SpinImage DV Pro
At a Glance
A VR object -- a QuickTime movie of a rotating object -- can be a great way to spice up online catalogs and photo galleries. But creating these objects is usually a time-consuming process involving expensive VR rigs and lots of still photos. Autolycus's SpinImage DV Pro automates this process, letting Web designers and multimedia developers use any DV camera and motorized turntable to generate single-axis VR-object movies; Web-site visitors can then click on and spin those objects to their hearts' content.
SpinImage's strength is its simplicity. You use your DV camera to shoot full-motion video of your object while it's rotating, and the program pulls only the frames it needs from that video stream. To create our movie, we attached a DV camera to our Mac with a FireWire cable. SpinImage displayed a live image from the camera, which allowed us to adjust framing and composition in real time. (The program can also work with prerecorded movies.) We used a turntable from Autolycus capable of supporting as much as 350 pounds, so we were able to spin a variety of objects, including people.
Once the program has captured one full revolution of your object, it displays a continuous loop of your movie in a special editing window. This window provides easy-to-use manual controls for trimming extra frames and for cropping.
Buttons at the top of the editing window let you preview or export your movie. From the Preview mode, you can view your movie a frame at a time and set compression settings for each frame, to optimize the size-quality balance of your final file.
Getting the Results You Want
Besides cropping and frame trimming, SpinImage provides no tools for correcting or editing your images. For the most part, this is not a problem. As the manual wisely advises, good object movies are the result of good lighting and shooting. Trying to make seamless, uniform edits to each frame of an object movie can be very difficult, so it's much better to spend time properly lighting and exposing your image. But we'd still like to see, at least, a levels control that allowed for some simple white and black point corrections; this would go a long way toward easing the lighting chores.
SpinImage can export a standard 320-by-240-pixel or 640-by-480-pixel QuickTime VR movie, as well as an HTML file that provides the code you need to place your movie on a Web page. It can also output a proprietary SpinImage-format movie, which doesn't require a special plug-in for viewing.
SpinImage provides a number of output options for its HTML files. For example, objects can be made to spin either automatically or when the user mouses over them. SpinImage even includes special options and instructions for constructing movies that are ready to place on popular auction sites such as eBay. (Autolycus also offers the $250, entry-level SpinImage DV version, which provides fewer output options and lower output resolution.)
Macworld's Buying Advice
SpinImage DV Pro is definitely the fastest, easiest way to create a single-axis VR-object movie, but for $1,000, we'd expect more and better editing controls. If you need to knock out VR-object movies quickly, though, it's hard to imagine a simpler solution.