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2009.06.08

Panoramas can be stunning. Their wide, or possibly tall, perspective allow to frame differently and provide an expansive view. There are two approaches to producing panoramas with a digital camera: cropping or stitching. Cropping is absolutely easy but limits the maximum angle-of-view to a single lens’ view and reduces the final image resolution. Stitching involves composing a final panoramic image from multiple digital photographs using specialized or general purpose imaging software.

Specialized software used to be rather tedious to use, until Autostitch was introduced. There are now many other automatic stitching programs, several built on the same technology as Autostitch. The output of Autostich can be excellent but mileage varies depending on the circumstance and technique used. Images taken at incremental angles with a good overlap from a level tripod are best. Recently Microsoft introduced ICE, the Image Composite Editor, which functions similarly to Autostitch.

Using MS ICE begins by dropping a number of images onto the user interface. Then, only a few parameters can be controlled using a clearly laid out interface. ICE provides reasonable defaults for most scenarios, so dropping images followed by clicking on Export works. There are two things which ICE does particularly well: It is quite memory efficient, thus running out of memory much less often than Autostitch; and it allows the panorama center and tilt to be defined. This saved the panorama below which was taken at a slant because it was too dark to see the tripod’s bubble level. Yes, I should have brought a flashlight!

Bonsecour Market Panorama

Stitching is a computationally expensive operation, so even ICE keeps most computers busy for a while but it seems to segment its images well enough to limit the total amount of memory needed. Output option include a scaling factor and choice of image formats: JPEG, TIFF, Adobe Photoshop (PSD), HD View Tileset, Deep Zoom Tileset, Windows Bitmap, PNG, HD Photo Image. Even having worked for years in digital imaging, there are a number of formats supported which I have never seen. Needless to say JPEG, PNG and TIFF are the safest and most compatible option. For web-use though, stay with JPG and PNG.

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