VR camera rig

3-camera zenith for better 3D

I get a lot of questions about my 3-camera zenith and nadir setup. While the 3-camera zenith is still not a perfect solution, I'll show in this post that it's a better way of creating 3D than any 2-camera zenith setup. The takeaway from this article should be - if you're thinking about buying a 3D 360 camera, please buy one that actually does what it claims.

Let's start with a look at how 3D 360 rigs work.

It should seem obvious that one of the rigs shown below wouldn't work - even though two cameras are used in the front, the cameras are vertically oriented, and human beings just aren't shaped that way.


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Makes sense, right? So, taking a look at the 2-camera zenith/nadir setup, it should become apparent that there's a significant problem with the image captured by this style of rig:

If you imagine a viewer staring at the ceiling and swiveling in their chair, their eyes would be constantly changing orientation, but our cameras are locked in space when we shoot. With the camera technology that exists today, it's difficult to completely avoid this problem - but adding a third camera to zenith and nadir significantly improves the result.

But don't take my word for it - click here to download a sample stereo panorama, and check out the 3D on the lanterns hanging above my rig. The 3D effect should be stronger and more comfortable across the whole zenith than with standard 2-camera zenith rigs.

For a look at how exactly I'm stitching and blending together these three zenith cameras, please check out my upcoming tutorial on stitching the 18-camera rig.

These days, I'm working on a newer version of my rig that should more completely address this issue - but in the meantime, if nothing else, please don't spend thousands of dollars on a 3D 360 rig built on an ineffective marketing gimmick.