Operation StratoSphere is the name I coined for a project I’ve been slowly working on over the last couple years. The short version is that it’s a project that will involve sending a few high altitude balloons up into the stratosphere with various payloads and configurations, eventually culminating in one final flight with a payload consisting of six HD cameras.
Somewhere in the middle of 2010 I came across a video on Vimeo that was shot using two GoPro HD cameras. The cameras were attached to a styrofoam cooler and the cooler was attached to a weather balloon. The balloon reached 80,000 feet and the cameras took beautiful HD footage of the entire trip.
For several years before that I had played with creating panoramic images by stitching together multiple pictures. For example, here are some less than stellar panoramas from a trip to Tucson, AZ in 2004.
Not too long before seeing that video I had come across http://lucid.it, a site that demonstrates panoramic video playback. Picture a video player that allowed you to look in any direction in the scene while the video is playing.
It didn’t take long for me to consider how awesome it would be to have a fully spherical 360×180 degree panoramic video of a balloon flight to ~100,000 feet. I promptly started researching and trying to recruit assistance. If you’re curious about those first couple months of research, you can read through the Wave discussions in the following archives (some of the links therein may no longer function properly) :
After a lot of research and learning I decided I needed to stop reading and start doing. You can only learn so much about swimming before you get to a point where you have to get your feet wet.
I went to a local craft store and bought several pieces of foamcore in order to start prototyping some payload containers. I also purchased a GoPro HD camera for use in testing the prototypes. The first pass on creating a payload container involved laying out a model, basically an unfolded cube, then cutting it out. The joints were done by cutting two 45 degree cuts through to the opposite side’s paper backing, but not through the backing. This allowed a cube to be folded around the 90 degree corners I’d cut. One face of the cube was cut out separately as a lid was needed and I figured it’d be nicer to not have it flapping around or bearing weight while connected through just one fragile joint.
Using the box I created I was able to approximate a six camera setup by making a rigid frame for the box to fit into. I would then take one picture, rotate the box to another camera’s location and take another picture. Rinse and repeat. The first test’s result can be seen below. Click and drag the mouse to rotate the view. If the viewer doesn’t work, try going to its other home.
The prototype box went through three versions before getting the result I have today. Over the course of the previous two years I have acquired through purchases, gifts, and bribery, five more GoPro cameras. I now have a full cube’s worth and have a box design I’m mostly happy with.
That’s all for now. I’ll post later on the current state of the project.