History of the project


The idea of panorama based exploration of miniature worlds in a first person view, came first - some time around 2008 or 2009.

With a bit of effort, by 2010 I had a test box (a literal box with a garden built into it) and I figured out at least a partial process for achieving that vision. I used a high-resolution camera, to shoot stills downwards towards miniature worlds, with an optical zoom and macro lens, focusing carefully and with the view locked very still, on a large reflective chrome ball bearing positioned in various places within the miniature environments.

Having captured many dozens of stills of many dozens of points in the miniature landscapes, I then used a polar coordinate unwrap in Photoshop to extract equirectangular panoramas from the reflections in the ball bearing - pulling 360-degree views from each usable photo. 

HISTORY OF THE PROJECT - 2011 - the Kickstarter

That concept - panoramas captured inside miniature sets - was shown for the first time in a Kickstarter that failed due to lack of effective promotion, in 2011.  Despite the weak immediate response, the KS staff thought it was promising, and loved the project (with a 'Projects we Love' designation) and there were a few people months afterward who said they thought the idea was brilliant and  wished it would still happen, including several who only found out about it after it had failed.

So, yes, it failed as a Kickstarter, because I didn't know much about crowdfunding or how to run or promote a crowdfunding project. But all the same, there were a few people who were aware of the concept, and they were really excited about it.  And I was too. I thought it had potential. But without funding, I had to set it aside. 

FIVE YEARS LATER:

Moving forward to 2017 - I have bought a higher-res 20-megapixel camera, I've gained experience with the Unity 5 engine, plus I've got a lot of assets added to it - nice shaders, even some I've made myself, animation and visual scripting tools,  and everything I need to make Miniature Multiverse. And in summer 2017, I began accumulating miniature supplies and materials to build O scale worlds with.  

O scale is perfect; small enough that the total scope of the worlds can be immense, but big enough to hold a lot of detail and position reflective 1.5" diameter chrome ball bearings into the landscape, or even a camera - yes, I have a compact camera that can shoot 12-mp stills and 4k video, and it is tiny, it's 2 inches in its largest dimension. And it's a well-reviewed off-brand SJ CAM variant, that I got for under $40. (It's amazing - this wasn't even remotely possible in 2011, but it is now!)

I realized partway through taking photos that my DIY ball-bearing camera rig, as unique as it was, couldn't extract as much detail from a reflection in a single photo as could be gained from multiple photos, which is why the method was changed a few months ago. Now I'm using Hugin and Photoshop to stitch together batches of stills taken at 15-degree increments, rotating around from each position in the miniature with the tiny camera I have mentioned. The result's better, 4096 pixel wide cylindrical panoramas.  I'd considered even higher resolution but many computers and graphics cards cannot exceed a 4096-pixel texture, and aside from that, filesize would be an obvious issue anyway, especially as this explorable multiverse expands to include numerous worlds.

Now - finally - almost a decade after the seed of an idea took root, the likely outcome is a release around the end of October 2017 or, if I can't pull that off, in the first few days of November. It can't be done and done well before then, I think.

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