Shoot 360 HDRs for VFX with a Ricoh Theta - By Sam Winkler - Visual Designer

RICOH THETA is used extensively by Visual Special Effects (VFX) experts to grab real world lighting information and apply it to CG models. This year at SIGGRAPH, the famous annual graphics show, I ran into many VFX professionals who are big fans of THETA and who use THETA cameras regularly. It’s exciting to see it being utilized as such a key tool in TV and film.

While I was there, I met Sam Winkler. Sam’s a Visual Designer for Film & TV located in Los Angeles. He’s done work on films like Alice in Wonderland and Spider-Man 2, tons of TV, music (including Alice in Chains!!), and ad work for big name companies like Apple, Google, Honda, Nike and tons more.

Sam uses RICOH THETA to grab real world lighting information and create HDR files for use in models and AR objects. He’s recently written a piece called “Shoot 360 HDRs for VFX with a Ricoh Theta” which goes into detail how he uses THETA in his work.


From the article:

One of the most crucial elements for creating photoreal cg is lighting. To get accurate lighting from real-world environments, visual effects artists use 360 degree HDR images, taken on set during production.

The previous methods for capturing these HDR images were slow and cumbersome. They involved expensive specialty equipment like fisheye lenses, nodal pano heads and stitching software.

While the older techniques can achieve great results, they also require a variety of complicated tools from separate manufacturers all working in tandem with a high likelihood of error. They also require the VFX supervisor on-set to hold up the crew for 5–10 minutes for each shot. Unless it’s a big vfx show like Marvel or Star Wars, it’s a big ask to get time-strapped film crews to hold up their work long enough for each HDR to be taken, especially if there are many setups with CG.

This is where THETA fits in so well. As Sam writes, “Because [THETAs] handle the capture of 360 images and stitching all on their own, the only other essential pieces of equipment you need are a tripod, a color chart and your phone.”

Full article with specifics on workflow and post production and “SUN FIX” here: