Gary: Hey man, what's on the plate for today's column?
Randy: Well, I'd thought I'd send you to an alien landscape and make you fly around in circles.
Randy: Glad you approve.
Gary: Where is my plane ticket?
Randy: You don't need one.
Gary: Wait, is this going to be some Popeye gag? Where you eat some vegetables and give me a right hook to the moon.
Randy: If only I could. But I don't eat vegetables.
Randy: No I can do it all on my Mac with the help of QuickTime VR.
Gary: All right! I love QuickTime VR.
Randy: Me too. The trouble is finding decent tools to work with. There are a handful of freeware and shareware utilities out there for beginners to get started. They let you build simple, one-node panoramas or VR objects. But they are pretty basic, and not much good for building complex scenes.
Gary: And then there's Apple's own QuickTime VR Studio, which does give you the tools to build larger multi-node projects. But that product is way old. It hasn't seen an update in years. And even it can't handle really advanced QTVR stuff.
Randy: Yeah, I agree. Cool as it is, the old QuickTime VR Studio has gotten too long in the tooth.
Gary: So where are the kind of software solutions you are talking about?
Randy: They are all in one killer software package called, The VR Worx 2.0 from VR Toolbox, Inc.
Gary: Oh yeah. Those guys. I have heard about their other products, VR Pano Worx and VR Object Worx.
Randy: Well, The VR Worx package takes those products along with their VR Scene Worx package and ties it all together in one integrated environment. Now one package can let you author your QTVR projects from start to finish.
Gary: Kind of like how I made that refrigerator-commode. You know, an integrated environment.
Randy: Yes, well, while it's not as tragically sad as your concept, the idea is the same. With QTVR projects in the past, you had to jump from software package to software package to get all the features you wanted for your project. One utility for panoramas, another one for objects, another for adding hotspots, another for sound and yet another to actually edit your images before you even start to tie them all together.
Gary: I know. What a pain. Like when I would have to leave the kitchen and go all the way to the other end of the cave to find the bathroom. It's just too much hassle.
Randy: However difficult you may find your particular,
challenge, The VR Worx package takes the much more daunting task of authoring full multi-node QTVR projects and makes it as easy as clicking a few tabs.
Gary: And what's really cool about QTVR projects is that they can be run on any machine that has QuickTime installed. Regardless of platform. And they can run easily in a QuickTime enabled web browser too.
Randy: Right you are. For those readers who haven't played with QTVR yet, be sure to check out both Apple's QTVR website and VR Toolbox's site for cool examples of QTVR panoramas and objects.
Gary: The basic idea is that you can stitch together multiple views of a view or object and allow the viewer to navigate the view or object in real-time. It's as if they were standing in the scene in person or actually holding the object.
Randy: While this sounds like a complicated task. The VR Worx software makes it really easy. The package consists of three components. The panorama module, the object module and the scene module. The whole interface is a single window application that lets you progress through building a panorama, object or multi-node scene by clicking a series of tabs. Just follow the tabs and your done. And VR Worx lets you go back to any tab at any time in the project and make adjustments without starting the whole process over.
Gary: Awesome, but my biggest challenge with QTVR is actually acquiring the images correctly. Luckily most 3D modeling applications have presets for rendering panoramas and image series for VR objects. But when it comes to taking real world photographs you have to really know what you are doing with your camera. Things like focal length, field of view and getting the right number of images at the right angles can be very tricky.
Randy: The cool thing is that VR Worx takes a lot of the guesswork out the process by providing plenty of stationary template settings for most every popular digital and 35mm camera. They even had a preset for my old Apple QuickTake 150!
Gary: Wow. Nice to see they even thought of the "relic" cameras.
Randy: VR Worx let's you choose how many images you want to use for a panorama or an object and The VR Worx can accept input from camcorders too. And if you are a real QTVR pro, VR Worx works with Kaidan turntable rigs as well.
Walikng through the tabs. The VR Works ObjectWorx module in action.
Gary: Okay, so I can get my images into the program. VR Worx can do the complicated taks of stitching all the images into one seamless image?
Randy: With a single click.
Gary: But there's always some touchups you have to do. Do I have to take everything into Photoshop to do my cleanup?
Randy: Not necessarily. VR Worx has a decent set of image editing tools for doing down and dirty cleanup. There's a familiar set of Photoshop like tools available like a clone tool, smear tool and dodge and burn tools. But there is no way to choose the brush size for any of these tools, so for major photo mistakes you may find it easier to use a more full-featured image editing program. Still, the included tools can cover most basic corrections right inside the VR Worx program.
Gary: All right, all right so it's sounds like they have thought out The VR Worx program a lot better than I did with my refrigerator-commode. But what about the really technical stuff like adding hot spots to link to URLs or other nodes, or adding directional sound and placing VR objects inside panoramas?
A quick stitch in the VR PanoWorx module.
Randy: This is where The VR Worx really shines. There are tabs for hotspots and special effects like sound and imbedded object panoramas. Just click "Add" to load a sound file, or record it right in the program. Then just pick the direction or view you want it to come from and poof, directional stereo sound.
Gary: And the ever-illusive task of mixing VR objects with panoramas?
Randy: Just choose to place your object on a background from the Effects tab's pop-down menu and you can drop your object into a picture, a pattern or a existing panorama. VR Worx can key out the background color of your object and place it on top of any scene you can imagine.
Gary: Yes! I remember in the past you had to use complicated tools like Real VR to get that effect. And you had to know all kinds of technical stuff like scripting VRML to make it work.
Randy: VR Worx even lets you control how the background panorama reacts when you turn your object. Make it spin as you object is turned to really create an immerse scene. And it's all done with the click of a few buttons! No brains necessary.
Gary: Now that's a program for me!
Randy: I couldn't have said it better myself. And once you have created all your panoramas and objects you can bring them all together with the VR SceneWorx module. Link everything together to make a stand-alone project complete with plenty of nifty transition effects, like cross fades and zooms between nodes. But The VR Worx package has so many more features that I can mention here.
Then you can tie all your panoramas and objects together in the VR SceneWorx module.
Gary: But knowing you, you're going to try anyway.
Randy: Of course. There's support for AppleScript and Visual Basic to extend the capabilities of your projects on Mac and Windows platforms, the ability to import and export panorama images at a whopping 10,000 x 3,000 pixels, a built-in "background" editor that allows you to create floor plans or other guides for your multi-node scenes and the ability to play regular "linear" QuickTime movies in your QTVR projects too.
Gary: Okay, okay man! Rather than you, droning on about all the cool features, why don't you let the readers try it for themselves? The can download a demo of the entire VR Worx suite at VR Toolbox's site.
Randy: Hey, good idea. For an Idiot, sometimes you can be a pretty smart guy.
Gary: Whoa! You Observers remember that he said that. I'm smart! Now I know I can make my refrigerator-commode invention work.
Randy: Don't let it go to your head, Sir Thomas Crapper. Just move your "invention" out of the kitchen before you try it out. Please.
Gary: Hmm, good idea.
Randy: See you next time folks.