The program claims that it does this automagically. You just take a few dozen pics and Autostitch will fit them together, and at the same time weed out pictures that don’t belong to the set. You don’t need to do anything. They also claim that you can can make spherical panoramas this way.
This sounded a bit too good to be true. Spherical imaging is tough. Imagine. You’re standing on a hill. You stay in place (most importantly, keep the camera in place) and shoot the whole scene: All around, up, down, everything. Then you take those pics and give them to Autostitch, and it will piece them all together, correcting for varying levels of brightness, allowing for differering white-balance, correcting for slight parallaxing (because a human being is holding the camera and it’s bound to move a bit), and it will do it with no hints from the user as to how the images are supposed to fit together.
I had to see this in action for myself, so this weekend I took a bunch of pictures of my home office and gave it a try. It worked. See the results below the fold.
To get this, I turned the camera around the full field of view, taking a picture every 20 to 30 degrees. Then I aimed it up thirty degrees and went round again. Then I aimed it up sixty and went around a third time. Then I did that all over again, except aiming the camera down. Then I took a few straight up and straight down pics. When I was done I had exactly 100 pictures. This was most likely overkill. Maybe I could have gotten away with 45 degree turns.
Obviously it worked really well, which I wasn’t expecting. If I had known it would turn out this nice I would have picked a better subject! The office is just a regular home office. Books, games, a desk, a few computers, lots of dull clutter. Meh.
There were some blacked-out regions in the resulting image, which I very sloppily covered up in Photoshop. If you look straight down and straight up you can see the obvious hack work where I duplicated over the “holes”. I’m not sure if the holes were the result of me not taking enough pictures of those areas, or if Autostitch couldn’t hack it.
Assuming my monitor is “front” (which is obviously how I picture this room) then looking to your right you’ll see a large dry-erase board. You can see some visual artifacts on the edges of this board and directly above it where the wall and the ceiling meet. Looking left, there is a really bad seam along the edge of the desk.
To be fair, this isn’t the sort of thing autostitch was designed to do. The program was written with outdoor vistas in mind, and I’m taking pictures of things less than two feet from the camera. I imagine that slight differences in the position of the lens become very important at these distances, and the way most tripods work you can’t aim a camera up and down wiothout moving it a bit.
Still, I can’t believe how easy this was. It used to be you needed expensive lenses and expensive software to make full panoramas, and then you needed additional software to make it so that users could view those images. Once I had the software and understood it, I did all of this in less than two hours, for free.
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