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Old Mar 1, 2003, 10:53 PM   #11
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Default Update March 1st, 2003

Short,

Thanks for the suggestion, but their product only supports files of around 500 Mb.

My project should produce a 1.5 Gb image file once completed. It will require 3 Gb of virtual memory to assemble the final image (ie stitching together 3 images that are 500+ Mb each into one final image).

For the time being, I'm working out some kinks with Panorama Factory 2.4. It's the most promising and definitely the product I found the most intuitive!!!

I've created my top row image and it looks great!!! It's a 526 Mb file and I can view it in Panorama Factory as well as the Nikon View tools. All other tools I tried to use to view the image seem to die a terrible death on XP.

One thing that is WILD about the first row that I've stitched properly together is the level of detail available on Zoom!!! It's like having a 130 Megapixel camera!!! The final product will be like a 400 Megapixel camera!!! Probably the kind of camera my grandchildren will buy at the store for around $200

I'll probably get around to creating a small rendering of the final product that I'll load up on a web site. If it's 1.5 Mb, that will make it 0.1% of the original image size!!!

I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Thanks

Rob
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Old Mar 6, 2003, 6:43 PM   #12
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Default Update March 6th, 2003

Well, it's been close to a week and I've made slight progress.

I'm now working with Microsoft to fix a bug in their NTLDR that prevents some computers from using the /3GB switch to give applications (process) up to 3 Gb of working virtual RAM. The remaining 1 Gb is reserved for the System.

They've promised me a "fix" is on the way within 48 hours.

On another note, I will take Short up on his recommendation to try Panavue Image Assembler.

www.panavue.com

Their most recent version 2.11b supports the /3GB switch. They support stitching up to 99 X 99 images!!!

Look for a review with their product in the coming week.

Thanks

Rob
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Old Mar 15, 2003, 3:04 PM   #13
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Default Closing statements for March 2003

Well, looks like I'm closing this chapter, at least for the time being.

After trying out at least a half-dozen packages, here are the conclusions that I have drawn.


1. Not all Panorama/stitching software is created equal. The user interface and the language used to describe options and features from one package to another differ greatly. It is not always a 1:1 mapping between the different items. Some packages blend three or four concepts into a single option/setting.

Panorama Factory made the top of my list in terms of most inuitive for a lay person.

Panavue made the top of my list for nicest result with the least amount of work/settings.

In all fairness, I think all products would accomplish 90% or more of the job with some tinkering and manual adjustments. It's just that getting the last 10% done might mean 100's of hours of effort.


2. None of the programs I tried are able to stitch my mega image today. 3 of the products were able to stitch together a complete row (over 60,000 pixels wide) with some accuracy.

All programs ran out of virtual memory when attempting to stitch together 2 or more rows. The image size for each row is just under 600 Mb in a TIFF format.

I used a feature available under Windows XP Professional that gives up to 3 Gb of virtual address space for the user. It activates the /3GB switch in the Boot.ini file. You also need to update the application exe to support large images using the imagecfg utility that Microsoft provides.

This didn't help much as the three applications I tested don't allocate memory very efficiently. Using XP support tools, I could see that there were only 2 contiguous memory blocks available that were over 600 Mb (but less than 1 Gb). My total memory usage before running out of memory was usually 1.3 Gb out of a possible 3 Gb. That is because the free space is very fragmented.
There exists a utility called rebase (included with most Microsoft SDK) that allows you to re-map the base address for modules and exe files, but it's a very time consuming effort and it would not have solved my problem with my 3 rows.

To stitch together 2 images, I need at least 3 contiguous memory blocks over 600 Mb with one of those three being over 1.2 Gb.

To stitch together 3 images, I need at least 4 contiguous memory blocks over 600 Mb with one of those four being at least 1.8 Gb. If you do the math, I need that comes out to 3.4Gb of memory without taking into account the software and dll's. XP on a 32 bit machine only support a 3 GB user address space with normal code and the /3GB switch set. The other 1 Gb is reserver for the system.

XP on a 64 bit machine will support 7,152 Gb for the user address space. Which will be PLENTY for ANYONE for the next few years. 64 bit machines are not mainstream yet so I'll have to wait.


3. Since most applications assign the base address for modules/dlls in a non-contiguous way, users lose a lot of space between modules that would otherwise be available for their images. This is not critical for most users, but as users try to merge more and more large images, it becomes an issue. I've got 4 or 5 projects that require me to stitch 2 or 3 images that are over 500 Mb is size.


Conclusion: Without their own memory management or image paging abilities, panorama packages AVAILABLE TODAY (March 2003) will not be able to accomidate large image stitching (over 500 Mb).

The good news is that a few vendors I spoke to are in the process of releasing new tools that will support these large image stitching through image paging capabilities.

The other alternative is to wait for the 64 bit offerings to become affordable.

Look for an update or a new thread to this in about 6 months (Fall 2003).

Thanks,

Rob

P.S. I welcome any suggestions of Panorama packages that you know support their own image paging systems (Photoshop Elements 2.0 is the only one I know of today, it supports images up to 20 Gb but it has a limitation of restricting images to under 30,000 pixels in width or height).
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Old Apr 14, 2003, 11:16 PM   #14
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Default Panorama Factory 3.x coming...



I've had the pleasure of working with the beta release of Panorama Factory 3.x this past week. I can only find good things to say about the new release. John's done a great job on improving what was already a great product!!!

The manual stitching tool is even easier than it was before (not that it was complicated before).

For those of you that either take your photo stitching seriously or for those that want an intuitive product with all the bells and whistles... you shouldn't have to wait much longer.

John has included some tweaks for using the /3GB switch under Windows XP (assigning up to 3 Gb of user address space). This should satisfy most "big projects" with the ability to generate stitched images around 1 Gb in size.

Unfortunately, my "mega panorama" will require a 64 bit address space machine or an image paging system. My final stitched product will require approximately 4 Gb of working space to stitch the final image.

I'm signed up for another company's beta program later this year... They have promised the image paging system. I'll keep you posted.

Rob
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Old Aug 16, 2003, 10:06 PM   #15
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Default New systems headed our way... there is hope!!!

:lol:

New systems headed our way... there is hope!!!

Well folks, no new software or hardware tests to report, but I thought there are enough activities going on related to my project that it would be worth-while to post an update. Here are the latest happenings:


1. There has been a spike in interest and activity around stitching/manipulating large panoramas in the last 3 month. Iíve seen the number of discussions more than double recently around people getting ďout of memoryĒ errors with their 32 bit systems compared to the first part of the year. Also talking to the software companies writing stitching software, Iím hearing that they have seen more and more users ďhittingĒ the limits of Operating Systems and 32 bit addressing.

2. It is important to note that though my project might seem unreasonably big for the everyday digital photographer, my 120 digital photos/panorama were taken in December 2000 using a 3.3 Mega pixel Coolpix 990 from Nikon. If I were to take the same picture today with the best resolution digital camera, it would only take 15 images in one row to capture the same resolution/subject that I took in 2000. I would still have the same problem of running out of memory trying to stitch the new 15 images together.


3. I have suggested two ways to complete my final stitched image. One method is to have photo stitching software that will have its own image paging system. I suspect that though an image paging system might allow me to stitch my final image under a 32-bit architecture with Windows XP, it will not be very practical. Manipulating and stitching the image will take many hours even on the fastest machines because of paging/context switching to disk. I will be beta testing a package with a paging system in the next 30 days and will let you know if my concern is founded.

4. The second method to complete the photo stitching is to perform the stitching on Intelís 64-bit machine running Microsoftís Windows XP. There are two problems that make this next to impossible. First the machines are too expensive. Second is the fact that no one is porting or will be porting their software to this platform any time soon.


5. So where does that leave us? There is a big chance that Iíll have my project stitched and completed before the end of this year. This is based on the fact that both Apple and AMD have announced/introduced hybrid 64 bit processors that are compatible with 32 bit applications. Apple announced their G5 line of computers in July that are available today and AMD is expected to announce their AMD 64 product offering with Windows XP for AMD 64 in September. The Apple G5 can have up to 8 GB of memory and dual 2 GHz processors. Unfortunately, their 8GB system costs $8,000 (monitor not included) because it requires 1 GB SDRAM to take it up to 8 GB. The AMD 64 based systems should be much less expensive for two reasons: They will have 16 memory slots reducing the price because less expensive 512 MB memory chips can be used instead of costly 1 GB memory chips. The system can also be bought with only one processor. I suspect that a 2 GHz machine configured with 8 GB should be about $3,500!!! Approximately $1,500 of that price is the 8 GB of memory making this a very affordable machine for everyone!

So what needs to happen between now and then?

i. Apple has already released a version of its OS X that is 64-bit address aware. The OS does not yet take full advantage of the 64 bit capabilities. Microsoft has committed to supporting the AMD 64 with its Windows XP technology for end users. It gave out an alpha version of this software at a recent Microsoft developer conference. I suspect they should be beta (or better) in September.

ii. Software companies with Photo Stitching/ Panorama software will need to make their applications 64-bit address aware and recompile on the new hybrid systems. This effort should be significantly less painful than porting to a new 64-bit chip. AMD has made a porting environment available for software companies via an online registration process. Developers get access to machines over the internet to port/test their applications.

iii. I need to get one of these machines with a ported stitching package and perform my stitching. Which Iím targeting for October (or sooner).

Iíll keep you posted on all fronts!!!

Thanks

Rob
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Old Aug 17, 2003, 4:28 AM   #16
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You're right about your 3rd point. Even if the software does manage the paging of it's own memory it will always be very slow compared to using RAM throughout. It looks like a 64-bit machine with a ton of memory could well be your answer. You should be warned though that there are expected to be very limited numbers of the Athlon64 chip on the market until early next year. And as a result, the prices will surely be through the roof.

Also (if I recall correctly) the final 64-bit version of Windows isn't going to be released until Q1 2004 anyway. You'd therefore have to run an Athlon64 on the normal 32-bit WinXP or on the WinXP 64-bit beta if you can get your hands on it.
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Old Aug 17, 2003, 8:47 AM   #17
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Default Speculation about the AMD 64

Ed,

At this point, the only thing I can say about availability and pricing on the AMD Athlon64 processor is "wait until September 23, 2003" when we all find out from AMD.

That's also the same message for Microsoft Windows XP on AMD 64.

I'm still holding to my estimate that my project will be stitched on a hybrid 64-bit architecture before year end on a platform that will cost me less than $2,500 (without including the price for the monitor and the 8 GB of memory).

Thanks,

Rob
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Old Sep 10, 2004, 4:41 AM   #18
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Hi Bear

Maybe we got a solution for your panorama problem. We are a little firm from Germany called easyfish ( www.easyfish.com ) that launches a new software for digital cameras at the time of the photokina this month.

If you would send me your pictures ( lay it on ftp ) i would make you the panorma.

Best regards, Jens Schwoon ( jens@easyfish.de )
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Old Sep 13, 2004, 9:26 PM   #19
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Jens et al,

Thanks for your note. Before I take you up on your offer to stitch my images, I thought I would provide everyone with an update and comments about where my project is currently.

1. The AMD Athlon64 and the IBM/Apple G5 chips were the much needed wake-up call to Intel and Microsoft that people want an evolution to 64 bit computing and not a revolution. Unfortunately, MS will take another 6 months to release production code on the new chips. Beta software is available from MS. There are also some stitching software providers (i.e. Panorama Factory) that have ported to the new technology and broken the 1.5 GB memory barrier on stitched images. A few other stitching software providers have written 32 bit code that also solves the problem (ie their own memory manager).

I have not seen anything new from Adobe for over 18 months and hope they will have something new soon.

2. I was delighted to see someone create a 1 Gigapixel image late last year. They stitched together a mosaic with 196 images. You can read all about it at: http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/gigapixel.htm

3. What I was trying to accomplish is to use very lay (simple) techniques for taking multiple images and off the shelf software to bring it all together. Two problems that I encountered that I have not seen get solved yet in stitching large images are:

i) When taking my panorama, the detail I was interested in was a very thin slice of the horizon. Maybe a30degree arc (ie only 3 or 4 images high by 50 images wide). It is very difficult to take 50 images side by side without getting some up and down movement during the pan (especially with mountains and stuff). Within one row, my images ended up with up to a 25% up or down movement from the mean. I am using a row by row stitching technique as most mosaic stitching cannot handle the complexity of my image. When I stitch my first row together, the up and down movement creates white areas below certain part of the image. I cannot crop these white areas out without losing critical portions of the image for a multi-row stitch. The bottom of my top row might look like this (where everything below the line is white).

________

---------_______--------- ------------------__________

The stitching program does not have a way to mask the white areas below the line. They treat them as part of the "new image" and thus destroy the blending/merging abilitities of multiple rows. Suggestion: Create a routine that automatically "cuts out" the white area when stitching.

ii) Even if the previous problem was solved or didn't exist because I was really good a panning, the resulting size ofRow 1 and Row 2 and Row 3 from my stitch are not identical.Most stitching software I tried wanted all image sizes to be the same (which is fine when you stitch your original image). Having identical image size when stitching previously stitched rows is not easy. Yes, I could go edit the image and re-size... but you end up losing detail in the wrong place.

4. All this said, I have learnt important lessons in my quest for off the shelf software to stitch mega panoramas. The closer your original image is to perfection, the more probable you will be able to stitch your final image with off the shelf software. If you want to stitch 20 - 50 images together, there are some good software programs that allow you to do this today that handle most of the "less than perfect" aspects of your photos.

If you are really serious about taking a mega panorama, I would suggest the following steps.

- Find an un-obstructed view of the subject (moving the camera causes big problems).

- Use a tripod (just making sure for the real amature)

- Make sure you include a decent amount of sky when taking very wide panoramas that are outdoors. The challenge here is figuring out the reference point in a blue sky when you're at 500mm zoom!

- Make sure it is the clearest day of the year when you take the shots... Everything loses clarity on hazy days.

- I prefer breaking wide panoramas into sections with 15 - 20 images wide by however manyhigh in each section. It keeps lighting consistent in that section.

- Practice with a 15 X 4 image first just to get the hang of it. You might decide to increase your height once you see a partial result.

- Have fun and share your experience!

Thanks,

Rob
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Old Sep 14, 2004, 7:42 PM   #20
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Very good information for anyone who wants to shoot panoramas even when aiming at less resolution than you are.

In particular, I liked:
Bear wrote:
Quote:
... The closer your original image is to perfection, the more probable you will be able to stitch your final image with off the shelf software. ...
There is a very real trade-off between shooting carefully and stitching easily. Not understanding that leads to folks ranting about nodal point rotation, fixed focus, level tripod, ... Following those "rules" will make stitching easier, but all of them can be broken at the cost of having to use more difficult software. The scale of your project pretty much demands a tripod, but you likely can get away without a pano head since the subject is distant.

Good luck with your project, and check back in once in a while.
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