The 360° camera from Google Street View
Photo-mapping for your model railway layout
As you know, in Germany the "Miniatur Wunderland" is the largest model railway layout in the world. It is a permanent model railroad exhibition in Hamburg, Germany. The whole railway layout consists of 15,400 meters or 50,525 feet of railway tracks in HO scale. You can visit this model railway attraction seven days a week. The exhibition is divided into several sections, for example the amazing miniature airport, the city of Hamburg, Scandinavia with Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the fictitious city of Knuffingen with its miniature cars, the Alps with Austria and Switzerland, Bavaria with the Oktoberfest and the Neuschwanstein Castle, and America from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. The latest attraction is a replica of Italy. Alltogether, the exhibition takes 6,800 square meters or 73,195 square feet of floorspace. The model railway sections take 1,490 square meters or 16,038 square feet. Actually, there are 1,300 model trains, more than 10,000 freight cars and passenger cars, more than 100,000 moving vehicles, approximately 500,000 lights, etc.
One year ago, a special team from Google made amazing panorama views with a very special 360° camera. Today, these photos are integrated in Google Street View and in Google Maps. At that time, a secret was made of which camera Google used for making these 360° photos. Now, Pilentum explains which camera was used. And, you can buy this camera at any shop today for using it on your model railway. Then, the Kodak PixPro SP360 Action Cam (Full HD) and the Kodak PixPro SP360 4K (UHD) were used.
Image source: Courtesy of Google Inc.
Image source: Courtesy of Google Inc.
Of course, the team had to reconstruct the camera so that it was small enough to fit it on the tracks under the overhead power line (catenary). And, the team had to build a small kind of a locomotive in HO scale, which automatically runs on the railway tracks. For making 360° photos from the miniature street level, the team constructed a 1/87 scale camera car that drove across the streets. They used a vehicle chassis and vehicle frame of a miniature bus. Front and rear cameras were installed. The big secret was not the camera, but the technique with which the camera was used.
About the photo and video recording technology
At that time, Kodak offered a camera, which made video recordings in 1920 x 1080 pixel only (Kodak PixPro SP360 Action Cam). Photos were taken with 16.8 megapixels. Sometimes later, Kodak offered a new camera, which made video recordings in 4K quality (Kodak PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam). The quality of photos is very good. The new camera is working with 16.8 megapixels, too. One camera makes a photo or video with a camera angle of approximately 210°. So two cameras are required for making a full 360° panorama view. By using one Kodak camera for the front view and the other Kodak camera for the rear view both images are overlapping. The result is a perfect panoramic view in photo or in video mode. Kodak provides the necessary stitching software for both Windows PCs and Mac PCs, for free. In order to make video recordings in 360° mode, you need two Kodak cameras, whereby a motor vehicle or something else for moving the cameras must be installed between the cameras. The stitching software combines both images (front view and rear view) into an overall video image. Finally, the video - generated by the stitching software - can be uploaded as a real 360° video on YouTube. Furthermore, the rendered 360° photos are also suitable to present your model railway on a website. Just recently, for example, Facebook announced that you can upload 360° photos on Facebook groups and Facebook websites.
Today, the video industry has finally left the 3D video technology. The video industry is increasingly marching towards 360° video products. And, the number of 360° videos on YouTube is constantly increasing. The Kodak PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam should be an entry into the world of 360° photo and video technology - especially on model railways. Of course, there are other famous 360° cameras, for example the "Samsung Gear 360 camera" or the "Ricoh Theta S camera". But these two cameras are not suitable for photo and video recordings in small model railway worlds. Very soon Pilentum will start experiments with the Kodak cameras. Finally, let's have a look, what the team of Google have produced. It is an outstanding presentation of the "Miniatur Wunderland" on Google Maps.
» https://www.google.com/intl/en/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/miniatur-wunderland «