QTVR Panoramas and Objects


Around 1994, Apple Computer (now Apple, Inc) introduced QuickTime VR, or QTVR in short, as an extension to QuickTime. This technology allows to view 360° panoramas and three-dimensional objects in real-time. One of the early QTVR movies was created from images taken by the Mars Pathfinder from the surface of the planet Mars.
QTVR allows two distinct types of movies, panoramas and object movies. From a camera standpoint, they are exactly the inverse: with panoramas, the camera is at the center of the scene and can only rotate around that center; with objects the object is at the center of the scene and the camera can rotate around it (or the object can rotate in place). Both types of movies could be combined in a single file through clickable links in the scene. Most panoramas and objects are created from real images, but they can also be computer-generated. Because panoramas and objects only contain images, they don't need to be rendered anymore, which allows viewing of complex scenes at high speeds. You can read some background information about how QTVR works in another page of my site.

To view panoramas and objects, you need the QuickTime plugin. If you don't have it, go to the QuickTime Home page and download it, or use a compatible plugin or external viewer. To move around in the panoramas or rotate the objects, simply drag the mouse in the movie window.
If you don't have a plug-in that handles QTVR but you do have an external player, you can download the movies (use ‘Save as…’ on the download links). Don't try to feed the URLs directly to a media player, it will get a 404 (forbidden) error. You must really download the file and open it.


Shortly after I had discovered QTVR in 1998, I made various panoramas. These ranged from real-world scenes, computer games and synthetic graphics. I started with 3D games, as it was fairly easy to take screenshots in exactly the right positions. I created my first panorama by transforming the screenshots in Photoshop with some guesswork, but after making the calculations explained in the technical page, I wrote software to perform the correct transformation. There is a page in the Marathon section which explains how I created the panoramas from Marathon scenes, most of this information can also be applied to other games.

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This was my first attempt at a panorama, but the version you see here is re-made with my new method. It is, as well as the next one, created with 8 screenshots and is a part of a self-made Marathon Infinity map. (For VidBoys: find the BOBs!)
(Download — size: 252KiB. Date: December 1997.)
This is a view of another Marathon Infinity map, called “Root Square”. The special thing about it is that the shadows are calculated to be accurate (within the limits of the Marathon engine). This is version 1 of the map, the new version “Root Square II” is much improved.
(Download — size: 285KiB. Date: February 1998.)
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Yep, another Marathon panorama... this time from a network map which simulates the sciences university campus of the K.U. Leuven around the year 2000. Click here for more info.
(Download — size: 190KiB. Date: October 1998.)
Every game-freak will recognize this… The most interesting things about this pano from Duke Nukem 3D, are that it features vertical perspective correction which is not available in the real game, and that it probably has the largest “vertical pan” you'll ever see in a cylindrical QTVR pano.
(Download — size: 432KiB. Date: December 1998.)
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Yet another Marathon map. This one features a huge amount of staircases and low ceilings to bump your head against. The map is called ‘WITE’, which stands for “Where Is The Elevator”.
(Download — size: 130KiB. Date: February 1999.)
This pano was calculated and rendered by a self-made program. I have to admit, only the lines were rendered. I filled in the black squares in a drawing program. If your computer is fast enough and you rotate it (the pano, not the computer :) at a specific speed, you'll get a sort of hypnotizing effect.
(Download — size: 37KiB. Date: March 1998.)
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This panorama (the first one I made with real photographs) was created from 16 photos, taken with a Kodak DC40 digital camera. It shows auditorium C200N 00.04 in the Celestijnenlaan campus in Leuven, Belgium. If it makes you puke, just think of the fact that I survived 9 months of courses here.
(Download — size: 271KiB. Date: November 1999.)
This is the Arenberg castle, only a few yards away from the ugly auditorium in the previous panorama. This one was created from 12 photos taken with a Nikon F50 camera and a weird construction consisting of an antique tripod, a wooden plank with a degree scale on it and a cardboard system to keep the camera vertical. As you can see, it worked.
(Download — size: 248KiB. Date: July 1998.)

Object Movies

These movies were created by rendering objects in several different poses, in the long gone CorelDream 3D and the even longer gone AmapiWeb. As there was no way to automate the process (or I was unaware of it), I had to manually rotate and render each pose. Where did I find all that time and patience back then?

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The infamous Turbo SkullCrusher from the even more infamous “Weird stuff” section of this site.
(Download — size: 72KiB. Date: September 1998.)
This is a rarity: a full 360×360 movie. I had to render 256 images for this. To keep the file size small, the image also had to be pretty small. But it is a nice showcase of what QTVR can do.
(Download — size: 302KiB. Date: September 1998.)