Getting Started: Creating Panoramic 360 Images with your Smartphone

Getting Started: Creating Panoramic 360 Images with your Smartphone

So you have the latest (v2.16)  PDF3D ReportGen, at least as a trial copy, and you want to get started to create documents with 360 panoramas in them – just how easy is it? Well, PDF3D’s ReportGen is a very powerful tool with lots of options and controls on the PDF output so let’s keep it very simple to get started and then work from there.

For this blog post I’m working with PDF3D’s ReportGen (v2.16) a standard, mid-range, an Android phone (nothing special), a Windows 10 PC (again nothing special) and an internet connection.

First we need to have something to display – an example 360 panorama. If you want to be inspired by what is possible with 360 panoramic photography take a look at the impressive content on the 360cities website – https://www.360cities.net/

Capturing a 360 Panoramic Image with a Smartphone

There are some great software (and hardware) tools out there for generating 360 panoramas, some free, some not. However, this blog post is about getting started quickly and easily so we’ll stick to freely available software.

The 360 image shown in this example was taken on a standard Samsung Galaxy A5 (2018) smartphone using the free version of the “Panorama 360” app from TeliportMe Inc (so not using their paid for HD upgrade or any of the “Pro” tools).

Log into the Google Play app store, search for “panorama 360”.

You’ll see a (very) long list of apps – I’m using the “Panorama 360” app from TeliportMe Inc. in this example.

Install the “Panorama 360” app.

Find a suitable location to take your first 360 panorama. Start the app, and follow the instructions (remember to rotate the camera clockwise…).  The image used in this example (taken at Golden Cap on the south coast of England) is only the second one I ever tried.

When you’ve finished creating the panorama share the 2D photo (not the video) just created so you can access the file from the computer with ReportGen installed.

I now have the 2D image as a JPG format file (2.58MB) on my PC.

Preparing the 360 Image for PDF3D ReportGen

The width:height ratio needed for using panoramic images in ReportGen is 2:1 – my image taken straight from my phone is 6226×1007, so roughly 6:1. We need to alter this ratio – since we don’t want to throw away part of our panorama we’ll overlay our 6:1 panoramic image onto a blank canvas that has the ideal 2:1 ratio and then work with that new composite image.

If I wanted to automate this part of the process in future, if for example I was processing many images in a standard way and always wanted to add a copyright statement, I’d probably use something like ImageMagick (see https://www.imagemagick.org ) a powerful multiplatform (free, open source) image  manipulation package that is easily scripted from the command-line or programmed with a wide range of languages such as Python, Ruby, C++, etc. So assuming you’ve installed ImageMagick the following commands shown in the grey box below will add:

  1. a logo image (here we use the pdf3d_logo.png file) to the bottom left of our original JPEG image;
  2. add some text beside this logo (in this case a PDF3D copyright statement);
  3. convert the image to the correct aspect ratio and fill any extra space with a sky blue background colour (we could just as easily make it white or any one of a range of different colours).

The commands shown here are for ImageMagick on Windows – the syntax on the Linux, Mac/iOS versions will be similar.

magick composite -gravity SouthWest pdf3d_logo.png in360.jpg f1.jpg

magick f1.jpg -gravity SouthWest -pointsize 32 -annotate +240+5 "© PDF3D Ltd, 2018." f2.jpg

magick f2.jpg -resize %wx%h -background SkyBlue -gravity center -extent %wx%[fx:w/2] out360.jpg

Only the final step (3) is strictly necessary to create a 360 panoramic PDF using ReportGen but since ImageMagick is a very powerful tool and anyone may need to overlay/annotate  onto their images I’ve given these couple of very simple examples of adding a logo image and also some text. You could of course add these onto the background rather than onto the area of the panorama itself. You can find all the details of the commands used and many examples on the very comprehensive ImageMagick website.

We now have our ideal 2:1 width height ratio for our 360 panoramic image. We can now load that into ReportGen and create our interactive 360 panoramic PDF file.

Alternatively there’s a great multiplatform image manipulation tool (free and open source) called “GNU Image Manipulation Program” or “Gimp” (you can download it from here: https://www.gimp.org/) so that you can use that to read the panoramic image and to drop that onto a blank canvas created with the correct width to height ratio – I could also use Gimp to add some annotation e.g. a copyright statement below the image if I want to. To demonstrate I added a title (above the image) and a copyright statement (on the image) to my example. I didn’t add more complex text/content now as I can use a template later on in the process to do that if I need to. If you already have a suitable alternative image processing tool you can use it to achieve the same results.

Using PDF3D ReportGen

To keep things simple to start with we’re going to use one of the existing example “state” files shipped with PDF3D ReportGen. ReportGen’s “state” files allow a user to set up the various parameters and options within ReportGen and save them for future use rather than having to start from scratch each time.

Start PDF3D ReportGen.

Click on the Import State button and search for ..\PDF3DReportGen\Samples\states and select the “Panoramic_Profile.pdf3dsettings” file. Notice information appears in the “Input Files” panel when the state file is loaded.

In the “Output Settings” panel choose an output file name.

Select the “Geospatial” tab and in the “Geospatial Image” panel select the name of the panoramic image file just created.

Then hit the Convert button at the top left, the image file will be processed and the resulting PDF opened in Adobe Reader in all its 360 degree panoramic glory. I’ve zoomed out a little to show the background colour we added – the added logo and text are also visible.

You can find and download the PDF generated in this example from our latest examples page.

This is a simple example, using the pre-prepared state file and simply adding our own panoramic image. We can make a much more complex (and compelling) PDF document by using a template with additional text and images and inserting our panoramic image into it. You can see this and an explanation of how it was done in our Sheldonian Theatre example .

And yes, I’ve spoken to the technical team, they’re already looking at incorporating automatic image resizing into a new version of PDF3D ReportGen so whatever the aspect ratio of your initial panoramic JPEG file ReportGen will handle it all.