How to create a self-extracting/installing panorama or object movie

Whether you want to email your panoramas to friends, or put them onto CD to distribute, you will want to package them up so that they run straight away - you don't really want to have to tell friends and customers that they have to install several things first

Presentation software

Two pieces of software allow you to create whole presentations including panoramas and to publish them to CDs:

Note you can embed QuickTime movies in Microsoft Powerpoint 2000 presentations, but this only works on an Apple Mac. On a PC you would need to ensure you use only a QuickTime v2 file.

3DVista Studio can export Macromedia Director Xtra Datafiles (DXD) which can then be incorporated into Macromedia Director applications and then used to create CD presentations etc.

Software for creating self-extracting or self-installing presentations

Various programs allow you to create self-extracting files. Here I am going to take a look at two programs, WinZip Self Extractor (a general purpose utility, US$49) and Pano2Exe (a special utility specifically for panoramas, US$25).

Note that if you create a self-extracting or self-installing panorama or object movie of any kind, you can then put it on a CD. To make it even easier to use, you can then make the CD auto-run. On a Windows machine that involves creating a text file on the CD. This file must be called autorun.inf and typically contains the following kind of information:

[autorun]
OPEN=myselfextratingfile.exe
ICON=myselfextratingfile.exe,0

Pano2Exe

This is a simple utility from Change 7 (see http://change7.com/pano2exe/) that allows you to create a self-executing panorama for Windows users. You can also then package up one or more self-extracting panoramas into a self-installing panorama set.

Pano2Exe has a built-in cylindrical panorama viewer and costs US$25 (which disables the annoying "unregistered" message).

WinZip Self Extractor

WinZip self-extractor is a general purpose utility for creating self-extracting and self-installing files. Unlike WinZip, it is not free for non-commercial use but costs US$49 from www.winzip.com (but there is a free evaluation version).

To use of it for panoramas or object movies, you need to either:

  • Create a web page with all the files it needs including a Java viewer
  • Use an free-standing application viewer (not a Java applet or plugin) such as Helmut Dersch's PTViewer and include it with your images

You can use WinZIP SE to either:

  • Install your files to a specific directory on the user's computer
  • Extract the files to a temporary location

...and you can then specify a command that should be run. Therefore, if you include PTViewer you can specify the command is, for example .\ptviewer .\mypanorama.jpg, which will prompt PTViewer to start up and display your panorama immediately. If you are packaging a web page, you have to assume that the end user has a web browser already installed, and you can then just 'run' the web page and rely on the user's computer to use whatever web browser (s)he has installed: .\mywebpage.html

Here are some examples of the above uses of WinZip SE:

What about object movies and virtual tours?

Pano2Exe and PTViewer are designed to display panoramas only, and at the moment I do not know of any free-standing object movie viewers, nor viewers that support virtual tour functionality. Therefore if you want to distribute a virtual tour or an object movie, I suggest you create web pages for it, using a Java viewer, and package these up using a utility like WinZip SE.

However, I am not familiar with Macromedia products and I know that Macromedia Flash and Macromedia Director support QuickTime. It might therefore be possible to distribute QuickTime objects and virtual tours using Macromedia products.