I’m doing some in-depth research to figure out how to do panoramic photography for the web this morning, and it seems like there’s a lot of information out there but not a lot of clear direction.
I should back up and mention that I got my Panosaurus rig in the mail on Friday, and I’m very happy with it. Setup took a bit of time, but the included directions were clear and informative. The materials are all very good quality, and the only problem I had with the whole thing was due to the fact that my tripod head is too weak to support the weight of the rig and the camera. Borrowing Jen’s 18-55mm lens, I shot the entire living room and uploaded the images (37 total) to my laptop for working.
Now, to the software: Apple led the way back in the day with Quicktime VR, a technology that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. The only source for a copy of the VR Authoring Studio is Amazon, and it looks like it’s still a Classic application (!?!) as far as I can tell—the design of the box pictured is vintage 1996. Apple has a number of cryptic and oblique little apps that handle some of the specialized tricks the larger suite does, including a Classic app called QTVR Make Panorama that will convert a stitched panoramic photo into a QTVR movie embeddable in a webpage.
There seem to be a number of applications that have come along to challenge QTVR and work with their own proprietary Java applets, including one I’ve used in the past, PhotoVista. PhotoVista is a decent application, doing a good job of stitching images and creating a Java applet viewer to show the final product. Unfortunately, due to the way iseemedia has written their applet code, I can’t deep-link to a source file as per the standard methods, so all I can do is link to a separate page, which is a lousy, inelegant solution.
About the best resource for other applications I found was this site, Panoguide.com, which has some helpful articles and links to various vendors. Unfortunately, some of the information is years out of date, as are some of the linked applications. The always excellent Steves Digicams has a small page dedicated to photostitching software where I was able to find some applications that did a pretty reasonable job with what I’d shot, most notably The Panorama Factory. PhotoVista and The Panorama Factory won’t (as far as I can tell) stitch images shot on more than one plane automatically, which limits them to circular panoramics only.
RealViz Stitcher also did an excellent job of putting together panoramics and made the process very easy, up until the stitching was done. While it got points for its output of clean, crisp images and being available for OS X, Stitcher has some rough edges to polish. The interface, which starts out looking clean, becomes a nightmare when the images are stitched together:
The great thing about Stitcher is that it recognizes photos shot on multiple planes automatically, so when I added all 37 images I was rewarded with a stitched file that included the floor and cieling elements. Additionally, the output options in Stitcher are very robust—I had a choice of standalone Java applets, QTVR movies, or simple rendered images I could import into other programs for final output.
What I wanted to end up with is a cubic view, meaning a complete 360° panoramic shot including the floor and cieling, or at least more than the field of view I’m dealing with now. Initially, I couldn’t find anything that would stitch the photos I shot in a way that didn’t induce vomiting when they were viewed. The end product of the stitch needed to be something other than a wide image file that went into an applet viewer, either a six-face or equirectangular image:
One of the problems I found with the process is that I had to have a glossary for the specific terms each vendor, programmer, and developer used, because some of them are the same thing and some of them are not. For example, I was pretty sure I had the ability to save a file from Stitcher that I could then import into a handy Apple utility called MakeCubic. But it took me some time to dive in and figure out which export option under which menu I needed to select to get the right file type in Stitcher.
So, to recap, I have to do some tweaking of the panoramic head to get rid of the parallax and other ghosting errors and be sure to shoot more photos in each series. I can make a circular panorama with PhotoVista, which is simple and available in QTVR or Java formats. Stitcher ($119 US) will allow me to put the photos together and output an equirectangular image I can then import into MakeCubic and output a QTVR file for the web.
As I continue refining the process and doing more research, I’ll add it here, as well as share my examples.