Creating photographic panoramas with PhotoVista
Conclusion, more info and web resources
By Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, June 2004
In this tutorial, we've focussed on PhotoVista because we feel it's one of the simplest panoramic packages around it's only one of many highly capable programs out there.
There's a huge list of commercial and shareware/freeware alternatives, from the superb - and mighty expensive - REALVIZ Stitcher (PC/Mac) to more affordable programs like the highly rated Panorama Factory) to the freeware PanoTools v2.1 .
Check out the reviewed panorama software guide for other alternatives.
For Mac users, Apple's QuickTimeVR Authoring Studio has long been the de facto choice, offering a powerful suite of stitching applications but it's not cheap, costing a hefty (£300)
Whichever package you decide to use, it pays to choose your subject matter carefully.
Panoramas can act as historical documents, freezing a scene in its entirety at a certain time and for that reason, it's worth going out of your way to record ephemeral, unusual or local scenes - after all, there are already hundreds of Trafalgar Square panoramas out there!
When you're planning a panorama, consider how the scene changes over the course of the day and don't be frightened of taking pics in adverse weather conditions!
There's something quite addictive about going out and creating panoramas, and if other people start to like the cut of your swivel, you could be heading for trouble.
Panoramas are inherently heavy files and if a lot of people start looking at your work, you may find yourself bursting through your ISPs bandwidth allowance - so be sure to carefully check the terms of your server space before unleashing your panoramic tour of East Grinstead on the world.
If the panorama bug starts to really bite, you may want to consider offering 'virtual tours', where viewers can jump from one panorama to another via 'hot spots'.
For commercial ventures (such as estate agents and holiday resorts), an interactive tour can provide a highly effective way of letting people see what's on offer.
With advanced programs like ISeeMedia's Reality Studio you can really go to town, creating a truly immersive panoramic environment with embedded objects, movies and atmospheric sounds that can change according to the user's viewpoint (so the sound of sea will fade as the viewer looks in the opposite direction).
Bear in mind that such fabulous audio-visual creations take time, patience and skill to put together and will require users to download a browser plug in to witness its full multimedia glory.
But for most people, a simple panorama will be more than enough to add real value and interest to a site, and hopefully this walkthrough has whetted your appetite to get going - grab a trial copy of PhotoVista and get stitching!
INFO AND RESOURCES:
Panorama: a sequence of photos stitched together into one image that displays a wide view along the horizon, usually spanning 360º (although you can also create partial panoramas)
Interactive panorama: a panorama displayed in an interface that lets the viewer zoom and pan around the scene (usually powered by Java or requiring a specialist browser plug in)
Bluffer's guide: Projection
Panorama programs work by 'projecting' the stitched image to create a 3D representation of the scene in a software viewer.
Flat projection pastes the images onto a flat screen, with no correction for lens distortion.
Spherical projection creates the illusion that the image is projected onto the inside of a sphere, offering vertical as well as horizontal views.
Cylindrical projection gives the impression that the image is projected onto the inside of a cylinder
Cubic projection: uses a method of creating a panoramic image stored as the faces of a cube (the software viewer will then seamlessly reassemble the image so that it view like a conventional spherical panorama).
» Projection explained.
More info on creating panoramas:
PanoGuide - the best web resource
Panorama tools listing
ADG Panorama Tools (free stitcher)
Flash panorama tools