HDR 360 stills

Hello friends, happy holidays to everyone
This is a curiosity question about HDR 360 stills, I remember back in the days, we had to bring a reflective ball and shoot it in photo on a tripod with different (braketing) to obtain deep information. But that was 15-20 years ago, did this evolve since?
I have this client who is asking me to take HDR stills from a shooting site, and I don’t want to propose a workflow that is no longer used
Your advices are much appreciated

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You are right to question the chrome balls because whilst those are being used, they aren’t being used for actual photography.

I’m sure several folks will chime in as there are many ways to do it, but here is what I’ve found.

Most of the time, a Theta Z1 or even the slightly lesser Theta version is sufficient. It’s super small, fits in your pocket, and, unless you are doing shiny cars huge shiny objects where you need super pin sharp reflections, it’s probably good enough. That and a Macbeth chart, some call it a color chip chart, or color checker, and you’re set.

If you want to go all out, then the standard ish is a high end DSLR shooting a spherical fisheye, like the Sigma 8mm, or, what I prefer, is the Canon 8-15mm fisheye on a Canon 6D. The goal is to capture between 7-11 exposures, with between 1.0EV - 2.0EV steps, in 3 overlapping directions, and stitch using PTGui.

It is still very common to travel around with a big 25-30cm shiny chrome ball, but, that is only seen through the hero camera, with a color chart, and is used to orient and rotate the stitched HDRI into the correct orientation to the camera.


This is my favorite pano head. No setup. Just leave it on the lens forever. x3 120degree dents built it. Leaves just a tiny bit of tripod to paint out at the bottom of the frame.

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I just use a Theta Z1 and seems to suffice for most every show I have done in the last 4 years, but honestly it depends on your CG lead they may get picky about having a chrome ball but the people I have worked with don’t seem to care as much anymore


Sorry if this is too basic:
I’ve been using the Theta V for a few years and it’s great. The Theta app allows you to auto-bracket. I find that 2 stop increments are great, and you can get from the filaments of the lights (1/8000 sec) to a white picture in about 10 exposures in most environments.
I use Photomatix Pro to combine them into an HDR. Works great. Only a few clicks.
It’s great to get a mirror ball, too, that way you can figure out the color relationship between the principal photography and your 360. It’s fun to try to dial in a reflective ball that you create to match the plate as closely as possible. You’ll learn a lot about the color transforms.
If you’re going, maybe write down the focal lenght, height of the camera, and tilt for each VFX shot as well.


I have a question about the Theta V camera.

Despite being on a tripod and locked off, the bracketed images appear to jump around from exposure to exposure, Is this camera trying to be too smart and is the stitch different on each frame? When combined into an HDRi using Photoshop this causes blurring. I am looking into using PTGui for comparison but I just wanted to ask someone.

Perhaps there is a setting that I missed?

I never seen this but tbh I just go lazy and use authydra to stich in camera. I also have a tetha V

Thanks @finnjaeger to be honest the shift isn’t that bad. Good enough to do IBL and I also shot a chrome ball that can help reflections in the characters eyes.

I was just surprised. I was expecting some clouds to shift and maybe the branches of the trees but not a shift on the ground.

Never seen that using PtGui.

This is pre combine. Something the Theta is doing to combine the 2 x 180 lens images. It is different on each bracket. Only slightly as I said but unexpected.

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Ugh that’s brutal.

It’s alright. I think I am making too much of it but wondering if I had missed a setting or something. This isn’t my Theta. Was using it for the first time.

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Just messaged you a download link to a bunch of stills I’ve taken with my Theta…the older model…now that I look at them, they may have the same thing you are seeing.

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maybe its the built in stabilizer?

Do try authydra its a plugin that runs directly on the camera, not even need a phone connected it dors auto all the things and spits out a merged exr file.

Yeah thats the thing. Nothing to get upset about but I had the bloody thing on a tripod.

Yeah I had heard another VFX sup mention that the Theta could do the merge in camera. That user guide is awful. Thanks