Yeah, I'm surprised how candid they've been about revealing so much of the visual direction of the movie. Somehow things don't feel "spoiled" if they are coming from LFL. They've done a good job at keeping major leaks bottled up. That we haven't seen anything about those old Tarkin shots or a single Vader leak is pretty amazing.
I think I actually like the spoonfed official spoilers much more than the blithering fanboy "leaks" and crap out of Tfn, etc.
As far as the orb goes, that's a tool for measuring lighting conditions in 3D space, I believe. I think I read at the OS via Pablo the Webguy that these were created by splicing several shots together from something more "normal" of a camera. Not that I have any clue how that was done so well. The images hold up really well even at full zoom.