It took me a while, but I finally got the hang of producing a QuickTime Virtual Reality 360 degree panorama. To have a look around hover your mouse over the image above, click, and drag it to the right or left. It’s far from perfect – I have to get better at maintaining the same exposure and measuring the tilt angles of the photographs – but I’m pretty happy with how it came out. (You can press ‘shift’ to zoom in and ‘control’ to zoom out.) I’m still amazed by the technology (and the underlying math) that makes it all possible. I took about 60 different photographs to produce that QTVR file. Those 60 photographs add up to about 270 megabytes, but the resulting QTVR file is only 1.9 megabytes. When you break it down, that whole virtual reality scene from Pafnerscharte Ridge is really just 8.3 million 1’s and 0’s. I have to give props to all the bonafide geeks out there who are able to work out the math that turns those 8 million bits into what feels like standing on top of an Alpine ridge.

If you’d like to make your own QTVR file, first you need to use Hugin (free and open-source) to stitch together an equirectangular panorama. Kevin Purdy has a good guide to do just that on Lifehacker. There are various tools to turn the resulting panorama into QuickTime VR file. I used CubicConverter, which is pretty old school but does the trick. There are some helpful tutorials on the website.

Anyway, I spent the past few days in Bad Gastein in the Central Eastern Alps. The town is far past its prime, but hints of 5 star luxury still echo its glory days as a mountainous spa resort for the rich and famous. (I made another QTVR of Bad Gastein here.) For whatever reason, the town tends to fill up with Italians in the summertime and Swedes in the winter. (If I were Swedish the last place I would go for my winter vacation is the Bad Gastein. Do these people hate sunny weather or what?)

The hiking around town is both breathtaking and easily accessible. Here was my path:


It doesn’t look so impressive from Google Earth, but let me tell you, that was some major elevation gain. The blue circle is the ridge where I took all the panoramic photos. The green square is where I ate the best smoked trout I’ve ever had:

The Reward

It was an amazing, exhausting day. My calves still ache. I put a few more photos on Flickr.

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