If we take the panoramic technique a step further, we can create a "planetoid" effect, which is definitely nothing resembling a "screenshot" but which can still look pretty cool.


Step 1:
Using the steps outlined in the Pano Tutorial, create a 360º panoramic image. If possible, edit it so that the edges match up (make it horizontally tileable)
Step 2:
Take your 360º panorama, and rescale it to be square. Scaling it vertically to match the horizontal length works pretty well, but the important thing is that you stretch your panorama into a square.

Also, rotate your image 180º so that it's upside down. Leave it right-side up for a different look all together!
Step 3:
In Photoshop, simply apply the Polar Coordinates Filter.
(Filter/Distort/Polar Coordinates)
Select "Rectangular to Polar" and hit OK.
Result:
If all goes well, you should pretty quickly have something that looks like the final result you're going for.
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Final Touches:
You will have some stretching at the center of your image. Use the Clone Tool, or whatever technique you like, to cover it up and make it look like a whole. You may also choose to extend you sky. Again, the Clone Tool is great for this. Otherwise, the image is pretty much done and you can edit it as you see fit! Congratulations!



Tips:

- If your final image has an obnoxious seam running down the middle of it, it's because the right edge and the left edge of your panorama don't match up. This is why it's important to try and match those up as much as possible. That in itself can be tricky depending on how the images got merged together, and whether the lighting effects are consistent from one viewing angle to the other. You'll probably need to break out the Clone Tool to match these edges up. It's easier to do this before you run the Polar Coordinates filter.

- The closer a pixel is to the bottom edge of your panorama, the more it will be stretched by the Polar Coordinates filter. Therefore, make sure to shoot enough coverage of the "ground" so that your hero elements (like buildings or spartans) will not be too distorted.

- Shoot as many images as you need to within the game. A good place to start is three rows of ten images each. One row aimed low to cover the ground area, a second row to cover the horizon line, and third row aimed higher toward the sky. Don't get too extreme with any of these highs and lows, but make sure you have enough coverage of both the ground and the sky.

- Below is a shot of Last Resort that shows good vertical coverage. This gives you plenty of water to create your planetoid and not stretch it too much, as well as enough sky to work with. (actually, the real image had slightly more sky in it)

- If you want an image of what resembles a planet floating in space or a sky, you'll need to be cautious when selecting your vantage points. Make sure that whatever is directly beneath you is a surface that extends sufficiently, because this will become "the planet." Also, make sure that you have a full view of the sky in any direction, or your planet will have objects stretching off the edge of the final render. However, if you don't care so much about the "planetoid" look, you have a lot more freedom in selecting your vantage points.


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That funky 'planet' effect...