618 words on Photos
When browsing through my iPhoto library, I saw that I still have some panorama shots of my old room that I took back then. I had my mom’s camera at the time but didn’t have the stitching software that came with it. Since, I changed that shortcoming to stitch some of the panorama shots I made in spring.
When doing this, I thought the software Canon provided, Photo Stitch, wasn’t exactly pretty or good but still surprisingly easy to use and rather quick. An at least for photos from a distance it gives you a nice way of getting fake wide angle shots… and just the nature details made me think that a two megapixel camera might be unnecessarily limiting for the image quality.
So I went and stitched the photos of my old room. The results of that weren’t catastrophic. But they strongly suggested, that just standing in the middle of the room and turning around isn’t a very good technique. Using a tripod looks like a very good idea to get a somewhat level series of shots. In addition, using a flash looks like a very bad idea unless you’re in the middle of a round room, i.e. all the walls have exactly the same distance from yourself, thus giving the same brightness. In addition a wide-angle lens would be great. Those little cameras just aren’t wide-anglish enough to cover enough of the top and the bottom of the room.
Another thing I learned was that while QuickTime offers all of its codecs for QTVR encoding, not all of them work. Using H.264 will just give a solid green screen. And using JPEG2000 seems to work but will crash the app you open the file in (as of QuickTime 7.0.3 anyway).
Once I was in panorama-mode, I wanted more of them. I got my flatmate’s reasonably nice (Canon Powershot G3) camera, the tripod I have by now and tried a couple of things. My first idea was to make portrait photos to get most of the height of the room. My photos weren’t too good there, though… both because of my tripod not being too good for rotating in portrait mode and that being my first round of photos. So those didn’t stitch too well but gave an OK panorama. With the camera’s high resolution, it has quite high quality in places. And a file size to go with it (~5MB).
As the stitching wasn’t too good, I came up with the borderline insane idea to go for an even higher resolution. Zooming in a little more should mean that the overlaps of the different photos coincide more closely. Hopefully meaning that the stitching software has an easier job. So I ended up making 20 landscape format photos for one turn in the room. And I did three sets of them, for the top, middle and bottom of the room.
That made stitching much more complicated, though. Shuffling 60 files into the right two-dimensional order can be a royal pain. And Photo Stitch eventually failed me here, spawning error messages. Perhaps because the images were too large in total, we are talking about a quarter billion pixels here after all, or because it couldn’t manage the relatively small angle of view.
So I looked around a little and couldn’t find too many other reasonably comfortable options. The best one I discovered was the rather cumbersome and crash-happy PTMac. It did happily load and somehow process all of the images and it probably was the first time that I had an application occupying more than a gigabyte of memory, but the results just sucked. Too bad, because I would’ve really liked to have that massive panorama.
I have attempted several panoramas, and none of them turn out that well… there are always color shifts and alignments that need extensive Photoshopping to get them looking right. I think I’ve got the problem narrowed down to using wider angle lenses, but I haven’t experimented to confirm that.
Would you mind sharing some information about the tools and tricks you used. Or even the results to illustrate that.
I have to admit that I only got into this because it worked reasonably well for my holiday panoramas and my technical background on the topic is rather weak.
As for the colours… the results I got weren’t 100% perfect, with some weaknesses in the boring parts of the panorama (white wall without reference points for stitching) but I didn’t worry too much about them. I think the camera’s panorama mode ensures that you take all photos with the same settings.
Oh, and are wide angle lenses good or bad? I didn’t quite understand that yet. My impression is that wide-angle portrait photos have the advantage of you getting away with just taking one series of photos but require more distortion in the stitching process. Which, with the software I used, seemed a bit problematic.
You might get better results using a program called Hugin. There are OS X, Linux and Windows versions available. They did a decent job integrating the program in the OS X experience, i.e. Macifying it. Best of all, it has lots of options! Try it
Over half a year later, I found Quicktime still behaves the same with H.264 and JPEG2000 codecs. It is best simply to use regular JPEG.