Thursday, January 05, 2006

Photography: AutoStitch

Thanks to AmericaBlog, I've just discovered AutoStitch, the best piece of photo-stitching panorama software I've ever seen.

Panorama software takes overlapping photographs of a scene and combines them into a (supposedly) seamless single image. Unfortunately, most panoramic software is pretty simple -- you usually have to arrange of the photographs in the correct relative position, and a lot of the time it will only handle one degree of freedom (the camera was rotated left-to-right or up-to-down). Most of the time, I end up doing the panorama merging manually in Photoshop -- it's almost as fast, and I'm often happier with the results.

AutoStitch not only handles two dimensions (it can create a panorama that covers the entire dome of the sky), but you don't have to do any arranging of the photos ahead of time. Just point it to a bunch of files, and it will figure out how they are supposed to overlap. That's just amazing -- and the results are impressive as well.

A couple of months ago I photographed the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal under construction at the Royal Ontario Museum for my mother, who will be doing a lecture on the architect, Daniel Liebeskind. Since our Canon 20D DSLR has a wonderful nine-frames-a-second burst mode, I took a whole slew of shots to assemble into a collage later. But when I got home I discovered that I'd forgotten to put the camera on continual focus -- so only the first (and farthest) area I photographed was in focus! So I never bothered to assemble the panorama.

With the discovery of AutoStitch, though, these photos made a great test-case. I threw them into the program, and in only a couple of minutes it produced a near-perfect panorama! Sure, it's still out of focus (though that's harder to see at the reduced size), but it's an impressive piece of work even so. I'll have to go back and photograph the thing correctly sometime soon!

Flickr has a group dedicated to AutoStitch.

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