Technical review of the “Inside Abbey Road” Virtual Tour Experience

Point of Interest Overlays

Inside Abbey Road Virtual Tour

Point of Interest Overlays


The doors were virtually opened recently to the world famous Abbey Road Studios who have been host to a multitude of recording artists including The Beatles, Adele, Blur, Adam Ant and Oasis via a Google Street view style virtual tour entitled Inside Abbey Road with an interactive multimedia overlay featuring inline video and interactive mini-games which are based upon the recording equipment which Abbey Road have to offer.

What’s under the hood?

The technologies behind the browser based virtual tour experience include html5, webgl and css3 and the experience is built upon and hosted by Google’s cloud computing platform with the WebP image format being served to modern browsers allowing the imagery to be served up to 30% faster than the standard image jpeg image format.

The walkthrough / street view part of the tour itself has many clear and concise point of interest overlays which can move you to a particular location instantly presenting you with enhanced multimedia content and there’s also a custom map overlay which again facilitates with navigation.

On top of this a Lidar scanner was employed to create a “point cloud” of up to 30 million points per studio. In fact, 2 Lidar units (a 3D in the room and a 2D on the tripod on which the camera was mounted) were used to line up the shots with the surroundings to get consistent 3D positions for each of the panoramas.

Embedded video in a Street View Style Virtual Tour

There are three main types of video embedding employed in the Inside Abbey Road experience:

Video Overlays

Inside Abbey Road Virtual Tour

The video overlays are handled using css3 and look superb but do have a minimal amount of colour mismatching errors, see the example above by clicking on the image for more detail, with a visible (but barely noticeable mind you) outline around the video content and a warmer tone to the wooden floor.

Embedded video

Inside Abbey Road Virtual Tour

These are simply YouTube clips which are overlaid onto the html5 street view canvas with options to close the overlay or share the video using the usual social media channels.

360 degree video content

Inside Abbey Road Virtual Tour

Throughout the street view tour there are numerous full 360 degree videos which appear to have been shot using one of the newer 6 x Go Pro 360 degree video camera rigs or similar such as which can be found over at Kolor. The video content is of a high quality and feature (as well as the rest of the virtual tour experience) 3D surround sound.

360 Degree Panoramic Photographic Image Quality - A Slight Critique

The only shortfall we found when analysing the quality of the experience was that of the panoramic photography which is described as being built up of only 6 HDR shots per location producing panoramic photos in excess of 110 megapixels. The fact that 6 shots were used instead of the typical 4 shots which are used for Street View / Google Business View implies that either a similar rig was used as was to shoot the 360 degree video or that a DSLR with a 8-14mm fisheye zoom lens was used to shoot the stills. This is apparent when zooming into the details at any given location.

In a test using a Canon 5D mounted with an 8-14mm fisheye zoom lens we managed to take a panoramic shot of resolution 14750x7375 or 108781250 pixels (109MP). So it seems fairly possible that using a higher spec camera could increase the resolution over the quoted 110 mega pixel range.

This said, however, if we were to produce a high resolution virtual tour of Abbey Road Studios, we probably would have opted for a wide angle lens or even standard 24-70mm zoom lens to capture virtual tours in the range of 400 mega pixels such as what we produced for City Airport Manchester to maybe even a select few giga pixel panoramas with only a trade off in the amount of time required to take the photography as a smaller field of view on the camera requires more shots to capture the full scene which ends up with a higher resolution outcome.

Another point to note is the quality of the video overlays which show some degradation and pixelation when zooming in although that may be a limitation of video recording resolution (if it shot in 4K?).

It’s obvious that a lot of planning was involved in the production of the virtual tour experience Inside Abbey Road, it’s a shame though that maybe post production was favoured to the virtual tour photography itself although a few may argue that the resolution of the locations when fully zoomed in was adequate and also the true limitation may have been on the limitation imposed by the resolution limitation of the Google Maps API?

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