04 February 2009

Amazingly Large Images

With software and multiple exposures, it is now very easy to create very large images that can be zoomed into to view amazing detail.

There is the Gigapxl Project which uses a special camera and film to create a very high resolution image. In reading the image on their homepage, they have integrated some of their images with Google Earth. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds interesting.

An easier way to create very large images, typically panoramic images, is to use one of the numerous stitching programs to combine multiple images into a larger image. I showed an example I did in this post from early last year.

PTGui is one that I have used quite a bit. Its capabilities have grown significantly over the years. It is reasonably priced.

Another one is
PTAssembler. I haven't used this one nearly as much, primarily because when I tried it, it wasn't as easy to use for me as PTGui.

When I've used both of the above, they require you to select points in adjacent images that are the same to allow the software to know how to merge the images and adjust the perspective when stitching.

Autopano Pro is one that I've been watching for a while. It appears to be the most capable of any of the programs that I've looked at. It is more expensive than most. The creators of the program have published a book of panoramas created using their software. The content of the book is images selected from submissions by users of the program.

A big advantage of Autopano Pro is that it will automatically stitch the images for you without you having to select common points in the adjacent images. Their editor allows you to correct for errors should the software make a mistake. But, this feature makes the stitching almost effortless. Additionally, it will search a directory of images and automatically determine which sets of images comprise a panorama. It has many more features that I'm not really familiar with.

Max Lyons, the creator of PTAssembler, has quite a number of spectacular images he has created using PTAssember here.

He has also created another site, www.maxlyons.net, where he displays additional images. I particulary like the Library of Congress reading room. On some of the individual images, you can actually read the spines of the books on the shelves.

Another similar type of project is the Yosemite 17-Gigapixels site. This site contains a number of very large panoramas from Yosemite National Park. These images were create by Gerard Maynard as part of the Yosemite Extreme Panoramic Imaging Project. That project was sponsored by xRez. To view the Yosemite images you need to install Silverlight from Microsoft. It is well worth it to view the detail in those images. I've been to Yosemite many times, and looking at some of those images from places I've been to is quite amazing.

Gerard Maynard also did a 13 gigapixel panorama of Harlem.

GigaPan has a robotic camera mount that automates the taking of the hundreds of photographs that make up some of these large images. I don't think they have one yet that will handle a digital SLR with a zoom lens. But, this type of tool really makes taking the images for one of these virtually effortless. There are special tripod heads that you can purchase to help make this easier.

There is an example from the Obama Inauguration on their site that is another impressive example of what can be done with this technology.

I don't know if anyone has tried something similar with fractal images. It shouldn't be too hard to generate a fractal image of similar size as some of the above examples. You would probably need to generate the image in tiles, and then combine them with Photoshop or some other editing program.

I'm not sure what the usefulness of such images is for the average person. Most people don't have the wall space necessary for such prints. They are quite interesting on the web where you have the ability to zoom into portions of the images to see the minute details. In the case of the Yosemite images, the images are nice for people who have never been there because the images allow you to see details that you wouldn't see in normal photographs. It would be nice to see similar projects done in remote locations or in countries where people aren't likely to be able to travel to.

Regardless, I find the technology and examples very interesting. I'm sure creative people will find uses for the technology.