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Photovista 2 - panorama creation software
(by Mike Slocombe, Internet Magazine, June 2001)
Photovista is a powerful piece of software that lets you produce stunning 360 degree panoramas for your site with the minimum of fuss.
The program works by using algorithms to stitch together a series of photographs into an almost seamless panorama, which can then be exported on to your Web site, or to the free Web space provided at www.vista-point.com.
You can either scan images from photographs or import them directly from a digital camera using a TWAIN interface. Photovista needs to know what kind of lens is on your camera, which you can find out by selecting your camera from a comprehensive dropdown list of the most popular digital cameras and lens sizes.
You can update this list from the company's Web site, or add your own custom settings. Photovista will also tell you how many pictures you need to make a full panorama with your particular camera.
Once the images are loaded, you're asked if you want the images to 'blend' together (this intelligently attempts to find a line which it can blend along to cause the least disruption to the picture) and if you want to crop out any non-image areas. You can also select cylindrical, cubic or spherical projection.
You can then see a quick preview or select Full Stitch and let the program do its all-warping-stitching-aligning thang. This should only take a few minutes before the fully stitched panorama appears. In almost all cases, Photovista will produce a beautifully rendered and smooth panorama, although there are a few manual controls for tweaking trickier shots.
It's possible to manually align the images, although the lack of a zoom feature makes it a bit of a fiddly process. It's also a shame that the level of blending can't be adjusted, and you can't account for slight rotation adjustments or tilt.
Once you're happy with the results, images can then be viewed as a long JPEG strip or as an immersive 360 degrees panorama. Panoramas can be saved off in MGI's proprietary format, which claims file sizes three to four times smaller than QuickTime VR files, but these require you to download a 1.6Mb plug-in.
Thankfully, there's also a Java version available, which doesn't require a plug-in.
Photovista also supports the FlashPix format, which lets you adjust the resolution of an image so it loads quickly. It can also be integrated with MGI's Reality Studio suite so you can creating an entire interactive virtual reality site.
Overall, using Photovista you can you add some truly compelling content to a Web site, and its ease of use and reasonable price make it a must for many sites.
Rating (out of five): FIVE STARS
PROS: Comparatively small files , easy to use, no plug-in needed
CONS: No QuickTime VR support, manual alignment has no zoom or pan controls
Price: Approx £50 (look out for free coverdisks of version one which is very similar)
» TUTORIAL: Create a photographic panorama
» See examples of Photovista panoramas here
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