Using the Ricoh Theta S to Create Tiny Planets

It’s a distinctive look that isn’t for every occasion or taste, but creating tiny planets can be a fun way to put one of the new breed of 360-degree cameras to use.

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The new generation of 360-degree cameras is best known for creating interactive virtual reality photos and videos. But there are some other things you can do with them, like creating so-called tiny planets.

If you’ve never heard of tiny planets, they take the natural distortion of a 360-degree spherical image and amp it up to the nth degree. They get their name from the distinctive look of many of the ones on this page that look, well, like tiny planets. But you can also change the nature of the distortion and even invert it and end up with other effects, like some of the interior shots here.

These are real photos–not generated graphics. They basically go to town with the fish-eye distortion. Instead of the usual 180° or so of a standard fish-eye lens, these have 360° to play with.

I’ve shot some of Washington DC’s monuments with a Ricoh Theta S, so I decided to try some fun experiments of seeing how they’d come out as tiny planets. I patched them with Pano2VR to replace the nadir, and ran them through Circular Studio.

You don’t need to use the Ricoh Theta S, of course. You can even do it by shooting with a DSLR and stitching the images to create equirectangular panoramas. Technically can you use any image–it doesn’t have to be a panorama, but they give the best results. But the advantage of using the new breed of 360 cameras, including the new Nikon KeyMission 360, is that they’re so quick–with a single click, you end up with a spherical image without any need to mess with stitching or shooting multiple images.

Here are some of the results.

Netherlands Carillon.
Netherlands Carillon.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial.
Washington Monument.
Washington Monument.
Outside the Lincoln Memorial.
Outside the Lincoln Memorial.
Netherlands Carillon.
Netherlands Carillon.
Jefferson Memorial.
Jefferson Memorial.
Iwo Jima Memorial.
Iwo Jima Memorial.

Union Station. The main pattern is the ceiling.
Union Station. The main pattern is the ceiling.
Jefferson Memorial.
Jefferson Memorial.
Freer Gallery.
Freer Gallery.
MLK Memorial.
MLK Memorial.
Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery.
Japanese Lantern at the Tidal Basin.
Japanese Lantern at the Tidal Basin.
Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery.
Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery.

Tiny Planet Generators

If you’re looking to try out generating tiny planets without forking out for a software license, Kuula includes a simple and free generator as one of their built-in features. You can then right-click on the generated image and save it as a PNG.

If you want much more flexibility and many more features, I’ve found Circular Studio to be very good–it’s Mac only.

Ricoh Theta S

Ricoh Theta S Digital Camera (Black)
  • 360 Degree Spherical Panorama images and Spherical Videos up to 25 minutes
  • Live view function on mobile device; Wi Fi communications protocol: HTTP (open spherical camera API 7...

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by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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