QuickTime VR (also known as QuickTime Virtual Reality or QTVR) is an image file format developed by Apple Inc. for QuickTime. It allows the creation and viewing of photographically-captured panoramas and the exploration of objects through images taken at multiple viewing angles. It functions as a plugin for the standalone QuickTime Player, as well as working as a plugin for the QuickTime Web browser plugin.


VR Panoramas are panoramic images which surround the viewer with an environment (inside, looking out), yielding a sense of place. They can be “stitched” together from several normal photographs or 2 images taken with a circular fisheye lens, or captured with specialized panoramic cameras, or rendered from 3D-modeled scenes. There are two type of VR Panorama:

  • Single row panoramas, with a single horizontal row of photographs.
  • multi-row panoramas, with several rows of photographs taken at different tilt angles.

VR Panoramas are further divided into those that include the top and bottom, called cubic or spherical panoramas, and those that do not, usually called cylindrical.

Example of a cylindrical panorama. Taken with a Nikon Coolpix 5000 and stitched with Apple Inc.‘s QuickTime Authoring Studio.

A single panorama, or node is captured from a single point in space. Several nodes and object movies can be linked together to allow a viewer to move from one location to another. Such multinode QuickTime VR movies are called scenes.

Apple’s QuickTime VR file format has two representations for panoramic nodes:

Each of these are typically subdivided or tiled into several smaller images, and stored in a special kind of QuickTime movie file, which requires the QuickTime plugin.

Hot spots can be embedded into the panorama, which when selected can invoke some action, for example moving to another panorama node.

Example of a cylindrical panorama. Taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XT


In contrast to Panoramas, which are captured from one location looking out at various angles, objects are captured from many locations pointing in toward the same central object.

The simplest type of Object VRs to capture are single row, typically captured around the equator of an object. This is normally facilitated by a rotating turntable. The object is placed on the turntable, and photographed at equal angular increments (usually 10°) from a camera mounted on a tripod.

Capturing a multi-row object movie requires a more elaborate setup for capturing images, because the camera must be tilted above and below the equator of the object at several tilt angles.

The image source does not have to be photographic. 3D renderings or drawings can be used.

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