Windows Live Photo Gallery offers a Make – Create panoramic photo… feature that does a beautiful job of stitching a set of horizontal, vertical, or just generally overlapping photos. The Image Composite Editor – a free download – is even more powerful and versatile. The latest version introduces some amazing capabilities.
To make a composite start in Windows Live Photo Gallery, select the thumbnails of the photos to be combined and then click Make on the menu bar then select Create panoramic photo. WLPG does the rest and shortly asks for the name of the resulting photo file and adds it to the specified folder.
To use Image Composite Editor – ICE – you must have it installed on your computer. If you do not have it, or don’t have the latest version, you can download it from here: Microsoft Research – Image Composite Editor. After download and installation you get a shortcut icon on your desktop, but you can launch it from right inside Photo Gallery. Select the image thumbnails and click Extras, then select Create Image Composite… on the drop-down menu.
ICE launches and there is an array of options available to you for the appearance of the composite and also for how the resulting composite is “exported”. In the latest version of ICE there are the buttons shown in the illustration on the left. One of them is Publish to Photosynth… – Now that is an exiting option! For this post I will concentrate on that alone. The other features will have to wait for another day!
If you have not explored Photosynth, you are missing a marvelous experience. What is Photosynth? To quote from the Photosynth site: “Photosynth allows you to take a bunch of photos of the same scene or object and automagically stitch them all together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience that you can share with anyone on the web. Photosynth is really two remarkable technical achievements in one product: a viewer for downloading and navigating complex visual spaces and a “synther” for creating them in the first place. Together they make something that seems impossible quite possible: reconstructing the 3D world from flat photographs.”
And now, ICE and Photosynth work together to allow magnificent panoramas. I selected a rather difficult subject to test ICE: A wooded scene in a park. Can ICE tell the trees from the forest? Amazingly well! Yes, you need to do a bit of preparation for making “synths”. If you have a Live ID, you can set up an account. There is even an instruction manual (download it by clicking this link). But let’s get on with the show. I selected 55 overlapping shots, ICE used 54 for them to prepare a 360 degree panorama. Then I published it to my Photosynth account. Click on the image to take a look. You can pan around, even up and down. As you stop on a view, note how the image gets sharper as more details are downloaded.
As a pure synth, made by selecting Extras – Create a Photosynth… in Photo Gallery (see illustration a bit earlier in this post), this same set of photos produced this:
Here again you can look around. This style of “synth” is much better suited to “non-panorama” photos. Be sure to visit the Photosynth site for some really magnificent images.
You will want to get started right away. These three tools, working in concert, really open some marvelous new territory. Enjoy!
© 2010 Ludwig Keck. All rights reserved.