ;) I can say they had lenses with the hyperbolic built into them. So the lense itself would be all glass with a mirrored finish in the middle of it. One may of had a double mirror…one in front of the camera and then at the base it would then curve. And the last one i saw was only about 2″x2″x2″ cube. imagine cell phone camera with 360 video.

    I was thinking you could get a glass tube and polish the end and paint a reflective surface on it? Kind of like the previous post about a holloow tube. only use a solid piece of glass? i dont know just thinking out loud.

  15. Sony just announced a new ‘youtube footage’ style mini camera and the press release says that it comes optionally in a package with a 360 degree lens attachment, just thought people looking for an easy way might want to check it out once demo footage is available, since some of the linked mirrors here are like €200+ it seems that it might work out as a cheaper way to do 360 views.
    And if sony makes a 360 degree flashcam then they might also have software to support it, as an alternative to what’s presented here.
    Note that I hate sony so it would have to be damn good to convince me.

  16. Forgot to say, that sony thing is called ‘the bloggy’ but I can’t find a picture of that alleged 360 view thing on their site, but it’s for the one with a rotatable camerahead and presumable so that you can attach it when it’s turned upwards.

  17. Yes, an hiperbolic mirror would be better.. but not as cheap. The reflectivity is also not that great, as mirror light bulbs are actually designed to reflect light in the inside. Anyway, there are many commercial setups for about 600$


    The main issue is anyway the resolution, as I´m shooting a “donut” means and only watching half of the image (the radius) . The second test has been shot on a Red One

  18. @luis
    it’s spelled hyperbolic :)
    Just mentioning it since you might be using that word more often than most.

    Also it’s customary (and official practice) to put the dollar sign in front of the amount as in $600, although even americans themselves sometimes do it reverse by accident/laziness and it’s clear enough.

  19. This is a great idea for capturing the conversation and action around a dinner table or to record a business meeting. Quick easy on camera set up… Adapt the rig so it will hold a flip camera and you are really having some fun… maybe even concealed in decorative center piece so people do not fixate on it…

  20. Instead of using a regular tripod, use multiple, wide ‘fins’ of the thinnest material possible. The resulting thin lines can easily be removed mathematically.

  21. BTW, if you do a Google products search for ‘mirror OR gazing ball OR sphere garden’, you’ll find stainless steel mirror balls for as little as $7 for 4 inches to $40 for 12 inches. (It just occurred to me that if you placed it at the opening of an acrylic tube, you wouldn’t end up with a rod or tripod in the picture.)

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