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Burning Question: Where can I get Spherical Map HDRI Files?

Burning Question: Where can I get Spherical Map HDRI Files?

Spherical Map HDRI (High-Dynamic Range Imaging) is something that seems to be known by many names: Spherical Environment Maps, Spherical Reflection Maps… Whatever you prefer to call it, an HDRI is a full-circle panoramic image that can be used to create unique lighting for really realistic 3D renders. Here’s more about HDRI and where you can get them, and a bit of extra information that you may find useful.


Introduction: What are HDRI Spherical Images?

There seem to be several names for the same thing: Spherical Map HDRIs, HDRI Spherical Images, HDRI Spherical Reflection Maps, HDRI Spherical Environment Maps, HDRI Environments, HDRI Light Maps. Whatever you’d like to call them,

If you’ve seen panoramic images with weird polar coordinates affected swooping lines, this is an HDRI spherical map.

All sorts of software can use these Spherical Reflection Maps for lighting or environment backgrounds, including 3D applications like NewTek LightWave, MAXON CINEMA 4D, Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, cebas FinalRender, The Foundry MODO, Pixologic ZBrush, and other 3D software.

Adobe After Effects, FXHOME HitFilm, Trapcode Horizon, and the ever-popular Video Copilot Element 3D can also utilize Spherical HDRI Reflection Maps.

Where can I find HDRI Spherical Images for use in my own projects?

Video Copilot BackLight features 50 HDRI Spherical Environment Maps that you can use to light your scene and create stunning reflections inside of Element 3D V2


Dosch has a bunch.

They are each priced at $119.00 (MSRP) Toolfarm price: $113.05.

Free Spherical Maps

  • Freebie: Seamless Spherical Maps from Video CopilotIn April we featured a tutorial from Video Copilot featuring an After Effects comp that converts a texture and converts it to a texture that can be mapped cleanly on a sphere. The project file uses Polar Coordinates. Andrew used it on his Solar Atmosphere tutorial from a few days ago that uses the Video Copilot Heat Distortion plug-in with AE’s Fractal Noise. This goes beyond, letting you create Plasma Balls and Force Fields with no seems!
  • Texturify – Texturify has a bunch of free environments featuring urban scenes and nature.
  • 1000 Skies – Zaxwerks recommended this site for panoramas of skies. Lots of nice clouds from sunset to sundown.
  • Viz-People’s HDRi Maps  – Download 10 really high res spherical environmental maps. FREE for non-commercial use.
  • HDRMaps Freebies – Royalty free images of outdoor and indoor scenes.
  • Open Footage – Lots of freebies but not quite as high res, with a Creative Commons license. The higher res is for purchase. I used one from Open Footage in the hero image on this page.

Also, check out these programs

Trapcode Horizon – By applying images or gradients to the inside of a giant sphere, this plug-in creates an infinite background. No matter where your camera is directed, Horizon’s simple controls make ultra-realistic environments or sky gradients a snap.

Note: Horizon is only available as part of the Trapcode Suite.

How to create your own HDRI Spherical Images

The old school method

It’s tougher than just stitching a panorama together because you’ll have to deal with differences in exposure across 360°. In the old days, they used to use to take an HDRI mirrored ball. Here’s another tutorial showing how to create an unwrapped HDRI with a chrome ball. Of course, with this method, you’ll have to paint the camera and yourself out of the shot.

Create HDRI Inside Cinema 4D Tutorial HD

Create Spherical HDRI’s Right in Photoshop With Hydra HDRI Pro – We don’t sell this plug-in but if you’re interested, you can order it from Hydra Design Labs.

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Posted by Michele

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