Panning for gold

While the title might be a bit inaccurate, you are probably not going to struggle to guess what the topic really is. I have always enjoyed playing with panos since my days of film when it would be a lot less complex and consist of sticking together a large number of 6×4 prints to make a larger collage. The effect was rough and ready but there was something rather cool about the way they came out at the highly accurate results possible today doesn’t have.

While stitching together shots is straightforward given any number of software tools (although Photomerge in Photoshop has got sufficiently good that I rarely need to use anything else), achieving a good pano with the camera in my phone was a different challenge. Without control of the exposure and the white balance, it was hard to make the shots merge cleanly. I then got hold of an app called 360 which would shoot a pano as you gradually moved the camera around. It overlays a grid so you can see the coverage still available and you could pan up and down as well as laterally.

Originally the results were less then ideal. It would have discontinuities on some of the straight lines in the scene and was particularly unhappy in low light or when panning vertically. However, the latest version of the app is now out and it is a dramatic improvement. After playing with it at home briefly, I tried it while on the road the other day. We were heading up passed Green Bay and so stopped off to see Lambeau Field. I’m sure the Bears fans I know will be cursing me for such treachery but I wanted to see such a famous stadium. Anyway, it wasn’t a photo trip so I only had my phone in my pocket at the time. I decided to give the pano a shot using the latest version of the app and I think it did a pretty good job. It was fun to watch new areas that had a different exposure suddenly get corrected to merge with the existing image and straight lines that were originally out of position get jumped to the right place as the app worked out what was wanted.  It isn’t perfect yet.  Some lines still don’t line up and the resolution is surprisingly low compared to a normal shot by the phone.

Nice work by occipital who are the developers. I like what you have done so far and look forward to what you come up with next.

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