From U2’s 360 degree tour to new camera tech, the current fascination with wraparound experiences and 360 degree imagery has a noble history that plays into deep, psychological roots
|Hot on the heels of the record-breaking Big Daddy of panoramic image-making, Pittsburgh company EyeSee360 have created a prototype lens which enables the iPhone 4 to capture 360 degrees panoramic videos. Funded by Kickstarter (the creative funding platform) the company have previously created 360 degrees lenses for professionals but this is their first step into the consumer market.
So why do we need this? “Imagine watching a football game broadcast and being able to follow your favorite player of all the time,” they say on the Kickstarter site. “Imagine a bride being able to ‘turn around’ in her wedding video and see her parents’ faces the moment the officiant says, ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife!’” Tears all round, no doubt.
Cannon and Gunfire
There is a rebirth of interest in the panorama, due largely to innovators making use of new technology to give new expression to a popular 19th century form of entertainment. Originally invented by Irish painter Robert Barker in 1792, the popularity of the painted panorama which offered entertainment and insight into exotic places and historical events was eroded first by photography then by cinema. But the last decade has seen an upsurge of interest. 200,000 tourists a year visit the 360 degree panoramic painting in Waterloo Belgium depicting the defeat of Napoleon. The special effects are provided by the sound of cannon and gunfire.
Those who champion the panorama argue that unlike the hectic immersive experiences of modern media such as computer games, the older art form allows people to take more in. “I think people have a longing for non-hectic things, too,” said Ernst Storm, President of the nonprofit International Panorama Council to MSNBC. Panoramas allow viewers “the time to absorb the experience and to immerse in it on your own timetable.”
Largest In The World
The International Panorama Council estimates that 120 panoramas remain around the world, the biggest and perhaps most popular in the US is the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama Painting at the Gettysburg Museum in Pennsylvania. Starting in the late 1880s it took French artist Paul Philippoteaux and a team of assistants more than a year to complete the painting. It’s 377 feet around and 42 feet high. While the largest in the world is the more recently built Amazonia panorama in Leipzig, where 30 lengths of printed fabric were sewn together to create an image with a surface area of 3,300 square metres. The ‘Panometer’ is housed in a renovated gas storage building.
Scale and Order
What’s interesting is that the traditional panorama anchors people at the centre of the experience with a sense of ‘the epic’. Unlike immersive experiences such as gaming or on websites, it gives viewers the pleasure of seeing the bigger picture, how things connect. The EyeSee360 camera may have tapped into a desire for immersive-type imagery that also allows us to step back, get some distance and savour the range of emotions on occasions such as weddings. It’s the simple pleasure of cause and effect, whether it’s seeing a chain of events in the chaos of battle as in the Waterloo panorama, or the tears of your Mum as you tie the knot. The panoramic image gives a sense of scale but also a sense of order and it’s why when we shoot so many images with our cameras and cameraphones, that the panorama is coming back into fashion.