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Making panoramic images

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The gnomonic projection


These suggestions assume you have successfully taken a ‘spherical’ panorama with a 360 camera or a drone. For example, the DJI Mavic Pro takes 34 still photographs from about 40 above the horizon to −90 below (one image is taken straight down), and these can be assembled into a ‘part-spherical’ panorama (where imagery more than 40 above the horizon is missing). Note that the Mavic Pro spherical panoramas require 2 stops exposure compensation while being taken; others may not – experiments are worthwhile.

PanGazer loads spherical panoramas from a single ‘equirectangular’ (see the Wikipedia article » for an explanation) image which must be constructed from those multiple still photographs. PanGazer can also save part-spherical panoramas (as described above) as full-sphere panoramas for use in social media applications, etc.

There are various ways of constructing the required equirectangular image (these instructions all assume you have copied the images to a folder on your PC). The programs listed here are free software. Hugin can give better results than Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS ICE), but is slower. You may prefer to create panoramas first with MS ICE then use Hugin to re-process the most promising.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS ICE)

  • Select “New Panorama From Images” and select all (and Open) the images that form the panorama. Leave the defaults ‘Simple panorama’ and ‘Camera motion – Auto-detect’ unchanged.

  • Click the ‘Stitch’ arrow/tab. This will probably take a minute or so to align and combine the images.

  • When the stitch has completed, ensure that “spherical” and “auto orientation” are selected. You should see a distorted 360 panorama with a somewhat ‘puffy’ top edge.

  • Click the ‘Crop’ arrow/tab. This will project the image (rather more quickly than the last step). This will then show a possible cropping rectangle (the bottom should be fine, at −90 but the top edge will be above the content of some of the images). First try ‘Auto crop’ to move the top edge down so it is all within the drone images; if this doesn’t move the edge enough then drag the edge lower.

  • Click the ‘Export’ arrow/tab. Select Quality ‘Superb’ (this should show a value of 90; you can increase this to 100 if desired).

  • Click ‘Export to disk’ to save the image. You should then be able to view the saved image with PanGazer, which should show its title annotated with “360 spherical”.

Hugin Panorama Stitcher

  • Click the Assistant tab (probably default) and then click “Load images...” and select all (and Open) the images that form the panorama. The temporary display of the loaded images, at this point, will probably look unpromising.

  • Click “Align...”. Hugin will then analyse the images (this may take 5–10 minutes or more; progress is shown in a ‘Running assistant’ window).

  • When done, a plausible panorama should be shown (with uncorrected exposure bands, etc.). Click “Create panorama...”. Check that the settings are: LDR format JPEG, Quality 90, and ‘Exposure corrected, low dynamic range’.

  • If the automatic crop looks wrong, you can click the ‘Crop’ tab to adjust it.

  • Click OK. A ‘project file’ will then be saved (accept as-is, or you can rename this, and/or delete it later).

  • Similarly accept the suggested ‘output prefix’ or modify as desired – this will be used to name and place the final output file. Stitching will then begin, with a ‘Stitching’ progress window and a ‘Batch Processor’ window (leave both open). Again, this will take some time.

  • When the ‘Stitching’ progress window closes, you can close the ‘Batch Processor’ window. The output file should now exist on disk and you should be able to view it with PanGazer, which should show its title annotated with “360 spherical”..

PanGazer and these web pages were written by Mike Cowlishaw; Please send me any corrections, suggestions, etc.
All content Copyright © Mike Cowlishaw, 2014–2020, except where marked otherwise. All rights reserved. The pages here, and the PanGazer program, are for non-commercial use only.
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This page was last updated on 2020-02-19 by mfc.