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Here’s how Google Street View is taking you inside Charlotte theaters (and more)

The process is pretty simple. Take a DSLR camera, a fisheye lens and a tripod. Take a bunch of pictures. Take a couple hours. Mash it all together to create something intricate and, sometimes, beautiful.

A handful of companies around Charlotte have been trained by Google to let you “see inside” businesses and buildings around town. Think Google Street View but inside. Here’s an example from Luna’s Living Kitchen in South End.

One of those companies, HyperLocal, is creating virtual tours of the Blumenthal Performing Arts theaters and other businesses, like Luna’s Living Kitchen (above) and the various Amelie’s locations.

Managing partners Corey Larkins and Daniel Ruch invited me to watch them work their magic at the Knight Theater in uptown last week.

I walked in expecting to see some complicated orb-like thing with cameras pointing in every direction, like a less-lethal version of the contraption Darth Vader uses to threaten Princess Leia in “Star Wars.”

Nope. I found Ruch in an upstairs hallway of the theater working a normal-looking camera.

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The guys at Hyperlocal said they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Google — not surprising — but, as best as I could tell, this is how it works:

– Businesses reach out to a company like HyperLocal to create a virtual tour of the space. Some, like a local coworking space, use the tool as a way to show out-of-town what the office looks like. It also just helps beef up the Google search listing.

– Ruch and Larkins start outside the building, taking pictures from the street through the entrance, this way you can go from Street View to inside the building.

– They move the tripod around the building, making sure to cover the entire area. At each stop, they take a panoramic shot of their surroundings, even if one direction is just a blank wall. Everything is captured.

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– It took them about an hour to do Luna’s. Knight Theater took about 2 1/2 hours.

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– This is the private part. When all the photos have been taken, Google works its Google magic and creates the virtual tour.

And, voila. You get something like this one of the McGlohon Theater:

Take some time to click around Google Maps and see where else you can see inside.

Photos: Corey Inscoe

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