Photosynth – Images of the Future?

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve been tripping out the last two days on Microsoft Photosynth. Come and join me.

If you’ve been reading Madang – Ples Bilong Mi for a while, you know that images are a big deal for me. I get great satisfaction from taking photos, fiddling with them, and sharing them with you.

It’s a whole new ballgame now. We can now move around inside of our photos. If you saw the movie Déjà Vu starring Denzel Washington, you may remember the zingy computer thingie that allowed them to look into the past and see all kinds of images from different angles.

You can now do this on your computer at home. Just the images thing – not the time travel thing (sorry).

Hold onto your seat and have a look at this:

The controls are simple and intuitive. Just click on the image and start fooling around with it. Click and drag moves you around. The wheel on your mouse zooms in and out. There are other gadgets in the upper right corner that you can play with. I’ll leave it to you to have fun finding out what they do.You will notice, according to the speed of your connection, that it takes a while for the images to become clear. The faster your connection, the faster the center of the montage becomes sharp. The same is true when you zoom in. It has to catch up with you. I sat in my office chair and took 128 shots at 1600 x 1200 resolution and uploaded them to the Microsoft Photosynth site.It took about two and a half hours to upload and process them over our new super-secret semi-broadband connection. I left it going when I went home yesterday evening. When I got in this morning it was saying that it was finished and I could view it. I was blown away!

There are many more possibilities than my silly example shows. You can go inside buildings, see close-ups and about a zillion other things.

For instance, if you were a real estate agent, you could snap a few hundred shots in a house that you’re trying to flog off on some poor sap, skipping over the shots that would show what you do NOT want to be seen.

I suppose that if you were a doctor, you could use a laparoscopic camera to shoot inside someone’s gizzard and then post the Photosynthed (I just coined a new adjective, I think) montage on the internet for any specialists who’d like to take a wild guess as to what that big black thing is attached to the inside of the fellow’s stomach.

If you want to try it for yourself, it’s really quite easy. You need only three things to get going.

First, you need a connection that is faster than a modem. The site says that you need a broadband connection, but that covers a lot of ground. You might even get away with a modem connection if you keep the number of images low and shoot them a lower resolution (maybe 640 x 480).

Next, you need a Windows Live logon and password. You can get that, if you don’t have one already, on the Photosynth site itself.

Finally, you need a bunch of photos that are connected so that you could lay them out on a table and the images would overlap. There are more ways to do this, but it’s good to start with something simple. You could just stand in one spot and snap away while turning slowly. One caution is that you need to lock your exposure on the first shot and keep it locked for all of the shots. You could have as few or as many as you like – the more, the better. If you have lots of images with a lot of overlap, it makes it appear more seamless.

If you do a Photosynth project, please comment or email about it. I’ll put a link to it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

UPDATE:  I discovered, when I sat down at my desktop computer and looked at this post, that it will probably require you to install an 8+ megabyte program called PhotosynthInstall.exe before you can view the scene. I already had it on my notebook where I do my posts, so I didn’t think of it. Sorry. If you don’t want to be bothered, just skip the install. You won’t be able to see the ‘movie’, but it’s no great loss.