a new dimension in automatic image stitching
October 22, 2006 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Autostitch is the world's first fully automatic 2D image stitcher. Capable of stitching full view panoramas without any user input whatsoever, Autostitch is a breakthrough technology for panoramic photography, VR and visualisation applications. This is the first solution to stitch any panorama completely automatically, whether 1D (horizontal) or 2D (horizontal and vertical). Don't miss the gallery.
posted by crunchland (54 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There's a demo available ... Windows only, I'm afraid.
posted by crunchland at 8:38 PM on October 22, 2006

I've used this for a while now, and it's great. Taking a bunch of photos from the same spot, feeding them in and letting it work out the joining.

Sometimes it's a little odd, but overall the end result is very good, particularly for someone like me who couldn't be bothered trying to work out how to stitch things together manually.
posted by tomble at 8:53 PM on October 22, 2006

For what it's worth, I use Hugin for Mac OS X. It's a frontend for panotools. It's certainly a complex piece of software, but very nice in that it allows you to do much more than just stitching panoramas together; you can actually do perspective corrections and other such (above-my-head) nonsense.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:58 PM on October 22, 2006

Mac OS X software that uses the same (licensed) technology: Calico.
posted by kika at 8:59 PM on October 22, 2006

I've been using this for a while too. Getting it to do vertical ones is pretty wonky. I usually have to flip the originals onto their sides to trick Autostitch into thinking that it's a normal horizontal one, but the results are well worth it.
posted by freakystyley at 9:03 PM on October 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I tried that Calico one for OS X and as far as I can tell it's a piece of crap. I threw six 4-megapixel images at it and it choked and was completely non-responsive.

This kind of thing would be cool on OS X and with a good well-designed interface but I don't think that program is it.
posted by smackfu at 9:09 PM on October 22, 2006

Perfect timing. I've got a bunch of Canadapanoramas from my recent trip I've been meaning to stick together. Thanks!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:11 PM on October 22, 2006

I don't wanna be a bitch, but it's a bit of a stretch to call this 'breakthrough technology' or assume that this is anywhere close to being new. Photoshop's Autostitch plugin (I'm assuming it's the same Autostitch but even if it isn't, it performs similarly) has been around ever since CS was introduced ~3 or so years ago and does a pretty good job of automatically stitching things together - and even if it doesn't get it all moving things around takes seconds. It's hidden in the menus somewhat so maybe most people don't know it's there. Plus, dude...horizontal 1D and vertical 2D? Ummm...no. Both 2D. Last I tried Photoshop didn't discriminate either.

Regardless, it's a hot damn compared to when I had to stitch airphotos and satellite photos together as a GIS technician back in the 90s. Manually selecting cut lines and manual colour balancing was a HUGE pain in the ass.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:13 PM on October 22, 2006

I haven't tried this yet, mainly because I don't have a set of photos I want to stitch together, but how does it handle different exposures? Using a typical cheap digital camera, you don't have much control over the f-stop or exposure time the camera uses for each shot, so a photo of the bright sky will be taken at a different exposure to a photo of the dark ground. Does AutoStitch take this into account when joining images, adjusting the brighness of component images as it goes, or does it assume all input images have the same exposure?
posted by Jimbob at 9:16 PM on October 22, 2006

Not to call myself out, but I think I'm the only dufus out there that thought the link was going to go to a really awesome embroidery machine.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:17 PM on October 22, 2006

No, Pollomacho, you're not the only one. When I read the first sentance, I had dreams of turning my photos into cushions.
posted by Jimbob at 9:26 PM on October 22, 2006

Jimbob, it does takes into account different exposures and does a pretty amazing job blending them together. I've even successfully stitched together stills from a camcorder.
posted by jenh at 9:29 PM on October 22, 2006

I don't wanna be a bitch, but it's a bit of a stretch to call this 'breakthrough technology' or assume that this is anywhere close to being new.

They were publishing papers on this back in 2003, with the same basic methods. So it's not like they are saying it is brand new either.

Plus, dude...horizontal 1D and vertical 2D? Ummm...no. Both 2D.

That's not what he said.
posted by smackfu at 9:34 PM on October 22, 2006

That's not what he said.

Horizontal and vertical is 2D. Horizontal is also 2D, though there's no photostitcher out there that works entirely in a horizontal manner - we wouldn't need photostitch if everyone's photos were perfectly aligned horizontally. All stitching works in 2D X and Y coordinates and all are moved in both horizontal and vertical directions relative to the other photo. There's not an ounce of difference between something being stitched 'horizontally' and 'vertically' other than most of the stitch is usually in one direction or the other. The algorithms tend to work better for horizontal sitches in that there's usually more overlap and more to recognise.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:42 PM on October 22, 2006

Windows only! Booooooooo.

Call me when they port it to OS X.
posted by photoslob at 9:48 PM on October 22, 2006

sorry that's we wouldn't need photostitch anything like it is now if everyone's photos were perfectly aligned horizontally
posted by jimmythefish at 9:50 PM on October 22, 2006

Once again, I'm an idiot: I totally missed kika and smackfu's post.
posted by photoslob at 9:56 PM on October 22, 2006

I'm a little cheesed that my government-funded research dollar is resulting in vendor-specific software.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 PM on October 22, 2006

Dum dee Dum
posted by IronLizard at 10:27 PM on October 22, 2006

That Times Square is surreal what wit da half cabs and ghosty people. (yeah, I know, different photos trying to mesh and equalize)
posted by hal9k at 10:34 PM on October 22, 2006

Holy crap that's awesome. I just tried it on 4 pics. A medium res blend and output was a matter of 30-45 seconds on an old P3. That would have taken hours for me to do that well in photoshop.
posted by loquacious at 10:36 PM on October 22, 2006

I've used both this program and Photoshop's stitch feature, and I've gotten much better results with autostitch, particularly if you're shooting at a wide-angle with significant lens distortion around the edges. PS seems to have trouble making the necessary adjustments, whereas autostitch does it seemlessly.
posted by bcveen at 10:45 PM on October 22, 2006

Seriously, that's fantastic. You can feed it all kinds of garbage shots and it'll sew 'em up.
posted by loquacious at 10:47 PM on October 22, 2006

I'm about to give this a serious testing out. I've got a pile of infra-red photos of swamps and wetlands from 1976 I'm about to scan in, and aim to join together into one big image. Before I try doing it properly in ArcGIS, I'll throw the images at AutoStich and see how it handles it.
posted by Jimbob at 10:58 PM on October 22, 2006

Microsoft Research Group Shot is another good little app, it'll allow you to pick and choose which faces you want to keep from a few different group photos and it'll combine them all using magic.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 11:20 PM on October 22, 2006

Summary so far; thing has serious memory issues. Well, actually it's quite good at stiching large images together if you want the resulting image to be small. It doesn't deal so well when you want the stiched image to be the same resolution as the input images. It crashed out stiching two 4000x4000 pixel images into a 8000x4000 image. I have 1gb of RAM. Let's increase the page file size. . .
posted by Jimbob at 11:58 PM on October 22, 2006

I was in the audience at ICCV when they made the first presentation (as I said in this askme answer a while back). It's a great example of existing computer vision techniques being used in sequence to do something useful. Yes, it is memory hungry, but if you read the paper you'll realise that it takes some serious mathematics to find the features in each image, then find the matches in other images, then align them, estimate camera parameters, and then smooth the boundaries. A lot of these techniques aren't new, but the combination and the strength of the application was impressive. SIFT feature detectors are very widely used in object recognition and detection, RANSAC is a popular way of finding matches between sets of feature points and estimating camera homography, and then using multi-band blending to correct for differences in intensity etc. between images (this can be due to a number of factors - vignetting, the change in aperture exposure between shots if you're using autofocus/lightness etc).

The conference dinner was fairly impressive, too. MMmmm, Nice.
posted by handee at 2:15 AM on October 23, 2006

Yeah, only when I started looking at the site a little further did I realize that it was only but so revolutionary... 2 or 3 years old. And 16,000+ photos on flickr with the autostitch tag indicated that it wasn't all that new, either. But, it also hadn't been posted before, and I hadn't seen it, so...
posted by crunchland at 3:11 AM on October 23, 2006

Here is my first attempt. It's been re-sized by the image host.

It's not very good, but keep in mind I threw about 30 "junk" shots at the program to see how it would handle a sequence of images that weren't really intended to be a panoramic sequence. Which makes it pretty awesome that it can handle it.
posted by loquacious at 4:11 AM on October 23, 2006

I've used the demo version, after using the manual tools upon which Autostitch is based (the aformentioned Hugin, among others) and have been very impressed. This set of tools is *very* processor intensive - on a set of ten shots out of my 5D (12MP camera), it would take my (2.5 gig RAM) machine half an hour to figure things out. Great stuff.
posted by notsnot at 4:55 AM on October 23, 2006

Autopano (mentioned in the link) is quite an excellent program for panoramas, I highly recommend it.
posted by elpapacito at 5:02 AM on October 23, 2006

Calico on OSX does this too and is not crap as a previous poster implied. I've been using it for about a year now and it does great work. (Examples: here, here, here, and here)

It's the bees knees as far as I'm concerned. Or, "breakthrough user-centric mega-technology" as the breathless poster may have put it.
posted by unixrat at 5:08 AM on October 23, 2006

This thread may be of interest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 AM on October 23, 2006

I could have sworn this was posted to the blue before. Anyways, here's my livingroom. I've taken quite a few since then on much higher res cameras but I haven't posted nay online yet.
posted by furtive at 5:29 AM on October 23, 2006

Autostitch is very cool software, but limited, obviously, since it's a demo. I use AutoPano, which is a bit more feature-rich (including cropping, which is the big thing I felt was missing from AutoStitch), and uses the autostitch algorithm. It's DAMN nice.
posted by antifuse at 6:42 AM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used autostitch for many of the Big things in America shots. It really does an incredible job; before I found autostitch I was struggling along with a combination of old quicktime VR software and Canon's PhotoStitch (which is a steaming turd by comparison.)

It does a decent job of handling different exposure levels, but the results are not perfect; you want to set a fixed aperture for all the shots you're going to stitch together, don't adjust each one or autoexpose them.

One nifty trick is faking deep focus: many of the frames for that pano were shot twice, once focused on the foreground, once focused at infinity. Autostitch managed to keep the in-focus parts of both shots (you can see one spot on the tree where I missed the close-focus shot here.)
posted by ook at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

Hey, this is a good place to ask a question... did they get rid of the panorama helper mode in the newer Canon Powershot cameras like the SD400?
posted by smackfu at 7:58 AM on October 23, 2006

Microsoft appears to be doing something similar. They even have a neato movie demonstrating how PhotoTourism works. But I don't know if it can automagically stitch stuff together yet.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:27 AM on October 23, 2006

smackfu - I'm sure they didn't. I have it in my SD500 and have seen it in my friend's SD300.
posted by jeffmik at 8:34 AM on October 23, 2006

Thanks for that link to AutoPano. The OSX beta is a bit odd UI-wise -- I'm guessing it's the Windows UI slapped down with Qt -- but I'm playing with it now and you're right. It's DAMN nice.
posted by majick at 9:33 AM on October 23, 2006

smackfu - I'm sure they didn't.

Thanks, I should have Googled it. They moved it to the setup menus, which I think is a weird place to put it.
posted by smackfu at 10:04 AM on October 23, 2006

There is a flickr tag for autostitch panos as well as a group. Autostitch is pretty damn good. The autoalignment kicked Panotools in the privates on my most recent vacation shots.
posted by chairface at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2006

Smackfu, my SD700 has it too, though it's buried a wee (and correctly so, I think) compared to my S500.

I'll have to try this app when I get home, though it's hard for me to believe it will improve significantly on the photostitch app that Canon includes. Its never failed to do a great job for me.
posted by phearlez at 3:30 PM on October 23, 2006

(Aha, I got my hands on my camera and figured out why I couldn't find it. It's on the 2nd page of options and there are no visible scroll bars until you start moving through the options. Didn't even know there was a 2nd page.)
posted by smackfu at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2006

The reason this is lightyears better than any built-in PS / comes-with-the-camera free-be is because it corrects for lens distortion, yaw, pitch and roll, and a bevy of other problems associated with creating a good pano.

You really need to get a dedicated tripod attachment that rotates the camera around the nodal point if you want the most accurate seams. The Panosaurus is the best bang/buck that I've seen (not affiliated, just a happy customer).

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty of how this works, check out the Panorama Tools example page that goes into more depth.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:58 PM on October 23, 2006

Thanks for posting this. It finally got me off my ass to get my photos from vacation in Key West stitched together. I tried to use the Canon software at one point (since it runs on OS X), but it kept screwing up and misaligning either the foreground or the background. Beware the Ghost Trees!
posted by smackfu at 8:25 PM on October 23, 2006

Wow, that pic turned out great, smackfu. I went out yesterday and tried my hand taking some photos specifically to play with this software. I probably should have just concentrated on a wide horizontal pan, but I tossed in the sky and the foreground, too. It seems like the software discarded many of the close foreground pictures, because the geometry was just too much for it to rationalize. Ultimately, I took 200+ pictures in several locations, and just for hacks, I threw all of them at the software at once. It did choke quite a bit, but here are the results.
posted by crunchland at 6:52 AM on October 24, 2006

it's hard for me to believe it will improve significantly on the photostitch app that Canon includes.

Believe it.

The Canon software needs all kinds of hand-holding: you have to drag each photo into place, tell the software where the matching points are, and after all that the preview still mysteriously looks better than the output image most of the time. Steaming. Turd.

Autostitch: dump all photos in. Choose an output size. Hit go. Done.
posted by ook at 7:20 AM on October 24, 2006

(This one turned out a little better.)
posted by crunchland at 7:28 AM on October 24, 2006

Damned if that doesn't look like bits of North-Central BC.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:53 PM on October 24, 2006

ook - the Canon software made leaps and bounds between the old stuff and what came with my S500. No longer are manual matching points required. These three were all done with the software with no manual specifications required though you are right, they do have to go in order. Since I always shoot left to right or right to left they're already named that way so it rarely bothers me.

the last one is the only one to be so cocked-up and the first time it's ever done that to me...
posted by phearlez at 11:07 AM on October 25, 2006

Crunchland, I love the first boardwalk one. OK, so it's horribly stitched together, but it gives it a great house of mirrors vibe.
posted by smackfu at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2006

I tried a few sets taken with a Canon IS2 with both the Canon software and Autostitch. The autstitch program did a much better job reducing distortion. Amazingly good.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 AM on October 26, 2006

While I stand by my earlier statement about the Canon software being pretty good, let me say that I hereby declare AutoStitch to be TOTALLY BITCHIN. It did a great job with my old photos - improving slightly or significantly on the linked panos above - and a super job with this picture from within the VAB at Kennedy Space Center.
posted by phearlez at 12:37 PM on November 6, 2006

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