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Author Topic: Panorama Stitching Software  (Read 18658 times)
Mark D Segal
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« on: September 14, 2005, 10:25:08 PM »
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I'm trying to become proficient in doing panoramas because a forthcoming event in which I shall be participating will open many such opportunities. I got myself properly equipped for the capture part of it - including the camera plate/pan head from ReallyRightStuff for making sure the nodal point of the lens sits over the axis of rotation, etc, etc. The first one I attempted was a row of houses from the other side of our street (about 35 feet away, camera - Canon 1Ds - in portrait orientation). I figured it would be challenging to try a panorama with the subject matter relatively close-up, and having alot of vertical and horizontal lines that would mis-register VERY obviousyly if it were not done right. My levelling was just about correct. I took too many shots (14) for about a 150 degree field of view. I also left the camera on Auto Exposure intentionally to create some colour and luminosity mismatched sections for purposes of testing software. I brought the images into Photoshop with NO tinkering in Camera Raw, no post-processing in Photoshop - only resized and resampled to 360 PPI, each image about 5 inches wide, 7.5 high.

I only had Photomerge in Photoshop, but now I have something else as explained here. This is how I evaluated software, all with the same 14 images.

Step (1) Do it yourself manually. I created 14 layers, positioned them, warped them as needed, adjusted luminosity and some colour mismatches on a few. Result: not bad but not good enough. Too much work.

Step (2) Automatic panorama creation with PSCS2 Photomerge. Easy to do, but results not fully satisfactory: several areas of the merge were obviously merged and the color equalization left some to be desired.

Step (3) Download trial version of ArcSoft Panorama Maker 3. Very easy to use, excellent stitching, excellent colour equalization. Excellent rendition of original image sharpness and luminosity. User friendly trial arrangements. Full license 40 dollars.

Step (4) Download Real Viz Stitcher Express. Huge amount of set-up work. Very difficult interface (image floating back and forth in stitching window). Stitching OK, Color blending poor. Terrible interface for trial evaluation - can only see part of image at a time. Full license over 100 dollars. Program deleted.

Step (5) Panorama Factory 3.4. Easy to use. Excellent instructions. Good interface and stitching, but slow. Colour matching could have been better; poor luminosity rendition. Image sharpness not as well retained as in ArcSoft. Cost 60 dollars. Program deleted.

The winner: ArcSoft!

Comments on my procedures and evaluation most welcome. I need to learn more about this topic.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
U_Grsl
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2005, 02:06:02 AM »
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I'd suggest you try also PTassembler, with Autopano and Endblend.
(http://www.tawbaware.com/ptasmblr.htm)
For easy panos, the result could be close to perfect, even in quasi automatic mode (with Autocreate).
Cost is $39, after a trial period of 30 days.
UG
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2005, 02:49:53 AM »
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Mark,

For your information, Stitcher 5.0 will be released within days and should have a much improved interfaced with more automated functions.

Regards,
Bernard
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2005, 09:13:39 AM »
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UG,

I looked at their website and read the description etc. I was immediately confused by whether the suite of three is stand-alone or requires Helmut Dersch Panorama Tools as well - the way that website is set-up makes it about as useful to me as trying to read heiroglyphics in the tombs of Egypt. The program also looks to be needlessly complex to use based on what they say on the PT Assembler site, but since it only costs a bit of time for a trial, I may download it and try it.

Bernard - yes, I saw that too. BUT - Stitcher 5 will cost about as much as Photoshop. It may be the greatest thing since sliced bread and for some people worthwhile, but not for me. And their arrangements for product evaluation are a "cauchemar". Thanks anyhow for the suggestion. I'm not getting into large scale commercial panorama making so I'll pass on RealViz. I only want something that does a decent job at a reasonable cost for the perhaps limited number of panoramas I'll be doing.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
jmb
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2005, 10:07:46 AM »
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Hey Mark,

PTAssembler really isn't all that difficult to use, especially with the new Autocreate function. When you download PTAssembler, it comes with all the PanoTools software, but you will need to download Autopano and Enblend separately (just type their names in Google and you'll easily find their respective websites). Install them on your computer (actually, I don't think there is really anything to install, just put them into a folder on you hard drive), tell PTAssembler where they are, and you are good to go. If you need more information on how to use PTAssembler (how to use the optimizer, how to blend the seams, etc.), let me know,

JMB
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U_Grsl
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2005, 10:34:20 AM »
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Mark
I have been a user of PTassembler for a while, so I have already forgotten about the installation complexity... however :
1_ PTassembler requires Dersch Panorama tools, but the Setup file now contains the necessary modules.
2_ The Setupfile does NOT contain 2 other modules, which I find essentials : Autopano and Enblend
they can be found respectively at :
http://autopano.kolor.com
http://enblend.sourceforge.net
Both provide .ZIP files which contains each a .EXE file which can be transferred to the directory where PTassembler have been installed (usually \program files\PTasmblr\)
they are both free.
3_ when done, open PTasmblr, to do some more setup under the tab : file/preferences
  a/ tab Files/Dirs : just verify all fieds are written, it's good to provide a path for preview (XNView for instance or even IEexplorer)
  b/ tab Plugins : write the autopano and endblend paths

You are done and ready for the first pano, a good thing is to use the wizard, et least on first attempt (tab : Help/show wizard)

Should you experience any more difficulty, I may try to write an oversimplified workflow for a starter.

Regards
UG
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2005, 10:35:02 AM »
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JMB, thanks for the clarification on the necessary components and thanks for the offer of help. If I decide to install three programs to do the job of one and if I run into trouble using them I shall gladly take you up on your offer of help. Cheers.  Cheesy
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2005, 10:40:05 AM »
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UG, thanks for taking the trouble to explain all of that to me. I would know how to do about 80% of it, and the other 20% (verifying this and that) is straight over my head. For 40 bucks I bought a single application (ArcSoft) that does the whole job seemlessly, resulting in the image quality of the original components, with a few button clicks.

It would be helpful to know whether there is any real value-added going the PTAssembler route relative to ArcSoft. What does all the pain and complexity buy me?

Cheers, Mark
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2005, 12:13:12 PM »
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www.autostitch.com has a free demo that produces perfect stitches.  I've printed meter-wide images stitched with this tool and source images from my D70 and kit lens.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2005, 01:10:14 PM »
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Thanks Peter. It only works with JPEGs. I take your word that it works well, but I don't use JPEG format.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2005, 03:59:39 PM »
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Mark, it is a PITA.

I convert my RAWs to HQ JPG, then stitch.   I dearly hope for BMP or TIFF I/O for Autostitch.  I've sent them several emails, but no response.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2005, 04:15:22 PM »
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Peter, I guess being essentially a scientific research project they can afford to be somewhat liesurely about responding to ideas. It seems like kind of a "use at your own risk" proposition. I respect what you say about the success you've had with it, and perhaps I should give it a whirl, but my reservation is really about the workflow implications. One does have maximum quality maintenance "insurance" remaining in a non-lossy compression format. JPEG conversion would be fine if certain one wouldn't ever want to edit and resave it. I just feel a bit jittery about that - especially when engaging processes that will alter the image in a way that is not totally predictable.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2005, 05:59:48 PM »
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Funny, I have sent them the very same email a few month ago to the Autostitch guys, no answer neither. Tiff and 16 bits support would greatly enhance the appeal of the software though.

It does work nicely indeed, but the total lack of control is annoying when you really need to make the panorama out of less than perfectly shot images. In other words, it can be great when you don't have the time, but is not credible as your only panorama tool.

Regards,
Bernard
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2005, 06:32:10 PM »
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For the fun of it I just compared ArcSoft ot Autostitch on a few test images. I knew that ArcSoft would produce higher quality images because I can output in Tiff but Autostitch "auto stitches" much more accurately on more images. The interface of ArcSoft is nice, straightforward, with a few nice manual controls but it doesn't seem to handle minor barrel and pincushion distortions very well. It appears that I would have to correct for that myself, first, before I stitch my images which would take some practice to figure out how much correction to apply for a given zoom range. All of my images contained slanted buildings and/or sloping horizon lines when I tested it on my favorite long cityscape test shot. Autostitch handled the distortions very well and kept all of the images nice and straight with no slope to the horizon line, just like in my original pics taken from my tripod. I also like how I can throw any group of images at it in whatever order and it is smart enough to know how to stitch the images whether they are vertical, horizontal or tiled. I have some photos I took of a tree a long time ago, handheld, before I really knew what I was doing. I simply did my best to capture the whole tree, in a tiled method, in about 7 or 8 photos. The information was there but the shots were not very orderly. No other program I have tried, even ArcSoft, could stitch it except for Autostitch where I simply opened all of the images and ran the program. This was very impressive. It wasn't a perfect stitch because I had shifted around slightly when shooting, but at least the program worked and I still get to enjoy the image.  Autostitch is very slow and doesn't provide visual manual corrections but it still has other adjustments that help when needed. I wish I had a program that combined the best of these two programs. I will be keeping an eye out for Autostitch in hopes that they will, at least, provide a version with lossless output.

T
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Andrew Larkin
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2005, 12:14:50 AM »
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Hey, here's a conspiracy theory for you all re Autostitch:

Autostitch did say on their web site that they *could* develop the tool to handle tiff's and 16-bits easily, but they had chosen not to because they wanted a commercial buyer for the technology.

Now we have Realviz 5.0 due for release any day now with what might be very similar automatic stitching capability - seems to me that Realviz would be exactly the kind of commercial buyer that the Autostitch guys would have been looking for.

Finally, I just tried going to the autostitch web site to find the relevant quote and I find that the site's dns entry seems to have vanished - might be coincidence, or maybe not?

Andrew
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2005, 01:02:37 AM »
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Which would be great from my point of view actually.

It is exactly like having small startup selling their technology to Adobe instead of wasting time and resources re-inventing the wheel - which often results in poor quality software lacking features and stability.

Here, we will have the advantage of the proven Stitcher basis, with one additional function which works great. I don't really see any problem with this approach.

Regards,
Bernard
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2005, 06:52:43 AM »
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ddolde, thanks for pointing me to Panavue. I like their website and trial conditions - very informative and the software looks good. I shall download it and try it.

Bernard, I like to keep an open mind about things, so when RealViz version 5 hits the market I'll have a look. My first experience with RealViz, however, was quite negative, as I mentioned in my opening post. Compared with other stuff on the market the pricing, ease of use and program try-out conditions just don't cut it. Let us see whether they have re-thought all this with version 5.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
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« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2005, 07:42:35 AM »
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I have been researching into which stitching tool to use for a while, but have yet to seriously play with any. PS' PhotoMerge does not work well at all for my 4000dpi film scans intented for Super B size prints. Even if the images have >30% overlaps and are reasonably well aligned. (BTW, just like any digital imaging discussion, image source, size, and output intent all matter, a whole lot. Would appreciate posters providing context in this regard in their postings.)

The tool of choice seems to be PanoTools, but many describe it as difficult to use. This leads to the development of a few frontend user interface tools to make it easier, such as the PTassembler. Others are mentioned here:

http://panotools.sourceforge.net/

Instead of these sharewares, I'm most interested in the freeware Hugin. Not only is it free, but it includes and supports many features missing in the sharewares, as mentioned earlier in this thread. It gets lots of thumbsups from serious stitchers, and has an active Q&A mailing list. Would appreciate Hugin users to jump in.

http://hugin.sourceforge.net/

I can provide more stitching links if interested.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2005, 07:47:46 AM »
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I have been researching into which stitching tool to use for a while, but have yet to seriously play with any. PS' PhotoMerge does not work well at all for my 4000dpi film scans intented for Super B size prints. Even if the images have >30% overlaps and are reasonably well aligned. (BTW, just like any digital imaging discussion, image source, size, and output intent all matter, a whole lot. Would appreciate posters providing context in this regard in their postings.)

The tool of choice seems to be PanoTools, but many describe it as difficult to use. This leads to the development of a few frontend user interface tools to make it easier, such as the PTassembler. Others are mentioned here:

http://panotools.sourceforge.net/

Instead of these sharewares, I'm most interested in the freeware Hugin. Not only is it free, but it includes and supports many features missing in the sharewares, as mentioned earlier in this thread. It gets lots of thumbsups from serious stitchers, and has an active Q&A mailing list. Would appreciate Hugin users jumping in with their opinions.

http://hugin.sourceforge.net/

I can provide more stitching links if interested.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2005, 08:56:20 AM »
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Chris, I did mention in my opening post most of the key parameters for my test set. I failed to mention the lens was set at 50mm, and the output intention is a simple row panorama for print.

ddolde, I just tried Panavue Image Assembler (Professional edition) with the same set of photographs - in automatic mode - and it was a complete disaster - total failure to allign the images in the correct places. It seems that it won't work properly on my test set without manually setting flags. Too bad, it has some nice fetures otherwise. If you can be so kind as to review the description of my test set, and since you know the program, suggest to me a combination of settings that may allow the automatic function to work properly I would like to give it another try.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
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