Thursday, September 25, 2008

Panorama Playhouse: Starship Troopers

Microsoft Research has recently made available as a free download a very interesting program called Image Composite Editor (ICE).  They describe it as follows:

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. You shoot a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location, and Image Composite Editor creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all your images at full resolution. Then save your stitched panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The description is terse but intriguing. I was curious to see how applicable this tool might be to stitching together movie frames to create panoramic frame composites, so I decided to see what could be done using the Starship Troopers Blu-ray as a source.

My first thought was that it would likely work best with a relatively static shot that has a simple vertical or horizontal pan.  There's a nice one near the beginning of the movie at the downtown Buenos Aires campus.  Starting small, I took the following four non-cropped 1.85 1920x1080 frames and simply dragged them into the ICE main window:

starship_1_01 starship_1_02 starship_1_03 starship_1_04

After thinking about it for a few seconds, it gave me the following composite which appears to be completely seamless:


Using the built-in cropping tools, I got a pretty nice looking 1862 x 2607 image as a result:

Starship Troopers Composite 1

So far so good, but what if a lot of things are moving around during the pan?  Let's try another simple vertical pan, but this time with lots of activity.  Here's a more complicated set of ten frames with a bottom-to-top vertical pan and lots of moving figures and changing lights:

 starship_2_01 starship_2_02 starship_2_03 starship_2_04 starship_2_05 starship_2_06 starship_2_07 starship_2_08 starship_2_09 starship_2_10

Once again, I simply dragging these images into ICE and let it work its compositing mathemagic:


Another quick rectangular crop gives an impressively seamless picture, this time at 1909x1700 pixels:

Starship Troopers Composite 2

Bits and pieces of each frame seem to have been plucked out to combine together into a (mostly) coherent whole.  Wowsa!

Not everything that I tried worked out perfectly and perhaps I'll talk about the failures and explore more complicated camera movements next time, but it's not often that I am so astonished by a piece of software.  If you are the least bit interested in photography, you really owe it to yourself to download this program and goof around in the panorama playhouse.

Starship Troopers


Alan said...

How do you capture the images from the movies?

Cinema Squid said...

I use mplayer to make the screenshots from Blu-ray discs. A detailed description of my workflow would probably be a worthy subject for a blog entry, but for the time being you can find some detailed instructions in this forum post at High-Def Digest.