Saturday, July 31, 2010

70 Billion Pixels

You can certainly waste some time zooming in and out, probably muttering this is awesome a few times, and then hunting for things others may not have found.

An amazingly high res panorama of Budapest.

How they make it?
A gigapixel panoramic vista consists of hundreds, or even thousands of individual 10 to 20 megapixel photographs. The procedure involves a digital SLR camera fitted with tele-objective lens and mounted to a specially designed, computer-controlled panoramic head, complete with high-precision servos which allow smooth and steady movement..

The panoramic robot is programmed to handle many parameters, the most important of which are the stats of the tele-objective lens, the vertical ad horizontal field of view in respect of the given location, and the size of overlap between individual images. 

How long does it take to photograph vistas? What makes them so difficult to make?

Making the photographic material necessary for a 10 gigapixel image takes hours. Lighting conditions tend to vary rapidly in outdoor environments - the resulting inconsistency in the exposure levels of individual images are by far the most difficult to handle.

How on Earth can so many photographs be compiled in a single image?

We use high-end computers and cutting edge software which scans image overlaps (an average 30% of the material) and determines so-called control points - ones that allow the exact positions  of individual photographs be determined in the big picture. Calculating the control points may take days and invariably produce some errors which, in turn, must be corrected manually.  

Just how big is a 10 gigapixel image, and how can you display it properly on the internet?

An image of 10 gigapixels takes approximately 30-40 gigabytes of hard drive space in PSB format. The vistas displayed on the internet consist of 20-30.000 converted JPG images. They are arranged in 5-10 individual layers, so the user's computer will only download and display those relevant to the desired level of magnification. This technology allows gigapixel vistas to display properly, even on average-spec systems.

Gigapixel photography is a new buzz, right?

Spot on. The hardware and software capable of compiling gigapixel images are only a few years old and keeps evolving at a breakneck speed. Our company was among the first to produce extreme resolution images and field-test software dedicated to compile panoramic vistas.