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:
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:
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:
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:
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.