Newsletter – April 2013

News for April

We’ve got some really good stuff to share with you this month.  First, we finished a few big projects that polished up our 360 viewer at imajize.com. Also, we did a little trip around Europe, visiting six companies that make automated 360-degree photography turntables.  We’ve got some good stories to share!  But first, the new features…

Fresh New Features (now live!)

Aspect ratio of a wine bottle, motorcycle helmet, and climbing shoe

Adaptable Aspect Ratio.  Our 360 viewer now adapts its dimensions to your image’s aspect ratio.  For example, upload an image with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the 360 viewer’s dimensions will be exactly 16:9.  So whatever you upload, the viewer will obediently adapt.  We hope you enjoy it!

2x frames

Double the Frames. Before, we limited the number of frames you can upload to 50.  Sometimes that’s not enough, so we increased it to 100 frames!  This may come in handy for your multi-row 360 views.

Viewer skin for 360 thumbnails

New Viewer Skin.  This new skin shows up when you upload “extra views” in addition to your 360 images.  What’s great about this skin is that it complements both the aesthetic design and color scheme of all modern web browsers.  It’s simple, clean and fits like a glove.

Europe Trip

So now we move on to the Euro trip.  I flew over to Europe from California to meet with my Berlin-based business partner, Jasper.  We set up appointments to meet with the top companies in Europe that manufacture automated 360 photography turntables.  We both learned a lot about what’s going on in the 360 product photography industry, as well as where the technology is heading in the future.  Overall the trip went great.  Let’s take a look at each company we visited.

XYimager.com logo
XYimager studio interior

One of the people we met with was Wolfgang, the owner of XY-IMAGER, an Austrian-based manufacturer of 360 photography turntables.  Wolfgang has several decades of experience with operating a very high-end commercial photography studio.  He’s a genuine pro.  And his massive studio was impressive, to say the least (the photo above only shows a quarter of it!).  Now, let’s dive into their products.

What I like about XY-IMAGER is how modular their turntable systems are.  Many of their models can be used in custom configurations to suit a photographer’s specific needs.

I also found their turntables easy and intuitive to control, which can be done via XY-IMAGER’s control unit (a robust metal tablet with a green LCD touch-screen display).  The other option: You can control their turntables via the “Studio Version” of Garden Gnome’s turntable control software, which works flawlessly on both a Mac and Windows PC.

It’s a pleasure working with Wolfgang and it’s a real honor that he has agreed to form an official partnership with Imajize by adding a spot for us on his website.

Multigrad logo
Multigrad studio interior

Next on our list was Multigrad, the 360 photography turntable company based in Cologne, Germany.  Matthias is the person who leads the software and hardware development.  What’s interesting about this company is that, like Apple Inc., Multigrad makes both the hardware and software entirely in-house.  And best of all, their software now has an “upload to Imajize” feature!  It gets better though…while the images are getting uploaded to Imajize, his software can start shooting another 360 view simultaneously!  It’s an excellent demonstration of high-level productivity.

So their software is good, how about their actual turntable?  It’s equally impressive.  They make one model which has an elegant minimalist design, can do a full rotation very fast (about 15 seconds), and its construction feels solid.  Matthias explained to me that it can comfortably support products weighting up to 100 kg (220 pounds) without breaking a sweat.

This is one of the most seamless integrations of hardware and software I’ve seen that is both Mac-compatible and 100% integrated with Imajize.  Multigrad is in the process of getting their products certified for sale in the USA (lots of bureaucratic paperwork – it often takes much longer than expected).

Here’s a link to their site to learn more about their hardware: http://www.multigrad.de/en/multigrad-base.html

3D-Viz.com logo
3D-Viz studio interior

It was a pleasure to meet with Marcus, the owner of the Swiss-based 360 photography turntable company.

When I saw a demo of his product, it reminded me of a precisely made Swiss watch.  One impressive fact I learned is that Marcus has not had a single customer return in over two years.  That’s impressive, as they’ve been selling a considerable number of turntables during those two years.  After seeing the durability and manufacturing precision of their stainless-steel turntables first-hand, it’s easy for me to understand why Marcus has such a loyal customer base.

Also, Jasper and I got a grand tour of their studio, where we saw a few 65 megapixel medium-format Phase One cameras to complement their high-quality turntables.  We didn’t happen to make a video demonstration of their product but we were able to capture a nice panorama of their incredible studio, which you can see above.

The software which controls their turntables is also very polished, well-designed and bug-free.  Even better, their software is built for both the Mac OS X and Windows PC platform.  Yet another great example of tightly integrating hardware and software with fanatical attention to detail.

Foto Robot logo
Foto Robot studio interior

When Jasper and I arrived in the Czech Republic we met with the friendly staff at fotorobot.  What’s unique about this company is that they have an extremely strong manufacturing backbone.  In fact, they recently bought a one million euro CNC machine to help to pump out their units more quickly.  As you might predict, fotorobot has become a strong player in the industry, selling their machines to photographers and e-commerce shops worldwide.

During my visit, they showed me a demonstration of their flagship product, the “centerless turntable.”  I love the concept and design of this model because it’s able to produce 360º photos with NO shadow and a pure white background.  They use clear plexiglass for the table which is really thick, so it can support products that weigh up to 25 kg (55 pounds).

Controlling their turntables is done via a LAN network connection, and their current turntable control software, called “Basip,” is designed to work with a Windows PC.

Mode 360 logo

Next on our list was MODE 360, the 360 photography turntable company based in Gdańsk, Poland.  Jasper and I met with Mikołaj, the President of MODE 360, at a pub in Dusseldorf, Germany (Mikołaj was in Dusseldorf for an international shoe trade show).  Because of the timing and the location, it wasn’t feasible to get a live demo of his company’s product.  I would’ve loved to get a live demo though, because the video tutorial of their product definitely caught my attention.

During our chat with Mikołaj, I actually did get a live demonstration of their software, which controls their turntable and also does some really powerful editing.  Some of the 360 editing software I’ve seen thus far doesn’t remove the background, but his software takes that feature to a whole new level.  In fact, his software can completely remove the background, even for products with highly complex edges (something even Photoshop occasionally struggles with).

I asked if they have a version of their software that works with the Mac, and Mikołaj explained to me that his team is currently working on it.  That will be great because many professional photographers (like me) are loyal Mac enthusiasts.

Circleshot logo

Next on our list was Circleshot, the 360 photography turntable company based in Copenhagen, Denmark. We met with Christian, the CEO of the company.  Unfortunately, their technology developer was stuck in Norway due to a delayed flight, so we weren’t able to get a live demonstration of their turntables.  On the upside, we were able to get our hands on their three-minute promo video.

I did get to see their turntables in person, though.  They have two models (basically, a big version and small version).  Both the big and small versions are standard turntables with a white circular rotating platform.  The big model, called “Basic Turntable”, can hold up to 300 kg (660 pounds) and the small model, called “Small Turntable”, can hold up to 20 kg (44 pounds).  Fortunately, they have both a Mac and Windows version of their turntable control software.

The other thing I like is that Circleshot has an “open” approach towards their products. They don’t lock their customers in to a small selection of options.  Instead, they’re more like Google, where “the playground is open”.  You can use any camera you want, any lights you want, any kind of photo editing software you want, and any kind of 360 photography publishing platform you want (yes, Imajize included).  Many other 360 turntable companies also follow this ideology, but CircleShot really makes an effort to emphasize this as a core element of their brand identity.

Thus, Christian was happy and open towards incorporating Imajize as a recommended option for their customers.  We’re happy to do the same for him as well.

So that wraps it up for our trip!

Overall it was really productive and a lot of fun.  This industry is still young and deep into the innovation phase.  And from what I’ve seen thus far, there’re some really big technological leaps coming soon.  We’re just excited to be in the middle of it all.  So thanks to XY-IMAGER, Multigrad, 3D-VIZ.com, fotorobot, Mode 360 and Circleshot for meeting with us.  We had a great time and we look forward to seeing you again in the not so distant future.
We hope you enjoyed our April newsletter.  If you have a question, a suggestion, a crazy idea or even a funny joke, then drop us a line at support@imajize.com.  We’re always glad to hear from you.

Thanks,
Michael Allen
CEO – Imajize™
www.imajize.com