Offline dome master rendering Guide

This guide will show how to use 3D studio max to render stereoscopic (3D) dome master content. The same camera setup can be used in any other rendering tool.

Overview

Four cameras will be used to generate a fisheye image. Each camera will render parts of a cubemap illustrated in the image below.
Stitching Illustration

In this guide these four cameras will be labeled; left, right, top & bottom and will generate the following image:
Fisheye Cubemap

For a stereoscopic setup the double amount of cameras is needed. All camera views will be stitched together using a SGCT application.

Camera Setup (3DS Max Example)

Step 1

The unit setup is important in stereoscopic rendering to get the eye separation correct. SGCT uses SI units so lets setup 3D studio max to use meters.
Go into Customize->Units Setup... and apply the same settings as in the image below.
Step 1 - Units

In 3D studio design only one viewport is shown at startup. To change to a four quadrant view you can create a new viewport layout in the lower left part of the screen like in the image below.
Step 1 - Viewport

Step 2

Create a free camera and set the horizontal field-of-view (FOV) to 90 degrees.
Step 2 - Create Camera

Enable Angle Snap shown in the image below.
Step 2 - Angle Snap

In the top view rotate the camera exactly 45 degrees to the left like in the image below.
Step 2 - Rotate 45

Make sure the camera is positioned exactly in the center of the origin by right-clicking on the camera and click on the small box next to Move in the menu.
Step 2 - Center

Set the Absolute:World position to (0,0,0).
Step 2 - Center Zero

Step 3

Name the camera to something useful like LeftCameraL. The last "_L" gives a hint that this camera will be used to generate the left eye's fisheye view in a stereoscopic setup.
Step 3 - Name

Copy and paste the camera object and create an instance. Name it to Right_Camera_L.
In some versions of 3D studio max Ctrl-C moves the camera. In that case right click on the object and choose Clone.

Step 3 - Right Camera
Rotate the camera 90 degrees to the right like in the image below.
Step 3 - Rotation

Step 4

Create two additional cameras where one is pointing upwards and one is pointing downwards. Name them to Top_Camera_L and Bottom_Camera_L. Press "H" on the keyboard to display the select menu and select all.
Step 4 - Select All

In the main menu bar press Group->Group and name the group to "Left_Eye_Cameras". The naming will make it easier to find the camera in the scene.

Step 5

Right click on the group and enter the Move Transform window again. Offset the object by half of the eye separation to the left (negative). In this case lets use 65 mm as eye separation. Note that 3D studio max will round this value like in the image below.
Step 5 - Offset

Copy and paste the camera object to create a right eye camera group. Name it to Right_Eye_Cameras.
Step 5 - Copy

Use the Move Transform window to offset the camera half of the eye separation to the right. Zoom in so you can see the offset clearly. If it's done correctly it will look like the image below.
Step 5 - 3D Cam

Ungroup the right eye cameras and rename all the four cameras to:

  • Left_Camera_R
  • Right_Camera_R
  • Top_Camera_R
  • Bottom_Camera_R

And group them again. The name convention makes it easier in the rendering later.

Step 6

For animation an setup it's useful to have a camera aimed directly at the target. Therefore let's create a target camera and place it between the two camera groups.
Step 6 - Camera

Now select all cameras an create a group called All_Cameras.
Step 6 - Group

Step 7

Load you objects and make sure they are in meter scale. Otherwise rescale them. Under utilities (the hammer icon) there is a measure tool if you need to measure objects in the scene. In the fourth quadrant (the perspective view) set the camera to the one created in step 6. Move the camera to a position that you want to use for rendering. Render all 8 views by changing first the camera in fourth quadrant and link it in the render window. Set the resolution to half of the desired fisheye resolution. For a 4k fisheye set the resolution to 2k by 2k. Name your output and render the image as a png file. Click on the image below for full size.
Step 7

Stitching

When all eight views are rendered for stereoscopic 3D or four views for monoscopic 2D, stitch the images to full dome fisheye image.

Download the Stitcher(Windows Only) and extract it.

Start the Stitcher_GUI application and browse your frames, name the output, set an output directory and press start.\

Stitcher

View the result

If you do not have easy access to a dome or prefer a specific software we can recommend the free software Amateras for viewing fisheye content on a computer (Windows or Mac) in desktop mode or in a HMD. https://www.orihalcon.co.jp/amateras/domeplayer/en/

You can easily map it onto a custom dome with various parameters as tilt and fov of the dome. For content creators to the dome in Norrköping, the specifications of our dome are:

  • Tilt: 27 degrees
  • FOV: 165 degrees

Amateras