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Making a Panorama from video

Introduction

This tutorial describes how to make panoramic images from a video sequences captured by small cameras such as the MD80 clone or keychain cameras. You will need Photoshop and VirtualDub.

Acknowledgements

We originally learned of the photo stitching technique in PhotoShop from US Water Rockets. They now have a tutorial for using different set of tools here:  http://waterrockets.multiply.com/journal/item/170/Aerial_Photograph_Panorama_Tutorial_in_3_easy_steps

Procedure

  1. Go fly your rocket and capture some video. Note that not all video is suitable for making quality panoramas. (See notes below)
  2. Download the video from the camera to your computer.
  3. Open the video in Virtual Dub.


     
  4. Depending on the camera you use to capture the video you may want to apply a couple of filters first. If you use the MD80 clone or the keychain camera and the video has the permanent timestamp you can add our filter first (see the timestamp remover filter for details) and then add the resize filter, as the cameras stretch a 640 x 480 native resolution to 720 x 480 giving you a distorted image. Resizing it back to 640 x 480 restores the correct aspect ratio to the image contents.

    If the video was shot through a mirror such as when looking downwards, you will want to also apply the flip horizontal filter to correct that. Make sure you apply this filter after the timestamp removal.

    In VirtualDub select Video > Filters from the menu.



     
  5. This opens the Filters dialog. Click on the Add.. button.



     
  6. Choose the Timestamp Remover filter and click OK. If you don't have the filter installed see the installation procedure.



     
  7. Accept the default settings and click OK.



     
  8. The filter is added to the Filters list. Click Add... again.



     
  9. Select the resize filter and click OK.



     
  10. Set Aspect ratio to Disabled. Select New size Absolute and type in 640 x 480. Click OK.



     
  11. The resize filter should be second in the chain. Click OK.



     
  12. Find the first frame you would like to start your panorama on and press the HOME button. This marks the start of the sequence.
    (Left view shows original, right view shows filtered video)



     
  13. Find the end of the panorama image and press the END button. This marks the end of the sequence. How many frames you choose is up to you, but generally 20 to 30 is a good rule of thumb, though certainly 3 or 50 can be used.



     
  14. Choose File > Export > Image sequence ... from the menu.



     
  15.  Give the files a name and location. Choose the JPEG option and set the quality to 100%



     
  16. Click OK and allow VirtualDub to export the individual frames.
  17. Open Photoshop and select File > Automate > Photomerge... from the menu. Depending on what version of Photoshop you are using will depend on what photomerge options you have available.



     
  18. If you are using CS3 then select the files that were just exported from VirtualDub by clicking Browse. Select Layout Auto and click OK.



     
  19. Let Photoshop assemble the image for you. How well Photoshop does will depend on the images. It may combine all of them or only some of them. When all else fails you can always assemble them manually by choosing the Interactive Layout above. Here is more information on how to photomerge interactively. You can also try various blending options with Photomerge. Once the images have been assembled they will be shown as a series of layers.



     
  20. Choose Layer > Flatten Image from the menu to collapse all the layers to a single image.
  21. Once the image is assembled you usually need to clean it up a little further. Rotate the image so the horizon is level. This makes it more pleasant to look at.



     
  22. Crop the image as desired. More often than not the panorama will have an irregular shape and does not lend itself too much to cropping to a rectangular shape without loosing too much detail. Simply crop the image a little larger and fill the holes around the edges with black or neutral gray.



     
  23. You can also apply any other colour correction filters at this stage. Using Image > Adjustments > Auto Levels from the menu sometimes helps improve the colour, as does adding a little saturation (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.). If the image is quite dark then using Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight also works well.


     
  24. Save your panorama and share it with others.

     

Tips

  1. To speed up processing remove alternate frames from the image sequence before importing them into Photoshop. At 20 or 30 fps the camera produces images that overlap significantly from frame to frame. You only really need 30-50% overlap.
  2. Choose only video frames from the video where the camera is panning slowly. Very fast rocket rotation tends to produce skewed video frames due to the low scan rate. 
  3. Use video that does not have blur due to a low shutter speed. This usually happens when there isn't enough light during filming.

 

 

 

5th March 2011

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