Joining the DORMtours Photographer Team is a great way to get fun assignments time and again!
DORMtours.net is conceived as a targeted web portal catering to prospective and accepted college freshmen to provide information about freshmen residence life. Much of the content is reproduced in an e-card format and sent by the colleges to all accepted freshmen inside their traditional acceptance materials. Included is the 360-degree panoramic interactive virtual DORMtour. A tour of each freshmen dorm is integrated into an information montage for each school. A DORMtour consists of three scenes (front of dorm, lobby or lounge area, dorm room). Typically a college presents one to five dorms. Any variation from this formula must be approved in writing, in advance by DORMTours. The tours and school information are stored in a secure web-connected database. In order to achieve consistency in presentation to the students, DORMtours Photography Team members follow certain filming, stitching and embedding parameters.
Acquiring and processing DORMtours:
Your job will be to acquire the photographs, stitch them together into a panoramic strip, appropriately crop, compress, and embed via java applet within the web page. The process of Analysis, Acquisition, Stitching, Cropping & Compressing and Embedding is as follows:
(A) ANALYSIS (average time required 1 minute per scene):
As with any photographic assignment, you will need to analyze each dorm and scene layout, determining which will present the college in the best possible light while offering the most interesting and informative image assortment for incoming freshmen. Most often, the college will have some input in this regard. Small rooms are most difficult and require wide angle lens. Use your own common sense in terms of how orderly the room will appear. As always, lighting is an issue. Please be sure that no people, personal matter or controversial items will appear in the images. If the schools are unhappy with the final result, you will need to remedy the concern.
(B) ACQUISITION (average time required 5 minutes per scene):
CAMERA: You will need to acquire panoramic images, typically multiple shots around a nodal point, of each scene. We have found that a medium to high quality digital camera provides important benefits with regard to consistent picture geometry, as well as speed and convenience. Remember that the final image size will be far less than the minimum setting on most digital cameras. A 640 x 480 setting for panoramic source images is more than enough.
TRIPOD: Your camera lens must be centered at the center of the pivot point of your tripod. Your tripod must be level on the ground or floor. You should use a bubble level or some other device to assure this. Your camera must be mounted level on your tripod and not deviate from the level as you rotate the camera to acquire the base images. We suggest that you make sure your tripod or rig holding your camera on the tripod has degree markers. Depending on the focal length of your lens and whether you are acquiring in portrait or landscape mode, between 8 and 18 images will be required to acquire a smooth stitch able set. Each stitching software has a recommended number of photographs to take linked to a “lens type” A tripod mount marked with the radii consistent with that image number, along with a bubble level will make for consistent panoramic image acquisition. You may wish to create a fixed circular template that marks the stops for image capture. A notch or arrow on the rotating portion will give you the same parameters every time.
LIGHTING: lighting is crucial when acquiring panoramic images since they are going to be blended with adjacent images to form a composite strip. Be cognizant of back lighting coming from windows as it will appear much brighter than interior lighting and will "burn out" the adjacent elements in the frame. Use a flash whenever possible to even out the lighting. Turning on all interior lights is also suggested. For outside shots, some photographers feel sunny days with clear skies are best. Others prefer to put their hand in front of the sun and edit it out in Photoshop later. Doing jobs when the sun is high in the sky seems to meet everyone’s approval.
STORAGE: Use numbering and naming conventions when storing the images for later processing. This will reduce errors and confusion and average required time. Some take a photo of the dorm name before beginning each series of scenes. Since you will want to link the three scenes in each dorm, be mindful of what doors lead to the various scenes for later reference. It is also suggested that you prepare a thumbnail sketch showing the relation of each scene within a dorm to the next for purposes of reflecting location with "arrows" as can be seen in all DORMtours.
(C) STITCHING (average time required 5 min per scene):
There are a variety of image stitching applications on the market from free to several hundred dollars offering a variety of features. These packages usually work quite well and will rotate, crop and output the resulting panorama as a .jpg image. Some also export proprietary applet code and embed the images within a web page. This is not helpful for our application. You will want to export and save as a .jpg file, then bring the resulting file into Photoshop (or other photo editing software).
The following is a list of software we have found works well. If you have any suggestions for our list, please e-mail them to: PhotographyTeam@DORMtours.net
(D) CROPPING & COMPRESSING (average time required 10 min per scene):
At this point you should make sure the image is cropped smoothly on top and bottom, but never on ends as that would interfere with the seamless panorama affect. Resize the image by reducing the height to 225 pixels and retaining the aspect ratio. Insert arrows for the doorway scene transitions and note the pixel location and dimension of these transition areas. Optimize the image by increasing the brightness, contrast and sharpness then export through a .jpg compression filter to around 60 to 80 kb. Make sure your naming convention upon export will make the embedding process easy. The larger the image is in reference to the applet, the more azimuth, or vertical motion the user is given.
(E) EMBEDDING (average time required 30 min to 60 min per scene depending upon the quality of the images you film):
The generation of the html code for the applet parameters, including internal or external linking should be made routine for uniform consistency. You will need to upload images, and embed applets within the specific college(s) web pages at DORMtours.net . Embed the Java .Class files referencing these panoramas into web pages that are linked to all scenes in a given college, including arrow indicators and in-scene hot spots. Access codes will be provided.
The scenes should be embedded using the pmvr Java class file reference found on the tour root. The guide for this applet can be found HERE. This utilizes two modes of navigation, both from within the applet, using the pixel location for scene transition, as well as a conventional hyperlink. Multiple dorms or buildings should also be linked via hyperlink, but distinct from the linked scenes, since they won't transition back and forth, but are simply the same college. All DORMtours should open with the outside scene, move to the lobby or lounge scene and then move to the dorm room scene. This Java applet works best by having the images for each school contained within an images subdirectory, itself contained within a folder for each school. For example, the HTML for the school "Temple" would be in the directory /tours/temple/ and the images would be in /tours/temple/images.
Before beginning, you should explore some of the existing DORMtours so that you can use conventions within the angles, hotspot locations and descriptions to provide uniformity to the content. The following is a list of software we have found works well:
Adobe Photoshop with Dreamweaver
IMPORTANT: If you will be acquiring images and submitting them to us for stitching and embedding, provide a description of the layout and floor plans along with the images segregated into folders by school as well as by scene within the school. Correct folder naming is crucial. Also, be sure to find out whether or not your contract also includes DORMlounge video. This involves filming five minutes of interactive video in the lounge of lobby of each dorm you film a DORMtour for and delivering the video to the proper location at DORMtours.net.
Complete PMVR instructions are available online at www.duckware.com/pmvr.html.
In order to upload files you will need to log in with the school's id and password. Your school contact can provide this information.
Filenames are as entered on the dormitory setup and dormitory profile editor pages, which are maintained by the school.
DormTours is not utilizing the available PMVR floorplan component (not to be confused with the floorplan images of each dorm).
Images should be stitched at about 225 pixels in height, with the Java applet embedded at 300 x 200 pixels to allow for some azimuth.
A sample is online at Sample Tour
DORMtours is here for the colleges and their students. Without their participation we simply could not exist. It is our policy to do everything reasonably within our power and purpose to make sure they are thrilled with everything we do. As a member of the DORMtours Photographer Team, we fully expect you to embrace our philosophy of unbelievable customer service. Towards that end, it is crucial that all filming appointments be promptly scheduled and religiously kept. The colleges are all very eager to participate and look forward to seeing their images at DORMtours.net. We received calls all the time from students whose rooms were filmed! Also, a great deal of effort goes in on their part preparing the dorms for you to film. For the same reasons, it is imperative that the images you film are of acceptable quality the first time. If not, we may not have a second chance. We strongly urge you to call ahead the day of your appointment to confirm that the dorms have been readied for filming. It is your responsibility to ensure that you will not have to make a second trip. Remember, your appearance and demeanor should reflect the ultimate levels of courtesy and professionalism. Many colleges come to us by word of mouth after other colleges are impressed by DORMtour Photographer Team members just like you!
DORMtours is a proprietary product. By joining our team you agree to our non-disclosure requirements. All tours filmed by you pursuant to our agreement are the property of VMN as such you will deliver all copies to us prior to receiving payment. Payment will be sent to you via regular mail within one (1) week after the completed DORMtour(s) are approved by us and fully functional on DORMtours.net. Your relationship with us for legal and tax purposes is as an independent contractor. In order to avoid confusion by the college(s) and potential issues, you agree that you will not directly or indirectly accept any assignment from any of the college(s) we send you to without our express written consent. in an work By joining our Team of Photographers, you agree to the VMN Non-Disclosure Agreement.