Monday, 3 December 2012

Panoramas using Photosynth

Photosynth
Would you like to make dramatic photo panoramic pictures? To share and to allow the user to scroll through the photo as if moving their head to survey the landscape? There's an application called Photosynth that's free, easy and quick to use. It's been around since 2008 but oddly it hasn't had much attention.

http://photosynth.net/

You need a Microsoft Windows account to login. If you don't have one already just signup, it's free and has no strings attached. Plus you get free cloud storage with Skydrive and other goodies :-)

You can use the Windows Phone or iOS app (no Android or Blackberry apps unfortunately [6/12/2012]) to capture Photosynth images. Or you can use the Windows desktop app and any camera and some post processing - explained later.

Here's an example of a Photosynth I made with my Nokia Lumia 800 with Windows Phone 7.5:



This is the easiest method of making a Photosynth panorama because you do it immediately and upload it to the web straight from your phone.


Panoramas with a difference
You may notice that the above Photosynth is slightly different from a simple panorama. The difference is that you can pan more than just left and right. You can even zoom 'into' the picture. It's sort of 3D because in the above example I could've taken photos all around me and that would've made a completely 360 degree image! But I stopped short of that, it's still pretty good though, isn't it? After all, it was just five minutes work.


Panoramic photos from your camera
If you take a series of photos that overlap each other, you can stitch those pictures together to make panoramic photos to upload to Photosynth. To stitch photos together you should use a free Windows desktop app called Image Composite Editor - or ICE as it's more commonly known. Microsoft make both Photosync and ICE so they work together nicely. ICE allows you to stitch many photos together, it can even handle hundreds! Of course usually it's just three or four. Here's an example of a panorama picture I created and then changed into Photosynth:

In Flaine back in January 2011 I took the following photos with my Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera:


The above is just a resized sample to give you an idea. Each of the three original photos were high quality files around 3-4MB in size each. The LX5 has a 'panorama assist' feature that helped me line up each shot but it does not stitch the photos together in the camera. Using the PHOTOfunSTUDIO software that came with my LX5 I combined the above photos into the following very nice panoramic photo:


It looks great! But it is not easy to view, on Facebook for example, it looks rubbish because Facebook reduces the size. I've done the same thing here, I've reduced the size, the length of this graphic is 2806 pixels. The original panoramic image PHOTOfunSTUDIO made was 7643 pixels, you can image how wide a monitor you'd need to get the best out of such a photo.

Photosynth is the answer. I put the three source photos into ICE, it quickly made a 'synth' (sort of 3D panorama) and I uploaded it to Photosynth - here is the result:



Notice how you can see more detail, try zooming in on the people to the left. This really showcases your panoramic image.


Try it
It's free and it works so why not have some fun? Try Photosynth:
http://photosynth.net/

If you want to learn more about ICE specifically take a look here:
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ice/

Here's the Windows Phone app:
http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/photosynth/ef860a79-5f68-4ed6-aa21-c038d1a55517

[The above websites were last accessed 05/12/2012]


Conclusion
Photosynth is easy to use and fun. You can do more with your panoramic photos, you can display them easily on Facebook by posting a link. You can embed your Photosynth images in your own blog or website as I've done in this page. I think it breathes a bit of life into panoramic photos. I was not going to bother with them any more but I think now I'll do some because being able to move around the image in almost 3D is fun.

If you want something fun then try Photosynth.

Recommended: 8/10
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