Finally, an easy way to share panorama images
April 11, 2007 6:47 AM   Subscribe

The main problem with panorama photography is that good photo stitching software is expensive and often difficult to use. Then when you have finally managed to put together a good panorama, it's nigh-on impossible to share it with your friends. Scrolling back and forth on your screen is possible, of course, that's so un-Web 2.0!

CleVR offers a possible solution with a free, embeddable Flash viewer for panorama photographs, with some cool outdoors, groovy indoors and some downright surreal stuff already available.
posted by SharQ (36 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The free software that came with my Canon camera, and my 24 inch monitor produce great panoramas. The CleVR software sounds pretty neat though.
posted by caddis at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2007

This requires a panorama of a MeFi meetup to appreciate.
posted by hal9k at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2007

Oh, I misread that as panorama pornography and got confused for a minute.
posted by mkb at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2007

This is good. Thanks!
posted by spock at 7:28 AM on April 11, 2007

Photoshop also does panoramas. The CleVR stitcher is pretty good, and free, but it's the way of being able to share your pano's which excites me.

Up to now, you've had to use bloody Java or something like that to get interactivity with panoramas.
posted by SharQ at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2007

Cool! It's so good it makes me nauseated.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:31 AM on April 11, 2007

Might be easier to use the video on your point-and-shoot instead ...
posted by webcruncher at 7:46 AM on April 11, 2007

Well, got an account and have the Stitcher program running (Java) on my Mac, but when I open an image nothing happens (doesn't seem to upload). Running the Stitcher applet from either Safari or Firefox. Gonna switch to the PC now (hate it when I have to do that).
posted by spock at 7:48 AM on April 11, 2007

I disagree, lots of panorama software is really easy to use, and one piece is FREE.

Autostitch is pretty freaking fantastic. Here is a creepy image of a local MEGACHURCH that I took. This image was done with only three sub images, and i did a little touch up work here or there, but I've turned all of my architecture friends on to the software. They have been using it to draw up various presentations images in like 10 - 15 minutes. Their bosses frequently expect such tasks to take 3 or 4 hours and as a result they have a lot of down time because of the program.

/I haven't really checked out any of the links in the FPP, which makes me an ass, but I saw panorama and just had to give autostitch a plug.
posted by sourbrew at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2007

Yes, it's bullshit that panorama stitching software is expensive.

Hugin is free, and PTGui and PTMac are both *extremely* inexpensive. All of them are expert-quality apps capable of producing the highest possible quality.
posted by unSane at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2007

In my experience, the "main problem with panorama photography" is that:

1) If you don't use a leveled tripod, it's very easy to get a curvy horizon.
2) The sun is only on one side of the sky, so your exposure will constantly change.
3) Tree branches and people move constantly.
4) Weird aspect ratios just end up being harder to display.

Still fun though.
posted by smackfu at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2007

2) The sun is only on one side of the sky, so your exposure will constantly change.

Though metering to a happy medium and using a fixed exposure can solve that problem.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2007

1) If you don't use a leveled tripod, it's very easy to get a curvy horizon.

IANAPP, but the Autostitch example makes it look like this is moot. I don't think those photos even used a tripod at all.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2007

Though metering to a happy medium and using a fixed exposure can solve that problem.

I think cortex mean a fixed aperture (therefore only the shutterspeed would be adjusted for the changing light conditions).
posted by spock at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2007

"CleVR"? That is so like 45' ago.
posted by signal at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2007

Really what I meant was fixed everything; I'm imagining fixed aperture and shutterspeed, which presumes an environment that doesn't have so much dynamic range as to blow out or deeply underexpose portions of the panorama. I like the idea of keeping the lighting as consistent as possible, basically.
posted by cortex at 8:33 AM on April 11, 2007

Photoshop CS3 is going to put all these mofos to shame.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:34 AM on April 11, 2007

Video kinda misses the point (user directs the movement) and panorama filesize is much lower. You would also have to convert the video to flash and embed a flash viewer to get the cross-platform viewability of the ClevR solution.

Since you can upload your own panorama's, I'm assuming you could use ClevR simply to share ones that you have created yourself. I've often thought that the Fisheye Stitcher by looked cool, but at $499 — damn! — too rich for my blood. Having the ability to get a 360 degree field in two shots is pretty awesome, though.
posted by spock at 8:34 AM on April 11, 2007

Autostitch and its brethren (I use PTgui) can indeed straighten horizon lines, so for panos where everything is far away (no parallax problems), no tripod is necessary. However, if there's *any* mid or foreground objects, you best get a tripod and pivot about the nodal point of the camera, or you're going to have, ahem, issues that take some fancy Photoshop to fix. If you're only displaying for the Web, most of these problems don't rear their heads; if you're printing on 13" wide paper, every little damn thing shows up.

Of course, the easy (but expensive) solution is to use a tilt-shift lens. Doesn't work for 360 panos, but for ultrawides, it's great.
posted by notsnot at 8:39 AM on April 11, 2007

Spock, he meant fixed exposure, else the edge colors don't match up.

And CS3 will have be one hell of an improvement over the "stitcher" in CS2 to even be in the running. CS2 can barely match up shifted images.
posted by notsnot at 8:42 AM on April 11, 2007

Haven't tried the beta yet? CS3 is really, really impressive.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:47 AM on April 11, 2007

I disagree with several premises of this post (as others have noted) pano software isn't prohibitively expensive or hard to use. My Canon SD has a pano mode and came with software that makes pano creation simple and fast.

That said, a tripod and a cloudy day are my secrets to making a decent pano.

Also, iPhoto has a "straighten" tool for when your horizons get a little roller coaster-ish.

Still, the easy sharing aspect of this is very cool!
posted by fenriq at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2007

In my experience autostitch without a tripod is a nightmare. It tries its best, but if you want a panaroma that doesnt look like 'shaky hands McCaffeiene freak' took it then spring for the tripod.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:58 AM on April 11, 2007

This is interesting.

I do sort of think that QuickTime-based panos are going to be inherently better than Flash ones, because you can use the calls in QuickTime to integrate the pano with other software. But having said that, it's rare that I see one of these things that doesn't make me cringe. Some view or other is going to look really distorted and obnoxious. The samples you've pointed to here are pretty good, compared to others I've played with.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:06 AM on April 11, 2007

1) If you don't use a leveled tripod, it's very easy to get a curvy horizon.

What I've found is that if you don't keep the camera level, and at the same height, the horizon will not be constant in the component photos. The stitcher can usually deal with this by shifting or rotation, but this has a crippling effect on the overall size of the panorama bounding box. For instance, if you shift one photo up 20%, you now have 20% less height on the whole pano (if you don't want to see blank space), and you never want to give up height.
posted by smackfu at 10:23 AM on April 11, 2007

Wow, autostitch was terrible with the batch of images I gave it, a non-tripod panorama I took awhile back. Let's see what Clevr can do.
posted by maxwelton at 11:27 AM on April 11, 2007

There was another way to share panoramas linked a few days ago, but that one used Shockwave, and this uses the much more widely installed Flash, so may be an improvement.

As far as stitching goes, I will reiterate that Hugin is great, and is the same price as autostitch ($0). The same algorithms can be used to stitch images to create a high quality image rather than an extremely wide angle one, and that's what I use them for - 50 megapixel images aren't just for people with $20,000+ to spend on a camera! (If you're interested, Max Lyons can tell you everything you need to know)

And yes, everything should be fixed - if your camera has the capability, fix exposure, focus, and white balance for the best possible images. And if you really get into it, there are tripod heads that allow you to rotate the camera around the nodal point of the lens (parallax-free, perfect stitches every time) starting under $85 delivered...I'm sure you can find them, or build one as in spock's link. (I have the one that's under $85, and it works!)
posted by pinespree at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2007

spock, I suspect Fisheye Stitcher is so expensive due to the licensing of the patents that shut down panotools for a while.
posted by scruss at 4:04 PM on April 11, 2007

the patent issue is now (somewhat) resolved as iPix went bust and Sony scooped up the patent.

the only fundamental effect it had was to limit 'official' releases of panotools-based software to fisheye FOVs of less than 160 degrees, although anyone who wants can easily find a plugin with the limit resolved, or simply change one global in the source code and recompile.
posted by unSane at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2007

Why are we not able to autostitch a video? It seems to me that most digital cameras also have a movie mode. One could pan and tilt all over the place, get damn near a 360º view. Tons of overlap between pictures, too, meaning next to no distortion.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2007

that is a good question. the best answer is that video resolution is very low, unless you are shooting HD and even then it isn't very high in photographic terms. However it should be relatively easy to write an application which de-interlaces a section of video into separate frames and then pipes them to autopano or something similar. The problem is that the resulting pano will be tiny, when printed.
posted by unSane at 9:10 PM on April 11, 2007

While the video resolution is low, the sampling rate is very high. I think video could well work extremely well.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2007

Excuse me for over-welling.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 PM on April 11, 2007

and you never want to give up height.

When I'm shooting panoramas, I usually make multiple passes. Handheld, I shoot the middle ground, then I aim higher, and sometimes, I make a circle aiming lower. Autostitch usually has no trouble dealing with it.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:48 AM on April 12, 2007

Actually, 5ff, it has been done. Steve Mann and his band of talented cyberweirdos have been working with it since the early 1990s. They even offer a web service for your phonecam which supposedly does video stitching: Glogger.
posted by scruss at 4:37 AM on April 13, 2007

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