The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we live and work, throwing us into a world of digital entertainment, socializing, shopping and working almost instantly.
Many industries, including the AEC market, have quickly integrated new technologies and changed workflows to operate virtually. A technological innovation that has gained popularity during the pandemic has been the use of 360-degree cameras to document job sites and showcase completed projects via virtual tours.
The benefits of 360 degree photography
360-degree cameras, or omnidirectional cameras, use two fisheye lenses to capture the entire environment around the camera with just one click, resulting in high-quality, immersive images and videos. These compact cameras are easy to pack and feature preset shooting modes and simple interfaces, making them ideal for photographers of all skill levels.
Before the pandemic, 360-degree cameras were widely used for personal purposes to capture travel, outdoor adventures, or celebrations with family and friends. But as the world went digital, professionals also began to see the benefits of using this technology in their work.
Let’s explore how architects, contractors and interior designers are incorporating 360 degree cameras into their workflow and the benefits of using these handy tools throughout the project, from start to finish.
Survey plots of land
Before launching a new project, Japanese architect Waka Kimizuka studies the plot of land using an advanced 360-degree camera model, the THETA Z1. By attaching his camera to an extendable monopod, he can get a vantage point from a range of higher altitudes to assess various views, the angle of the sun, the position of windows, and the surrounding landscape nearby.
Document construction progress
Once the foundation was poured and construction began, Franco Albarran, architect and founder of the Texas company Albarran Architectsfinds 360 degree photography most useful when documenting the construction phase prior to drywall covering, when all mechanical components of walls and ceilings are exposed.
Photo by Franco Albarran – Spherical image – RICOH THETA
He uses the THETA SC2 for business, a mid-range model designed specifically for professional use, to fully document mechanical components such as HVAC ductwork, plumbing lines, and electrical wiring, in case they need repair in the future. Knowing where these mechanical components are avoids having to cut into drywall blindly or accidentally nail them when hanging artwork, bookshelves or televisions.
Before adapting 360-degree technology, Albarran used a digital camera or cell phone to capture these images. âI found 2D cameras to be extremely limited in what they could document,â he says. “With a 360 degree camera, I can easily capture the floor, walls and ceiling in a continuous scene and with high resolution, with just one click.”
Another challenge Albarran faces when shooting construction sites is lighting, as lighting is usually not yet installed in the pre-drywall phase. But the THETA SC2 for Business offers the ROOM preset mode, which is an HDR mode that automatically compensates for the difference in brightness between indoors and outdoors. Using this mode, Albarran was able to easily capture crisp, high-resolution images.
Before and after: capturing renovations
When it comes to renovations, Kimizuka uses 360 degree images to assess the structure of the building. He first checks the structure of the building – usually from the attic or basement – to see if there are any columns that can be removed. He captures these areas with his THETA on a monopod or tripod so he can later review and confirm any changes that need to be made. He notes that these areas can be difficult to photograph, as they are often dark, but the THETA Z1 has a variety of settings and the ability to shoot in RAW, which produces images with more light and less noise. If you’re using an older model, you can also get better lighting and photo quality by using a portable light and selfie stick.
Message from RICOH THETA. – Spherical image – RICOH THETA
Kimizuka notes that he prefers his 360-degree camera to a DSLR or smartphone because he’s unable to capture everything in one image, which means he might miss important design details. But with THETA, he can easily capture the whole scene, saving him from making costly mistakes. 360 degree photos also provide a better sense of space. A regular camera requires multiple shots, making it difficult to determine the exact location the photo was taken from. With 360, it’s easy to review the entire space from one point of view.
Mr. Onishi, a Japan-based contractor who uses his THETA camera for sign installations, said one feature he likes about his SC2 for Business is its ability to capture 360-degree footage without people in the framework of. The built-in Time Shift shooting mode allows the photographer to shoot with only one lens at a time with a short delay, eliminating the need to hide and shoot from a distance or with the self-timer mode. For Onishi, this is especially helpful because he can stay close to his camera, so he doesn’t have to worry about the camera and monopod knocking over in the wind as he often works outdoors.
Share progress and collaborate with teams
To help architects, contractors and designers collaborate across all phases of a project’s lifecycle, RICOH THETA has developed a proprietary platform that digitizes the entire construction site. RICOH360 projects allows teams to upload, organize and share 360-degree images taken on the jobsite in one seamless platform. Team members can then collaborate and comment directly on the 360-degree images on what changes need to be made, reducing the number of trips around the site.
Besides, there are many other ways to share 360Â° images with free apps and services. RICOH THETA offers an official PC application (RICOH THETA for Windows and Mac) to view and share. Google services are also compatible with THETA and offer a simple sharing platform.
Hanging interior spaces
Mami Misawa, an interior designer based in Japan, uses her THETA camera to showcase the interior spaces she decorates. Recently, she was commissioned to decorate a retail store. One of the main design features was hanging dry flowers from the ceiling, which was difficult to capture with a regular camera. But Misawa placed the camera on a monopod and a shelf and easily documented the entire vignette – even the flowers hanging overhead.
Message from RICOH THETA. – Spherical image – RICOH THETA
Misawa also designs spaces for special events such as weddings. Before the event, she used her THETA to capture empty space, which allowed her to revisit the space virtually and get a clear sense of the space as she made choices. Design. For example, when figuring out where to hang lights and curtains, she was able to look back at her shot and confirm the position of a rail that might hold them up.
Misawa has a limited time to make changes on the day of an event. Using 360-degree photography, therefore, allows him to plan and decorate in advance, improving overall efficiency and eliminating miscommunication. Keeping everyone on your team on the same page is also made easier by the ability to easily share 360Â° images via the THETA app.
Presentation of completed projects
Once the construction is complete, it’s time to show off the project. 360-degree cameras can also be used to take immersive, high-resolution photos of the finished space, both indoors and outdoors.
For a fully immersive tour of finished projects, RICOH’s exclusive platform RICOH360 Tours allows professionals to easily create professional tours that allow current and potential clients to virtually walk through the entire building.
Easily edit images using the THETA+ app and upload them to social media platforms or use them in marketing materials.
To learn more about 360 degree photography and how it can be used for design work, visit theta360.com.