Meet Franco Albarran – architect and owner of Albarran Architects. Franco is an active THETA user and has used this camera as a helpful tool while building and designing new projects. He’s been testing out the newest model to join the THETA series: RICOH THETA X. We chatted with him on how he uses it for his work in the AEC industry – read below to learn!
You’ve been using THETA cameras for a few months now. How have you continued to use it within your AEC work?
We have, we use it quite a bit in our projects’ design construction. We’re looking at ways to incorporate more in our design phase with our clients, specifically like virtual reality, and how we can create that environment for them. We see people kind of gravitating towards more digital methods. We are actually in the process of developing some pretty neat things and we’re excited to see how the THETA integrates with them.
Tonowanda house – Courtesy of Albarran Architects
(shown on RICOH360 Tours)
Sounds exciting! What were your first THETA X impressions?
It’s a quality product. I like the weight of it – it felt well made and high-tech. My team enjoyed the product and liked the user-friendly LCD panel. I think the touch screen just made it easier because all of our interfaces today are touch screens, even down to the monitor. It was easy and more intuitive to just move in that direction versus maybe clicking buttons or doing other things on the actual camera itself.
We also found the interchangeable battery and external memory card useful. Other THETA models we used in the past were great, but we’d have to transfer the content we captured onto our phones. Sometimes we also had a hard time getting a 5G connection depending on where our project site was located. Having a few memory cards on hand when using the THETA X was helpful on site and we were able to swap them out easily.
Swapping the batteries was also great because we no longer felt like we needed to have the camera charged every time before using it. We could rely on a backup battery and could easily change them when needed.
We agree. We love the new features of THETA X as well! What did you think about the quality of the photos?
I think the quality was great compared to other 360 cameras on the market. We were intrigued by the video quality – it was evident and our clients were impressed.
When we’re taking photos during construction, we take them before we cover up the walls to show us where the electrical and plumbing are. During this phase, there is no lighting in the house and it is very dim, so we like to use the “night feature” of THETA X to showcase the space. This is what we use the camera for most.
After we shoot, we will check the 360 photos on THETA X’s screen or our phone. Then we would upload them into our software and digitally enhance or add some text to them if needed. If we can do everything on our phone, through the app, or the touch screen, that’s preferred because then we know we’ve captured everything. We typically use THETA X about three or four times per week, depending on our projects’ needs and status.
Wow! Are there any accessories or equipment you use on-site to support THETA?
We always have the backup battery with us. We also have a tripod and a stabilizer to use when capturing video. We’ve learned to work with these components while using THETA X.
Those are some of our favorite accessories to use as well. Can you tell us a bit about how you share photos with your clients/team?
We typically use Google Photos to share 360 photos as it is very user-friendly. It imports the images and works immediately without any monthly cost associated which is great. We also enjoy using the THETA editing apps and specifically have been enjoying the animation feature. It’s a great tool!
Did you have experience with other 360 cameras in the past?
Yes, we did but none were as intuitive as THETA. It was so simple – just comes right out of the box and works for capturing excellent 360 photos or videos. It gives our clients a better sense of the space by documenting the existing conditions of a house, rather than taking photos of every single wall which is what we used to do. Now, we just set up THETA and can be out within about 15 minutes after documenting the house. Before using THETA, it would take about an hour and a half because we would have to document what wall we were capturing and where it was on the plan. Whereas now we capture everything in the room, we don’t have to worry about the north wall, east wall, or south wall – it’s all there with THETA in one cohesive shot. It’s also great for us to share a 360-degree version of the space with our clients so they have it to reference as well.
West University Place, TX – Courtesy of Albarran Architects
(shown on RICOH360 Tours)
For those working in the AEC industry like yourself, would you recommend THETA X or SC2?
Both are great options, but if I were making a recommendation, I would look at the kind of work the person is doing in the field. For example, for someone working on a construction site, I would recommend the THETA SC2 as it’s less expensive and can be replaced easily if it’s dropped or damaged. The price point is a little more forgiving than the THETA X if it needs to be replaced (which can be frequent depending on how gentle you are with the camera on site).
Do you think more people in the AEC industry will use 360 photography/videography and it will become the norm?
I think it will. We’re curious to see how it plays out on social media; however, we’re limited by the platform, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram. Hopefully, in the future, the platforms will integrate 360 content more seamlessly.
For more details, please visit the product page on theta360.com.
You can follow Franco’s work at Albarran Architects on Facebook and Instagram.