1. Login to Metareal Stage
(Note: In Alpha 6, if the account you gave us to sign-up is a Google account, you can use the Google login, otherwise please use the "Login with Metareal Username" option.)
2. Accept the EULA (on first use only)
The End-user Licence & Testing Agreement governs the testing program and your relationship with Metareal. You'll need to accept it the first time you log in order to use Stage. We may also update the agreement from time to time, in which case you will be required to accept the agreement again when you log in.
3. Create your first project
When you login, you are take to the Project Browser for your account, where all the reconstructions and VR Tours you create are located.
Note: Note that, for the duration of the alpha test cycle, each user account is limited to 3 projects, and 360°x180° panorama image resolution is limited to a maximum of 5376 x 2688 (the native still-image resolution of a Ricoh Theta S). The commercial release version of Stage will not have these limitations.
4. Project Dashboard
Once you create a project you are taken to its Project Dashboard. This is where the files and components of the project are stored and organized. For now there it's looking a bit empty because there's nothing there, so let's upload some images.
5. Upload your panoramas
At the bottom right of the dashboard you should find an "Upload" button. Use it to open the upload overlay and browse and upload some 360°x180° equirectangular image files. These can be either HDR bracket sets, HDR images (.hdr or .exr), or LDR images in a variety of image file formats.
For HDR bracket sets, the aperture and ISO value of all the images should be identical - only the exposure can be variable. Also, the shutter speed of each image should follow a repeating sequence. (For example: 1/25, 1/100, 1/400, 1/25, 1/100, 1/400.)
Once uploading is complete, close the dialog to return to the dashboard. Depending on how many images, how large they are, and whether or not they need HDR processing, you may well see gear thumbnails for a while as we prepare the images for use.
6. Create a Room
Back on the project dashboard, find the New Room button (sort-of middle-right-ish), and click it to create a room. This creates a new room and opens the Reconstruction Editor for that room. You can name your room if you like, just click the bolded room name top-left and change the text.
7. Add images to the room
In the reconstruction editor, click on the "Add Images" button near the top left and choose the images you want to add from the overlay that appears. Choose all the images you need to have photographic coverage of the entire room you want to reconstruct, and hit "Add". Note that the images may take a few moments to appear in the editor, depending on their size, how many you have chosen, and the speed of your internet connection.
8. Choose your reference image
In order to reconstruct a 3D room from your images, we first need a starting point. It's best to choose an image close to the center of your room with visibility of as many wall-floor edges and corners as possible without too much obliqueness. Don't worry if you can't see them all - the main goal right now is to get our room started. Just click on the thumbnail to open the image in the editor, open the helper panel, and then click on the "Make Reference" button:
9. Set the lens height
In order for the reconstruction to be scaled accurately, it is essential that the height of the center of the lens from the floor is accurately entered into the system. This forms the basis of many of the calculations that are later performed.
To set the lens height, first open the helper panel using the left-arrow button at the top right of the image view:
With the helper panel open, set the Lens Height parameter as precisely as possible to the height of the center of the lens (nodal point) from the ground. Assuming you shot all your panoramas with the lens at the same height you can also click "Apply To All Panoramas" to push the value to all the panoramas in the room.
10. Set the tripod zone
Invariably, the tripod upon which your camera is mounted will show up in your 360s. Metareal Stage can automatically remove the nadir (and any tripods) from the reconstructed room, but we need to enter the size of the nadir to be removed.
Pan the image view down to the tripod by click-n-dragging with the LMB, or just hit the "Plan View" button on the toolbar, to look down at the nadir of your reference panorama. You'll see a dark area that represents the default tripod zone.
Note: You can zoom in and out using the scroll-wheel on your mouse
Next, click "Measure" in the Tripod Radius section of the helper panel, and then click-n-drag with LMB from the center of the tripod to the it's widest point to set the size of the tripod zone to fit as closely as possible around the actual tripod. Mouse-up when the radius is good.
Typically, you'll be using the same tripod setup for all the panoramas in a given shoot, so hit "Apply To All Panoramas" to apply the same radius to all the panoramas in the room.
11. Level and Orient the Reference Panorama
In order to be able to create an accurate reconstruction, we need the floor in the reference panorama to be perfectly level. 360 cameras often come with self-leveling systems and add orientation to the image metadata. Metareal Stage will use any orientation information that is present, but it is rarely accurate enough for our purposes.
Once you've defined the Reference Panorama, switch back to the Plan View. You can now reveal the alignment tools by checking the "Show Alignment Tools" checkbox in the Helper Panel. A red line is revealed, which is used to align the panorama with the world grid. Drag the red line to align with a major horizontal feature in your panorama.
Note: You can show/hide the world grid using the "Guides" menu or the "G" key.
Next, switch to Leveling View (if you like), and click the "Draw Level Line" button to add a blue vertical leveling line to the panorama:
Ordinarily only 2 or 3 vertical alignment lines are required to achieve a precise alignment. If you have problems with vertical alignment, make sure your verticals are actually vertical, otherwise the alignment solver will be unable to find a proper orientation.
Note: You can check the levelness of your panorama visually using the overlaid grid in the Leveling View.
Once back in the Panorama View your leveled panorama should look something like this:
Once you're done leveling, you can hide the alignment tools again if you like.
12. Draw the floor
Now we're ready to start actual reconstruction! Click on the Draw tool (the grey square with the triangular symbol). It will go white to indicate that it is now selected.
Draw around the room, where the floor meets the wall. Try to include as many corners as you can, but don't worry if a few are not visible, you can add them later when more panoramas are registered. We'll be snapping this floor to the other panoramas later on, so the main idea here is to define the extents of the floor and make a recognizable floor profile.
The Draw tool lets you:
(a) Click-n-drag to orbit the view while you are drawing
(b) Click on any floor point to select it, and hit delete to delete it
(c) Click-n-drag any floor point to re-position it
(d) Click the undo or redo buttons to... well, you get the idea
(e) Click-n-drag on a line to add a point between two existing point
(f) Hit escape to quit the point-adding mode, but remain in the Draw tool
Note: It is sometimes easier to draw your floor from the plan view.
Once your floor is drawn, it may look something like this:
13. Set the ceiling height
You have perhaps noticed a second room outline above the floor - this denotes the ceiling, and unless you're bizarrely lucky, it's at the wrong height. Fortunately we can just measure it in the scene.
Note: In this alpha release, Stage supports angled ceilings, and you can drag a ceiling edge by clicking on it from within the Draw tool. Vaulted ceilings and beams will be added in future updates.
Start by orienting your viewer so that you can clearly see the whole of a wall corner from floor to ceiling. Click the "Measure" button in the helper, and click-n-drag with the LMB from the floor corner to the ceiling corner in the view. (The example image is a bad example, because it's a vaulted ceiling - but, hopefully, you get the idea...)
14. Choose a second panorama and align it
Now that you've created a basic floor-plan, set the tripod zone, and set the ceiling height, it's a matter of aligning the other panoramas to the reference panorama. For now, this is done by aligning them to the floor points one-by-one using the Snap tool.
You can access the Snap tool by clicking and holding the left mouse button on the Draw tool to open it's submenu, and then click on the Snap tool to select it, as follows:
Start by choosing your next panorama by clicking on it. The view will change to the new panorama, and it's thumbnail will be bordered in red. Once you've placed some snaps, each previous panorama will lose it's diagonal black line to indicate that it is now registered.
To snap a point:
(a) Click the Snap tool button.
(b) Click the corresponding floor point to select it. It will be highlighted with a double circle.
(c) Move the mouse to the corresponding point (the point to snap the floor to) in the new panorama and click.
(d) If it's not quite right, keep clicking until the fit looks perfect.
(e) You can use Escape, click-n-drag, and Delete in the same way as with the Draw tool.
The Snap tools works in Plan and Panorama Views, so use the one you prefer for the current panorama.
Each Panorama needs you to snap at least 2 floor points before it is registered. Each snap shows up as a second ring close to the floor point to which it is snapped, and as a numbered button next to the Snap tool button. (You can use the numbered buttons to select and delete snaps.)
Note: The first two Snaps you apply must be using floor points. After that you may apply more snaps anywhere on the panorama to improve the registration, as follows...
15. Applying Fine Registration Snaps
To improve the basic registration we can snap individual features from two panoramas together. For this to work, the features need to be in the plane of the floor or walls of the room. (Warning: Snapping features not in the plane of the floor or walls will introduce registration errors.)
To snap a feature, we first need to see the feature's location in two panoramas at once. We can do this by clicking the eye icon in the bottom left of the 2nd panorama thumbnail. In this illustration below, we can see panorama (1) is our current panorama, and panorama (2) is the secondary visible panorama:
Now the blend slider has become active, and using it we can mix between the two panoramas in the main view, as shown below:
We can see there is a registration error. Adding feature registration snaps will allow us to correct this, as follows:
Note: Feature snaps always go from the secondary panorama (in this case #2) to the selected panorama (in this case #1). Click first on the feature in the secondary, then click on the same feature in the primary.
16. Rinse and Repeat...
Each registered panorama shows up in the environment as a glassy sphere, indicating it's position in the environment. You can click on any sphere in the editor to 'move' to that panorama.
Note: Once a panorama is registered, and you find a corner or piece of floor that you couldn't see in the reference panorama, you may switch back to the Draw tool to add it to the floor if you wish.
Keep picking panoramas and snapping them until they're all done (and the diagonal black line is gone from all the thumbnails).
17. Add Volumes
Alpha 5 introduces support for Cube and Sphere volumes, so you can add these to your scene to create a more realistic reconstruction:
18. Hit "Preview" to see the 3D model
Once all your panos are registered, you can choose the "3D Preview" view from the dropdown menu on the toolbar to see the resulting 3D model with blended textures. You can move freely around the 3D scene by using the "W","A", "S" and "D" keys. **Note that this is an early prototype** - the blending algorithm is not yet completely implemented. We'll be updating this regularly during the test program.
19. If needed, go back and fix any inaccuracies
If you can see misaligned edges and other alignment artefacts, you may go back through your panoramas and tweak the floor points and registration snaps.
To publish your complete room, go back to the Project Dashboard (don't worry, everything is saved continously, just like Google Drive apps), and hit the "Publish" button (top-ish right of the dashboard). The Metareal cloud process then builds and optimizes the room (and eventually, the whole tour) into a format suitable for web and mobile-device browsing, and gives the resulting Tour a unique web URL, which appears in the dashboard. Your new VR environment is ready for viewing!
21. View in mobile VR with a Google Cardboard
Note: If your environment is HDR, page loading may take 30s or more as the HDR data is not yet optimized for mobile browsers.
Open the link in Safari (Chrome on iOS has no full-screen option) and put your phone into a Cardboard-compatible viewer (such as a Mattel View-Master https://www.amazon.ca/View-Master-Virtual-Reality-Starter-Pack/dp/B011EG5HJ2). You can tap on the screen to move around (whenever you tap, you will move to the location of the blue dot on the floor), and use the phone's orientation to look around with the headset.
Open the link in Chrome, put your phone into a Cardboard-compatible viewer (such as a Mattel View-Master). You can tap on the screen to move around (whenever you tap, you will move to the location of the blue dot on the floor), and use the phone's orientation to look around with the headset.
Open the link in a modern WebGL-compatible browser. Use click-n-drag with the LMB to look around, and click to move to the location of the blue dot. You can keep looking around while moving.
That's basically it for now! Thanks for taking the time to check out this early-stage version of our 3D reconstruction and virtual tour creation product, Metareal Stage. Please send us your thoughts and feedback - good and bad! We'll be making regular updates, and we'll send announcements detailing what's in each update as it happens.
Thank you! - The Metareal Team.