360 Photos, 3D Reviews, and 3D Photos: Dealing With Terminology Confusion

Today, three-dimensional visualization is considered one of the most effective ways of visual presentation of goods in online retail. It is believed that a three-dimensional image or its imitation allows you to get a detailed idea of ​​the shape of goods and consider it from various angles. Most often you hear about “3D photos”, they also use the term “360 photos” or “360-degree photography”, sometimes the phrase “3D reviews” is also mentioned. Often, all these types of visual content are confused, and concepts are substituted. In the absence of a clear understanding and terminological confusion, certain types of 3D visualization are still not very popular on the part of online stores, and retailers prefer the good old 2D photos. Under the cut is a brief educational program about the differences between different types of three-dimensional visualization of goods, as well as what does not apply to them at all.

3D photography from the 19th century

Contrary to popular misconception, this is not at all what we are used to seeing on the product pages of online stores. The second name for 3D photography is stereography, and it appeared a long time ago. The father of stereo photography is considered to be a professor at King’s College London, Charles Wheatstone. In 1833, the scientist created a stereoscope – a device that made it possible to see a three-dimensional image, for which two original pictures with displacement were used. Photography had not yet been invented at that time, but it was the principles discovered by Whiston that formed its basis.

The first stereo camera, equipped with two lenses, designed for creating 3D photographs, appeared already in 1849. It is created by Scotsman David Brewster. 3D photography is actually the same age as ordinary photography, and the peak of its popularity falls on the 20s of the last century. Then 3D photos were used as an attraction, where they used stereoscopes to view 3D photos of exotic countries, tourist objects and naked models.

What today is often called 3D photography and is placed in online stores as a three-dimensional visualization of a product, in fact, is not. And this term is incorrect to use for such images.

Today, 3D photos exist rather as an art form and as a hobby for amateur photographers, in particular, there are several articles on Habré

on this occasion


360 photos

For what is sometimes mistakenly called 3D photo today, there is another, more accurate term – 360 photos. They mean the technique of panoramic photography, which allows you to create the illusion of a volumetric object, as a rule, rotating. The result of such shooting can be displayed in the form of interactive animation that shows the object from all sides and allows the user to control the rotation of the object. In fact, this is a typical panoramic photograph of an object taken with a horizontal and sometimes vertical 360 degree viewing angle.

Several types of 360-degree photographs can be distinguished, they can consist of 36 images (the deviation of the next angle is 10 degrees), 72 images and more. The higher the number of frames, the smoother the rotation of the 3D object in the photo will be and the more realistic the experience will be.

Depending on the shooting technique, single-row and double-row 360-degree photographs are distinguished. The first type allows shooting and, accordingly, the rotation of the object in the horizontal plane. The second involves the creation of 3 or 4 rows of photographs, each with 12-18 images, providing rotation both in the horizontal and in the vertical plane.

In addition to being displayed as interactive animations, some retailers use gif files created from 360-degree photos. Looped video rotates the object at a specified speed and allows the user to view it from different angles. Based on the principles laid down in 360-degree panoramic photography, the VR-photography principle was also implemented, allowing you to observe VR-panoramas of cities.

If we return to the realities of Internet commerce and the aspirations of users, then 360-photo has only 2 significant technical drawbacks:
– inability to present the product in action, as video and 3D reviews do;
– Significant download duration (from 20 to 40 sec at 40 mb / sec) compared to 2D photographs.

3D view

3D Review is a term coined by Review3 to refer to the 3D interactive product models they create. For review, using 3Dmax, a 3D model is created, which is combined with textures and takes on the appearance of a product that is hardly distinguishable from a photograph. The overview allows you to rotate an object in any plane, change texture, color, and also adds the ability to interactively use functions. When you hover over a functional element of the model, the demo player displays its name (for example, a place for mounting a camera tripod, a ventilation hole in a laptop, etc.).

Initially, objects of 3D surveys were strikingly different from 360-degree photos in a rather low visual realism, today the developers have obviously managed to overcome this drawback. Loading a 3D model is much faster than 360 panoramic images, on average from 3 to 8 seconds. The main problem of the widespread use of 3D surveys is their relatively small number. We know of only one company that is developing them at the moment. As far as we could understand, they are engaged in creating 3D reviews of high-demand products.

At the moment, the database contains about 5000 reviews of popular products, i.e. those that most retailers have. The company strives to evaluate the most demanded positions, and makes reviews on them, including in large collections. This is probably due to the complexity of creating such reviews and the business model that takes this factor into account. A company practically does not undertake custom development if it is not interested in the proposed product group.

They sell ready-made collections of up-to-date reviews at a fixed cost. Specifically for our catalog, out of everything that is proposed by Review3, the collection of headphones is suitable, the rest of the range of products implemented in the reviews is not represented in our catalog. A characteristic advantage of reviews can be considered cost, since not a unique, but informative collection of reviews is much cheaper than unique photos.

Dry residue

3D photos, which today are called any three-dimensional visualization in Internet retail, it is correct to call only stereo images that appeared back in the 19th century. They have nothing to do with e-commerce. 60-degree photos and 3D product reviews are in little demand today. The former are due to their duration, labor intensity, and, accordingly, the cost of technology, and the latter are also due to the limited assortment. As a result, most large retailers, including us, are in no hurry to switch to new formats, seeing them as a promising but risky investment. Meanwhile, this is the future, since not everyone is satisfied with a flat image, and no one has come up with other ways to get a detailed idea of ​​a product online at the moment. I believe that over time, 3D product visualizations will become more and more popular, at least as long as the popularity of online retail grows. I invite you to participate in the survey. We will take its results into account when we select content for new products.

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