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Wohnungen auf Zeit

e-rent's spherical videos: technical part

The technique – and e-rent's invention
Between hightech and wraith
An extremely unconventional apparition. The bottom looks like a Mars rover, the middle part sports a giraffe's neck, and it is topped by a head with 6 eyes. Knowing e-rent you might guess that the construction has something to do with filming properties, albeit in a rather unconventional sense. When the thing starts moving, everybody has to leave the room, after all. Including the landlord, the “camera operator” and any spectators.

After everyone has been shooed away, it moves independently through the corridor, turns into the living room on its own and continues on its way from there. At least as long as all rooms have been covered. One after the other, as a unit and comprehensively.

The scenario might seem a bit eerie. It leads, however, to a quantum leap in presenting real estate. For the system serves a specific purpose: it allows to film spherical videos inside an apartment.

e-rent is the first real estate company worldwide to use this technique. It is based on an innovation thought up by our tinkerers’ department. The spooky thing has not only been invented by e-rent, we have also built it ourselves.

Moving rooms:
e-rent's spherical videos
The first examples of
spherical videos for apts
Spherivids: a quantum leap
in 360°-technique
The “spherical video”
“Spherical video” is a format which is not widely known in Europe. The technique was developed in Canada, and the corresponding cameras have to be directly imported from the manufacturers.

The origins can only be speculated upon. It is conceivable that it started out as an attempt to top Google StreetView’s photographic technique with a 360°-video. In any case you will find the rare web examples in OpenAir-theatres.

The camera type e-rent employs works with 6 video lenses pointing into different directions. The parallel recording of 6 films with this kind of arrangement allows the projection of the entire spectrum of possible viewing angles (360° horizontally and 290° vertically).

A special programme takes care of composing the individual lenses’ material (in that respect the processing technique is similar to the precursors in 360°-photography).

Playing spherical videos on the internet uses Flash. The player is an innovation by KRPano (their input has substantially improved the quality of the presentations).

The rover-system
Adapting the technique to be able to film inside an apartment has become possible through the building of a rover-system. The prototype is a genuine e-rent construction. It is propelled by an electric motor and controlled from a point outside the actual rooms (if the “camera operator” was inside the apartment, he would be bound to show up in the film).

The monitoring and controlling (of movement sequences and speed) are wireless and effected by a combination of tablet and pistol sender.

The rover navigates through all kinds of doors, evens out any bumps and can be adjusted to any camera height necessary (there are no simple solutions possible here – to obtain good results it is not only required to strictly maintain the camera height, in most apartments you will have to film from a relatively low angle, as well).

We have equipped the camera with an unusual memory chip. The data are recorded directly onto a MacBook Pro. To be able to cope with the enormous data rates (up to 800MBit/sec) we have tuned it with an additional Double Raid. The raw material for the subsequent formats can therefore be recorded with a resolution of 8000 x 4000 pixels.

It took us 2 years to fully implement the system (including all the interruptions, experiments and optimisations).