Spherical Photography 360 And Virtual Tour Service
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples

The viewers of the spherical 360 panoramas and virtual tours

For a long time the most popular way to view spherical panoramas and virtual tours (both in online and offline modes) has become Flash Player from Adobe. Declaring themselves in 360 spherical panoramas displaying community, Flash developers quickly replaced their competitors in the market of virtual tour viewers because of good quality of panoramas playback and rich, almost unlimited authoring capabilities. QuickTime, Deval VR, Java and other formats which had been popular earlier, became a history.
But technology keeps improving, and after a few years of it's reign, Flash format slowly but surely have began to lose it's position, in favor of HTML5 format. Unlike Flash panoramas, there is no need to install a plugin for viewing HTML5 panoramas. Spherical panoramas and virtual tours are played entirely in the browser. At first HTML5 format had only been used for creating the «additional» options of spherical panoramas to display on mobile devices (which don't support Flash format for the most part). However, the «basic» options for displaying of panoramas on PC were still being done in Flash, for most of desktop browsers didn't support HTML5.
Today mobile devices have become an integral part of so many people lives. HTML5 standard passed in to the category of main formats out of additional features, and panoramas which doesn't support it are being risked to loose a large part of the audience.
Not only mobile devices, but almost all modern desktop browsers support HTML5 format now, and Flash format in it's turn must go down in history. However, Flash panoramas are not able to be quickly replaced in the market of virtual tours viewing formats, and there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the possibilities of authoring of HTML5 tours are still limited compared with the potentialities of Flash tours. Secondly, there are not all browsers able to display HTML5 panoramas correctly, some browsers don't support the HTML5 format at all.
Thus, the best way to reach the maximum audience is using both formats simultaneously when creating a panorama, along with the automatic format detection on the client side when viewing the panorama. If a user's browser doesn't support Flash, a tour will be opened in HTML5 format, and vice versa. If the browser is able to display a virtual tour in both HTML5 and Flash formats, the format which was specified as a preferred when creating, is selected automatically. In my opinion, it is better to give a preference to Flash for a while, but soon the situation may be turned to the direction of HTML5.

To compare playing quality and check out whether your browser supports Flash and HTML5 formats, see the examples of 360 spherical panoramas by clicking on the picture:
To make a step back in history just below one can see an information about the different virtual panorama viewers, which have been popular before. Keep in mind that all of the information below is current as of 2009.

Flash panorama flash vs html5 HTML5 panorama
Flash panorama   HTML5 panorama



QuickTime 360 panoramas

QuickTime is a versatile multimedia player developed by Apple Inc. QuickTime was the first player (since 1995), which was able to view the panoramas in the QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) format. Worth mentioning is the fact, that back then the QTVR format supported only the cylindrical panoramas. QuickTime also was the first viewer of the spherical 3D panoramas and virtual tours, which gave the viewers an opportunity to view them in the full screen mode.

QuickTime can also reproduce the number of other formats, including the non-multimedia ones, for example MP3, GIF, TIFF, AAC, PSD and the others. Besides, QuickTime has a plug-in for viewing videos in the Internet browser as well as the Streaming Server, Broadcaster, the new H.264 codec and a lot of other useful functions.


QuickTime panoramas cons QTVR is the standard, common format of the 3D spherical and cylindrical panoramas.
  Installed on 100% of Apple computers and on more, than 60% PCs with Windows OS.
  High playback quality even in the “full screen” mode.

The ability to add the «movable object blocks» to the panorama (animation, pop-up windows with text, sound, etc.)

QTVR panoramas contras Large player size (21 MB)
  Some firewall set-ups can block QuickTime
  IncompatibilitywithWindows 64bit
  Limited capacities of authoring





DevalVR panoramas and virtual tours

DevalVR is the definite leader among the viewers of the virtual 3D panoramas when comparing the quality of the panoramic content’s playback. DevalVR is designed to view the virtual panoramas in QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) format. DevalVR offers almost ideal smoothness of movement without the pixilation (artifacts). One more advantage of the DevalVR plug-in is its small size (approximately 300 KB), so the download takes only a couple of seconds.
info   DevalVR has not very well-known, but quite interesting tool “Loop”. It can’t be found on the pop-up tool panel, but can be activated by pressing the SHIFT button.
DevalVR panoramas cons The exceptional smoothness of the panoramas playback, even of the full screen ones.
  Small plugin size (~0.3 MB)
  The minimum system requirements are not as high as, for example, Flash and Java have.

 Doesn’t require installation.

DevalVR panoramas contras For Windows only
  Uncommon among the PC users




Flash panoramas and virtual tours
Flash is a graphics program, developed by (formerly Macromedia). It is used mainly for the interactive animation, presentations and games creation (mainly for the Internet). Flash uses its own advanced programming language ActionScript, which makes it possible to use all the potential of interactive animation and to develop large-scale flash appliqué works.
Adobe Flash Player is the most widespread plug-in (for all kinds of operating systems), which can view the interactive multimedia presentations, videos, graphics, animation and, of course, the virtual panoramas. Adobe Flash Player is installed on 99% of computers, which have access to the Internet. Flash Player’s mass popularity and almost not limited capabilities are the advantages of the spherical 3D panoramas and virtual tours, which are made with Flash technology. Today Flash is becoming the common format for the presentations, that’s why one can say, that Flash is a crucial addition to Internet browser.

Before the arrival of flash player’s version 9 the viewing of 3D panoramas on the base of Flash was extremely inconvenient because of the slowness of the playback and the wavelike panorama distortion when doing the image scrolling.
The up to date version 10 of the player provides the viewer with the high quality playback of even the full screen panoramas, but it doesn’t provide users with such a smoothness of motion as the panoramas made on the DevalVR, Shockwave and QTVR technology do.
The modern spherical panoramas in the Flash format make the use of many interactive instruments possible – active zones (hotspots), sound, video, maps with radar, pop-up windows and many more gadgets, which enrich and decorate your virtual tours.

Flash panoramas cons The most perspective format
  The Flash panoramas are most likely to be displayed everywhere (Flash Player is installed on 99% of computers)
  Supported by many platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris )

 Small size (1.8 MB)


Safe – accepted by many security systems

 Almost unlimited abilities of authoring
Flash panoramas contras High graphics card requirements, less smooth scrolling on «slow computers», the possibility of artifacts formation.

Java based panoramas
Java is a programming language, which is capable of making different patterns (applets), including the applets for the panorama viewing. Java was developed by firstly as a means for household appliances controlling. What is special about the Java language? Firstly, Javaisseparatefromtheoperatingsystem. It means, that the same code can work on several different platforms. Actually, Java is an interpreted language, therefore, for launching the applet on Java language, one must have the interpreter of that language installed on his or her computer - Java Runtime Environment (JRE). JRE is a default program on 100% of Apple computers. Computers with Windows operating system have JRE installed up until XP SP1 version inclusively. When installing the Win XP SP2 or higher, JRE should be installed additionally, because now Windows considers it unreliable and dangerous.

Microsoft offers their own virtual machine for Windows - Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which is capable of launching the Java applets. The size of JVM is much smaller in comparison with JRE (~5 MB vs. ~145 MB). In the past the main drawback of the Java applets (PTViewer), for example) was that they were able to view only small-sized spherical panoramas. The reason for that was the low limit of Java memory.

These days the most popular 3D panorama and virtual tour viewer for the Java-machine is the ImmerVision PurePlayer.This is the only player for Java, which makes it possible to view the spherical 3D panoramas in the full screen mode. But its playback quality is not so good as the playback quality of QuickTime VR and DevalVR.

Java panoranas cons Supported by many platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris )
  Large interactive abilities, before the appearance of Flash 9, the best virtual tours were made with Java technology.
  Smooth standard (not full screen) panorama rendering and sharpness.

 Java is installed in some browsers on default


The absence of Java in WinXP SP2 and Vista (from the point of view of security)

Java panoramas contras

 The absence of Java in WinXP SP2 and Vista

  Large size of Java Runtime Environment (~145 MB)


Shockwave panoramas 360

Shockwave is a multimedia player, developed by Adobe (formerly Macromedia), primarily intended for viewing the large-scale presentations, games, etc. But Shockwave copes with viewing of the 360 spherical panoramas very well also.


Shockwave panoramas cons Smoothness of movement and absence of artifacts at the time of movement
Interactivity, the ability to add the hotspots