My “In Stitches about AutoStitch” post explored three free panorama stitching programs that are capable of taking multiple photographs and seamlessly stitching them together into a single image. Of the three I played with, AutoStitch was the easiest to use and produced great results.
Ignoring Windows Live Photo Gallery was an oversight. I did think to check if Google’s Picasa software included the ability to stitch panoramas, which seemed to be a possibility since Google is working with GigaPan and provides financial support for the Global Connection Project, but I didn’t think to review the new things coming from Windows Live and Microsoft Research.
Apparently, stitching software has been a component of a number of Microsoft Products over the years, including the now discontinued Digital Image Pro and Digital Image Suite commercial products. Microsoft’s Digital Image page now reads, “Many of the digital imaging features and tools that have been enjoyed for years now can be found in new Microsoft titles and services including Windows Vista;” and Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is free to download.
The creators of AutoStitch are Matthew Brown and David Lowe, who developed the technology while at the University of British Columbia. Brown later worked for the Vision Technology group at Microsoft Research in Redmond (2006-2007), which is the department responsible for developing Windows Live Photo Gallery.
So it is reasonable to assume that the panorama stitching capabilities baked into WLPG are likely more refined than what AutoStich offers. “The version shipping now inside the Window Live Photo Gallery is the latest (and best) version of our software yet,” says Rick Szeliski from Microsoft Research.
So, how does Windows Live Photo Gallery’s panorama stitching capabilities compare to Matthew Brown’s original AutoStitch’s capabilities?
AutoStitch (from 8 source images)
Windows Live Photo Gallery (from 8 source images)
As you can see, Windows Live Photo Gallery had a more difficult time blending the varying contrast, brightness, and colors that differed among the eight separate exposures, leaving an unwanted darker vertical ban near the center of the panorama. AutoStich, however, managed to better hide the varying exposures.
AutoStich also has more options for creating panoramas, like setting scaling preferences or JPEG compression levels, that cannot be controlled within WLPG. However, WLPG includes minor editing capabilities like cropping and contrast, which are beyond the scope of AutoStitch.
Clearly I have more testing to do, for one panorama stitch is not sufficient for a fair review. It is nice, however, to have another free tool that performs rather well at stitching multiple images together.
What’s next? Photosynth
Now if you think stitching in WLPG is pretty cool, take a look at another project coming out of Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth. Photosynth not only stitches images together, but does so from multiple vantage points and creates a reconstruced three-dimensional space.
“Image stitching software assumes that all images were taken from the same point, so that they can be seamlessly stitched into a single image. Photosynth assumes that the pictures are taken from different points of view, and can therefore be used to create a 3D model of the scene,” says Szeliski.