Panorama-Constructing Software/PS Plugin without Artifacts or Dropped Sections?
April 15, 2004 1:04 PM   Subscribe

My digital camera came with a program for stitching together multiple panning shots into one large panoramic picture. It's okay, but it leaves lots of artifacts, and occasionally drops sections (erroneously matching other areas together and effectively cutting out part of the pic). Is there a better program out there I can try? I don't think I'm willing to pay (not much anyway) for this. Windows preferred but OSX will work too. I have Photoshop, so plug-ins are cool too.
posted by scarabic to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
A google search for "stitching panoramic photos" brings up several possibilities. I don't have any specific recomendations for you, as I do it all by hand, but wanted to bring up one point - if you've been shooting mostly in a "point and click" mode, you are likely to run into problems with variations caused by the autofocus and shutter auto-calibration - some variances in tonal range and distance of focal point (which can cause parallax error).

Here are some tutorials and tools - they depend on fisheye lenses mostly. This looks to be a very good FAQ and the tools involved include Photoshop plugins.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:18 PM on April 15, 2004

If you have a copy of Photoshop CS look under file/automate/photomerge. Play around with it for awhile and I think you'll be impressed. It's extremely easy to use (I think the feature made it's debut in Photoshop Elements). It can auto detect the image order, adjust for perspective and rotation, plus it can compensate for lens distortion. But you maintain full control if you want to drag and drop the pictures in yourself.

As an added bonus it can give you one flat picture or maintain the different images as layers - handy if you need to do any color correction.
posted by ssmith at 2:01 PM on April 15, 2004

The software's probably fine. What you need are:

1) A good tripod that can be reliably swiveled only in one axis.
2) A good wide-angle lens.
3) A camera that lets you lock the exposure for a series of shots.
4) The pivot point of the tripod should be directly under the optical center of the lens. Note that in some cameras, this may be well out into the lens itself, so you may need a plate to mount the camera properly.

If you're doing all the above (you don't say), then you might indeed need different software. But I bet you don't.
posted by kindall at 2:04 PM on April 15, 2004

Response by poster: I do appreciate the tips on better pano photography, but for now I'd like to try the source photos I already have in other programs and see if I can't improve the results. I don't really have the option of going back to Beijing with the right tripod right now :)

The program I have is ok, but it does have some rough spots, kindall. I'm just hoping there's something a little better out there. Parallax error, and exposure differences aren't all that noticeable, at least not in the landscape shots I'm working with. They seem to be under control. What's getting me down are:

1) Artifacts near the stitch seams, like repeating botches of the same pixel area from the cloning stamp.

2) Mis-identification of where the seams (ie: overlapping content between photos) are.

I chalk this up to limitations in the software. The blending stinks, and the pattern matching occasionally barfs. I can do better myself, but it takes a lot of time. I'm just wondering if any software out there will do it a little bit better than what I've got, though I do realize of course that better photography will also improve my results.

I probably wouldn't even use a special program to stitch the flat images except that hand work takes so long, and the output of the software I have is instant and passable enough for my little web galleries. I was just wondering if there were something better out there than the bundled app I got with my camera.

It's a Canon app. Has anyone had better luck with the bundled app from a different manufacturer? Olympus, maybe?

I don't mean to be a stupid-head, but really, my question is just about the quick-and-easy variants of this kind of software. I am actually dimly aware of what I need to undertake if I want to improve my photography and source material. Thanks~!
posted by scarabic at 2:25 PM on April 15, 2004

Video Orbits is probably more complex than you're looking for, and I'm not sure if there are windows or OSX versions, but it should be linked here for completeness. I've tried it on some short video clips and it really is impressive.
posted by duckstab at 3:01 PM on April 15, 2004

Acts of Volition turned me on to a programme called Panorama Factory a few weeks ago. I downloaded the free trial (it's $24.95 US for the full version) and found it to be surprisingly versatile, far better than any other software I've used.
posted by trident at 4:05 PM on April 15, 2004

Hmmm... is the app Photostitch 3.1 from Canon? I've used a variety of Pano tools and Photostitch is actually relatively good.

But, for a more comprehensive list, check I think the most highly regarded free tool is Panotools. There are free front-ends as well, PTGui and PTPicker.

Drat. My DSL modem seems to have crapped out last night, meaning I can't self-link to my huge surf-board-fence pano. I made it using Panorama factory which is pretty good as well.
posted by daver at 4:07 PM on April 15, 2004

I've used Panorama Factory succesfully. It can give good results with not much input, since it tries to actually match up features in the adjacent pictures. And you can fix it when it misses. My one complaint is that it doesn't assume that the distortion is regular, which is a valid assumption in this case. (I suppose it will let you match up photos taken with melted lenses though.)

But lately I've been using the Canon software, since it's really really fast and usually does a passable job. But as far as I can tell, it just kinda lines them up close and then fades in right at the border, which as you said can lead to artifacts.
posted by smackfu at 4:08 PM on April 15, 2004

hugin a free frontend for panotools ( Mentioned above ) also works with the Enblend
software that does a good job of cleaning up "most" artifacts.
posted by stuartmm at 4:48 PM on April 15, 2004

With Canon Photostitch 3.1, you can manually tell it which spots match. I'm generally pleased with it's auto-output, but this might help you if you don't know about it:

After letting the software merge things automatically, click on the "Display Seams" button. Then, you can click on any one of the boxes outlining the seams. This will open a new dialog. In this dialog, you can either just drag the an image to match them up that way, or you can choose "Specify 2 or more corresponding areas." In the latter mode, you select a square of one image and drag it over the corresponding area of the other. This lets you match up different sections that aren't in the exact same configuration in each photo. Use the zoom buttons on the right hand side to see more clearly.

It's still not perfect, but it's better than the automatic technique.
posted by whatnotever at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2004

A few years back I purchased a product named Pixaround. It was easy to use and they have a relatively cheap version available, around $50. You can slap your panoramas on a web site; they provide a java-based viewer.

Also, what somebody else said about Panorama Factory. They have a freeware version that might work for you.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:19 PM on April 15, 2004

(I had no idea I could do that, whatnotever. Thanks!)
posted by rafter at 5:55 PM on April 15, 2004

What about panavue? It works for me, although I only use the free sample version.
posted by muckybob at 11:36 PM on April 15, 2004

Panoramas are a sometime-hobby of mine, and I've tried a number of the programs out there; IMHO, you can't beat the aforementioned PanoTools. It's free, but it does things very well, if you're willing to put up with a steep learning curve (and, with either PTGui or PTAssembler, the learning curve isn't all that bad either). You can create layered Photoshop files and edit the masks for the final edit; some examples panoramas from China are here (self link). I can also recommend taking a look at Zoomify, which provides a free, Flash-based way of displaying panoramas (or any other high-resolution image).
posted by brool at 1:48 AM on April 16, 2004

Did you use the paranoramic setting of the camera when you took the shots, or are you trying to stich together a series of shots you took seperatly?

I've had no problems with any of the panorama shots I've taken with my camera (S200), especially when using it's built in feature. (Where the camera makes you overlap the next shot with the edge of the previous shot).

Not a really helpful comment, but thought it was worth mentioning.
posted by smcniven at 10:03 AM on April 16, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I've played with PanoramaFactory and had some improved results (though I swear it wiped out a whole directory of photos when I saved my project - wtf?) and I'm trying out PanoTools with PTGui now.

BTW - here's the original Photostitch version, which I have been trying to improve on.
posted by scarabic at 11:49 AM on April 16, 2004

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