How to convert 360 degree images into a skybox

How to convert 360 degree images into a skybox

Posted on September 21, 2017

Image: Anthony Quintano

Using a Gear 360 camera and a plugin makes skybox creation a breeze

At Devika we’re currently working on a virtual reality application that will teach meditation and mindfulness. The project is a collaboration between us and the Nan Tien Temple and Institute, and involves actual footage of the temple complex taken using a Gear 360 camera and turned into a skybox. And it's a pretty straightforward process.

If you’ve never used Gear 360 before it’s quite simple for first-timers to pick up. If you don’t have one already, the camera will set you back roughly $200-$300 AUD. You’ll also need to download the associated Gear 360 app onto an Android compatible device (we used a Samsung Galaxy S7). Using the app allows your Android device to work as a Bluetooth remote, giving you a live, 360-degree feed.

Once you’ve captured all your images you’ll be able to stitch them together and transfer them to your device. If you have a GearVR compatible device you can view the images in the headset to get the full immersive experience.

For our project (and quite possibly for your projects as well) we had to remove the tripod from the images prior to importing to Unity. This is a fairly simple process that can be achieved through Photoshop.

skybox gifAfter opening Unity we need to import our 360 image file (drag and drop the file into the ‘Project’ window). Once it has finished importing select the file in the ‘assets’ pane and change the ‘Texture Shape’ to ‘Cube’. Next change the ‘Mapping’ to ‘Latitude-Longitude Layout (Cylindrical)’.

Now that we have the image as a cubemap we need to create a new material and change its shader to ‘Skybox/Cubemap’ and assign the cubemap. After we have created the material for the skybox we can now apply it in the ‘Lighting’ window.

skybox GIF

And there you have it – one realistic skybox created using a Gear 360 Camera.

Our tips:

  • Make sure the camera is perfectly level. A mini spirit level can help.
  • Hide from the camera while the images are being taken. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget.
  • Edit the settings (e.g. exposure) using the partner app before you start capturing images

Want to learn more? Check out the rest of our dev blogs!