Specialist jet photographer Helmut Harringer explains how he creates his beautifully executed aircraft cabin panoramic tours.
Specialist jet photographer Helmut Harringer is carving a significant niche in executive aircraft presentation with JetPano, the dedicated aircraft photography branch of his SpeedLight brand. Growing from the seed of an idea sown by a friend back in 2013, Harringer combines beautifully executed exterior images with spectacular interior panoramas, aiming to deliver ultimate detail and quality from every commission.
“The idea formed after a friend working as a charter airline marketing manager sent me a cockpit view of an Air France aircraft and asked if I could produce similar pictures of his jets. In all honesty I had no idea how to create such an image, but I accepted!
“Several YouTube tutorials later, I part ordered and part rented the equipment I needed and travelled to Switzerland for my first commission, to photograph a Legacy 600. The equipment only arrived the day before, so I created my first panorama inside a hotel room… I was pretty nervous going to the airport next morning! Luckily I had plenty of time in the aircraft to take the work slowly, step-by-step.”
Since then, Harringer has worked hard to optimise his workflow while maximising quality. “There are lots of people offering similar products,” he says. “Now JetPano is two photographers sharing a passion for high-quality aircraft presentation. What makes our work unique is our focus on uncompromising quality and our efforts to minimise ground/APU time.
“Of course, the equipment is also important and we use state-of-the-art 36.8MP digital cameras, premium lenses and high-tech panoramic adaptors made in Switzerland. Each panorama comprises 15 images, enabling very high resolution and ultimate depth of detail. Every photograph is carefully edited, before maximum effort is directed towards the quality of the ‘stitching’, the combination of all 15 photos into one panoramic image.
“We scan every section of the panorama manually so that we can optimise the blends between individual images – automatically stitched panoramas are very good, but we strive for perfection in even the smallest detail. With stitching complete, the cabin windows are masked – usually they actually appear white because of the long exposure times we use.”
JetPano takes pride in creating natural-looking images and therefore avoids the use of additional lighting, relying instead on cabin and natural lighting, and long exposure times; yet collecting a set of 15 images takes no more than seven minutes from set-up to completion. Assuming it’s ready for photography, with the cabin arranged to client requirements, the cockpit aligned and power on, JetPano typically records a heavy jet in 90 to 120 minutes.
The finished product, a package of images plus the panoramic virtual tour, is usually delivered within 72 hours of the photographic session.
“We use the latest software, creating multiple versions of the walkthrough, optimised for mobile, virtual reality and desktop devices. The software detects and identifies the viewing device, and then automatically loads the appropriate version of the tour. This ensures fast loading times and the best resolution. The ‘actual’ tour is based on html 5 technology. This means all the customer needs do is host the files on their server and link to the html file, or implement my link if the tour is hosted on JetPano’s server. There’s no need for additional software.”
The majority of JetPano’s customers are charter operators looking for a high quality means of presenting their fleet to potential clients, although the product is also applicable to aircraft sales brokers offering pre-owned machines. Harringer says transparency is a key factor in his customer relationship and he’s therefore comfortable admitting the limitations of his JetPano work.
“Our type of presentation is not ideal for new aircraft sales. The virtual tours are based on real footage and while they’re perfect as a reference view on a manufacturer’s website, for example, with so many customisation options for new aircraft, computer-rendered graphics offer a more efficient presentation solution.”
But for charter operators making the most of their JetPano purchase, there are multiple display options. “They can show the tour on their website if they have an internet connection, but we can also enable offline viewing via an app installed on their laptop or mobile device. Once the offline file has been copied onto the machine, no further internet connection is required – it’s perfect for exhibitions and shows without Wi-Fi.
“It’s also possible to project the panoramic image onto room walls, but high-tech projectors and a good deal of space are needed and clients usually prefer to present the tours on screens or via VR devices. The most impressive results are achieved using VR equipment – Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR – when viewers feel they’re actually standing in the aircraft cabin.” n