Software giant MAGIX was not very well known in Australia until the last couple of years or so ago when it bought Sony’s software range of video and audio creation tools. Notably these were the Vegas range, Sound Forge and ACID.
But the company has its own range of applications, also based around media creation, and it has just released the a new edition to its Photostory lineup of products, PhotoStory Premium VR .
In its basic form, PhotoStory Premium is used to build slide shows – and has been doing this since its launch way back in 2002 so as you’d hope and imagine, it is pretty mature by now in this regard. There are lots of nice add ons such as the addition of soundtracks, effects, travel route animation, tracking shots and panoramas included.
Now, in 2018, Virtual Reality has taken Photostory to the next level with the introduction of PhotoStory Premium VR (although non VR version, Photostory Deluxe still exists).”
In essence, when working with PhotoStory Premium in VR mode, you are using a separate application to that used for building “standard” slide shows. This app, PhotoStory VR has a very different interface to its sibling, and I admit it takes a bit of getting used to and reminds me a little of the old Kai interface of the late 90s’ without the 3D, glossy feel to it.
Projects, Scenes and Spaces
An important thing to know is the distinction PhotoStory VR places between “projects”, “scenes” and “spaces”.
A “project” contains any number of different “scenes”. A “scene” is an overall 360˚ object – video or still. A “space” on the other hand is an area inside a scene that contains a video, image, text or audio file. Without grasping these differences, it can become confusing as I found initially!
The best analogy I can think of is that a project is a house. A scene is a room inside the house and a space is an object in a room.
Figure 1 shows the opening screen. Mousing over one of the icons gives you a description of its purpose as you can see.
The VR wizard is exactly that, a semi-automated way to build a VR slideshow and while you might have a quick dabble with it, personally I found it a bit limiting as if you decide to change something later, you cannot simply backtrack easily, something I feel MAGIX should address in a later version.
Oh and one thing we found in our early plays and to be fixes in a point update, is that if you have files you want to use on a network drive, PhotoStory VR cannot access these; only local drives are currently supported.
Creating a VR Project
Creating a VR project manually therefore is the better way to approach the program.
If you can imagine being inside a large ball, this is the scene of a PhotoStory VR build. Imagine being on the inside surface of this imaginary ball; this is your first scene in a project and here you can use either a still image or a video. This initial image or video must be 360˚ based though.
Once loaded, you can pan around your image, and a single strip across the centre shows the complete panorama shot. It is possible to manually set the duration of your scene when it plays.
It is very important to make sure that resolutions are up to par otherwise graininess can step in as you can see in Figure 3. As a rule of thumb, the larger the image, the better it will look as you don’t want PhotoStory VR doing any “stretching” to make it fit.
The grey circle at the centre of the screen is where all of the tools available to you are accessed. Clicking the initial arrow point opens up a list of options with which to add further elements to spaces in the scene.
For example, clicking the icon at 2 o’ clock allows you to add a 360˚ image, video, text or audio. Here I have chosen a 360˚ video (my kitchen actually taken using a 360Fly HD camera).
The new space can be dragged to wherever you like inside the 360˚ overall scene and sized and angled at will using the tools in the video sub menu. You can also play the space or delete it. To close a sub menu, it is necessary to click again the option you chose to open it.
After you have created all your spaces in a scene, you can decide what happens when the scene finishes playing.
You can choose that it then does nothing, loops back and starts again, or the scene switches to another scene containing another set of spaces you have created.
For example, I might have a scene for each room in a restaurant – dining, alfresco, function room, reception, kitchen etc, and each contains its own spaces – different menus, views from windows, furniture, staff – and links could be placed to allow the viewer to go from room to room and explore what is in each of the rooms (scenes).
This feature makes it useful too, for zooming in on interesting parts of scenery – the plaque on a statute in a scene or individual details of the interior of a car or yacht spring to mind.
Other programs make you understand concepts such as linking hotspots whereas MAGIX has simplified the process.
In the overall project view, you can set the sequence with which you want the project to run by simply dragging individual scenes into the preferred order.
Once a project has been completed, it is played using the special MAGIX VR-X player or transferred to a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. The device must be attached to the network the computer used to create the project is on and have the MAGIX VR-X player installed.
MAGIX PhotoStory VR does take a bit of a learning curve to get your head around it. The copy we received had no specific documentation, and it wasn’t until we were pointed to a video tutorial that we managed to get the gist of how it worked (we have included this tutorial for you).
Once the nubbins have been grasped, then it is quite effective as an application to make virtual reality projects. It may not have the high-end capability of other apps, but for the average user and general consumer needs, it is certainly a welcome addition to the genre.
Businesses such as real estate agents, travel agents, restauranteurs, vehicle and boat dealerships and others will no question find uses for it.
The fact PhotoStory VR projects need a specialist player is a drawback as against making standalone animations / systems, but this is not insurmountable. For the price of the app (AUD$199), it’s a small issue in the overall scheme of things I feel.
The ability to also make sophisticated “standard” slide shows is a bonus.
Download the trial and watch the tutorial while you have a play. Tell me what you think?