Ricoh's HDRI plugin - Am I missing something?

Hi guys,
this is my first post on this forum, so to briefly introduce myself, I work in the VFX field, mostly for commercials, in Barcelona, Spain. My company recently purchased a Ricoh Z1 in order to upgrade our old “mirror ball” workflow to produce HDR images. These images, usually 32 bits exr or hdr, are used by our CGI department to match lighting conditions and reflections between 3D objects and camera shot backgrounds.
Since we work on usually crowded sets where everyone is in a hurry, we have to be fast, we can’t stop the shooting for more than 2-3 minutes, and we have to make sure instantly that we got what we needed, we won’t have a second chance since 10 minutes later the set will probably be completely different.
So on paper, the HDRI plugin from Ricoh looked like a very good candidate for the task, but we encountered a few caveats, either with an Android device or an Iphone:

-No feedback at all on the phone’s app of what the camera is doing. If you are standing 10 m. away from the camera on a busy set, you won’t be able to see the display nor hear any of the camera beeps.

-No exit from the plugin without physically pushing the camera button, and you can’t go to the “cam images” tab on the phone without exiting the plugin.

-And most importantly, images generated by the HDRI plugin are saved in a “HDRI” subfolder inside the main DCIM folder. But apparently the “cam images” tab won’t display anything saved in a subfolder… Maybe a permission problem? Seems weird that the official Ricoh app cannot access the destination folder of an official Ricoh plugin…

Or am I missing something?

That makes it very difficult to use it on set, since we can’t afford the time to unscrew the camera from a tripod, switch it to a computer, check the files…
Any hint you could give me would be very appreciated.
I have 1000 other questions in my bag about the other plugins that are available (Dualfisheye, Authydra…) and that I’ve been playing with, but I don’t want to make this post too long.

Thanks for reading.

I do not know about the workflow for the VFX industry and I don’t use the VFX plugins, but @CGSLAB has a plug-in which may offer additional features.

Jesse wrote an article about this:

Authydra has a downloader.

There are several people on this forum that are involved in VFX. If you give the question some time, you may get a “real” response from someone who is knowledgeable.

With the latest update, “AE Bracket” allows you to quickly take the necessary bracketed shots for HDRI while viewing them on your smartphone.
The “AE Bracket” uses burst mode, as does the Burst-IBL-Shooter, so the shooting itself is instantaneous. After that, it is written to the memory.
If you save the image in “My Settings”, you can take pictures using only the camera body.
https://topics.theta360.com/en/news/2022-07-20-2/
The -5EV, 7-shot setting with 3EV steps is almost identical to the Burst-IBL-Shooter.
The difference between Burst-IBL-Shooter and AE Bracket is that Burst-IBL-Shooter is a plug-in, so you cannot shoot or preview on your smartphone, but you can set up folders for each bracket, a write completion sound and on-screen notification, and a self-timer on the device.

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@CGSLAB thank you for commenting with your expertise.

@David , I mentioned, I do not know very much about the VFX files. However, I did some tests with the burst mode API here:

I have question about burst capture mode for the Z1 - #2 by craig

I’m not quite sure what the settings should be for the test.

image

There’s some explanation of what the settings mean:

_burstOption

I don’t understand what any of the settings mean except for _burstCaptureNum

It looks like the HDRI plug-in from RICOH actually produces the EXR file inside the camera.

AE bracketing is almost the same settings that can be made in burst mode (only the long shutter limit is not applicable).
Since it is officially supported, it is convenient to be able to set and shoot while previewing on a smartphone.


Regarding the original topic of file confirmation and folder access, “AE bracketing” saves the file in the standard save folder and you can confirm that the image has been taken. However, in the case of DNG files, they are only displayed as icons on the app and not previewed.

RICOH’s HDRI plug-in does not use burst mode, but creates EXR from JPEG data taken in bracketed mode, so the specifications are similar to Authydra.

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@CGSLAB , thank you for your help. Appreciate your expertise in this subject. Have a nice day.

Thank you Craig and CGSLAB for your answers.

I’ve been reading the links you published, I have played with Burst-IBL-Shooter, and I have a few questions for you CGSLAB, since apparently you are the author of the Burst-IBL-Shooter plugin.

So, differences between AE Bracket an Burst-IBL-Shooter would be:

-AE Bracket shoots up to 9 photos, Burst-IBL-Shooter shoots 7 (any reason to set this number so low?).

-AE Bracket can use the Ricoh app interface to shoot and review, Burst-IBL-Shooter is only “button activated” or with a bluetooth remote trigger.

-Burst-IBL-Shooter has a nice beeping adjustable self-timer, AE Bracket doesn’t.

-Am I right saying that the only parameter you can set is the self-timer?

-What makes Burst-IBL-Shooter better than AE Bracket? (or maybe it became available before?).

Regarding Authydra, of the different plugins I’ve been (shortly) testing, it looked like the closest candidate to what we needed (Remotely operated from the phone, file management menu), but of course it’s a little bit slow (maybe it’s trying to do to many things, like zipping the files), a little bit unstable, and the view/download buttons from the browser don’t work on the 2 Android devices we used (brand new Xiaomi phone and Samsung Note tablet). However, they appeared to work from an Iphone 13. And lastly, it seems that the author of the app (Kasper) hasn’t been seen around in two years, so I’m afraid his plugin is no longer in development (am I wrong?).

Anyway, thanks again for reading and helping me.

Authydra was last updated July 30, 2020. Kasper may have moved on to other projects.

You can see the activity on GitHub. I believe he is a professor at a film academy in Amsterdam. He’s likely busy with a wide range of interesting VFX and film projects unrelated to software development.

I have not had any additional communication with the author on his plans for Authydra. You may be able to contact him with DM on the forum and find out his plans. If you get a response on his plans, please post an update if he’s okay with sharing the info.

@David Thank you for your question. Below is the answer.

-AE Bracket shoots up to 9 photos, Burst-IBL-Shooter shoots 7 (any reason to set this number so low?).

The reason for this is to reduce the write time, and also because the limit is reached even with 9 pictures because of the 3EV step, resulting in duplicate shots. In fact, duplicates occur even with 7 pictures, but since the AIP specifications allow for auto exposure standards, 7 pictures are used as insurance.

-AE Bracket can use the Ricoh app interface to shoot and review, Burst-IBL-Shooter is only “button activated” or with a bluetooth remote trigger.

You are correct, Burst-IBL-Shooter was created before AE Bracket was implemented. It was difficult to create a preview function in a plug-in, so we had to abandon the idea.
It is nice to be able to use it differently now.

-Burst-IBL-Shooter has a nice beeping adjustable self-timer, AE Bracket doesn’t.

The standard self-timer could not be used in conjunction with the AIP in use, so it was implemented independently.

-Am I right saying that the only parameter you can set is the self-timer?

That is correct. In most environments, THETA is set to shoot brackets within the range that it can capture, so we decided that changing the parameters was unnecessary.

-What makes Burst-IBL-Shooter better than AE Bracket? (or maybe it became available before?).

Since there was no AE Bracket, a similar function was implemented in the plug-in. I believe the AIP used internally is the same.
Burst-IBL-Shooter is excellent in terms of data management because the shooting data can be divided into date and time folders.
There are no plans to add any major functionality in the future.

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Wow, this is great information. Thanks. Do you know when the AE Bracket feature was implemented in the firmware? Was it in the June 8, 2021 update or the May 31, 2022 update?

Download | RICOH THETA

Thank you very much CGSLAB for your detailed answer. However, I’m still confused about how the “burst mode” works. It seems so fast, faster than the sum of the exposure times of each photo… is it playing with ISO instead of exposure time? I guess all the pictures are stored in some kind of buffer before writing them on memory. Again thanks for your help.

@David @craig
Burst mode=Burst Capture Mode(API)≒AE Bracket(APP).

Burst mode is a shooting mode provided by the API. It enables high-speed continuous shooting by storing images once in a buffer and writing them back later.
The maximum buffer capacity is 9 shots.

Burst Capture Mode is to shoot JPEG or DNG images as the highest FPS capturing, upto 9 frames as maximum.

https://api.ricoh/docs/theta-plugin-reference/camera-api/#burst-capture-mode

AE Bracket is mainly the name of the update on the app side, due to the update of Jul. 20, 2022, and the function used is AIP’s Burst Capture Mode.
The firmware requires version 2.10.3 or later, so it seems that the API changes due to the update are included there.(Burst mode, which was only available in the camera API, has been added to the Web API.)
The difference between Burst-IBL-Shooter and AE Bracket is small when using similar settings since they use the same API.
As an additional note, “DualFisheye RAW plug-in” seems to have its own implementation because it can change aperture parameters that cannot be changed in Burst Capture Mode.

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Wow. thank you for this detailed information. Appreciate it.

Thanks a lot for all the details you are providing, CGSLAB, you’re being very helpful.

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