May 3, 2006 7:53 AM PDT

Microsoft pictures a 10-gigapixel photo

Forget megapixels, where the resolution of digital images is counted in millions of pixels. Michael Cohen, a scientist at Microsoft Research, is trying to create a photo this summer that will contain 10 billion pixels.

He's already done 4-gigapixel shots of downtown Seattle.

Cohen's work, dubbed Big Panoramas, is an attempt to marry Internet mapping and high-resolution photography. With 4 billion or 10 billion pixels, a single photograph will contain several square miles of real estate in accurate detail. In the Seattle photo, users can zoom in on windows on different buildings, or zoom out to get a view of the entire skyline.

The end result is something akin to the satellite images on services like Google Earth. The difference is that the angle is more familiar. The pictures provide the panorama you might see staring out of a window on a building, or from standing on the sidewalk. Satellite images capture only the unfamiliar bird's-eye views of rooftops.

Ultimately, several-gigapixel shots captured from different angles could be woven together to form a 3D-like photograph consisting of tens of billions of pixels, Cohen said.

The technique involves taking several hundred pictures with a standard digital camera, stitching the photos together and then compensating for changes in the position of the sun, the movement of clouds and other environmental factors during the time it took to take all of the photos.

In 2004, engineers in the Netherlands stitched together 600 individual images shot over the course of more than an hour to create a photo with almost 2.5 billion pixels.

The 4-gigapixel photo of downtown Seattle required shooting more than 800 photos taken in an hour and a half. The lighting and different exposure conditions that existed during that time period, however, are neutralized so that it looks like the entire image was captured at a single moment.

"With a 10-megapixel camera, a 10-gigapixel picture takes at least 1,000 pictures," he noted.

The camera is not held by a person. It sits in a motorized rig and the angle of the rig and camera are controlled by a computer.

Digital cameras aimed at consumers, by contrast, typically offer resolutions of about 5 or 6 megapixels.

See more CNET content tagged:
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19 comments

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Old News
People have been stiching pictures like this for a long time. Big deal.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ptgui.com/info/stiching.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.ptgui.com/info/stiching.html</a>

Kieran Mullen
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They r not talking about software
Microsoft is working on the pic itself with ability to zoom in and etc. Its unique because 4 gigapixel has not been stitched.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
Old News
People have been stiching pictures like this for a long time. Big deal.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ptgui.com/info/stiching.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.ptgui.com/info/stiching.html</a>

Kieran Mullen
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They r not talking about software
Microsoft is working on the pic itself with ability to zoom in and etc. Its unique because 4 gigapixel has not been stitched.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
Make an OS that can handle 10-megapixels first
Nice try attempting to sound like a market leader.

Has anyone pointed out that your Operating Sytems struggle with 10-MEGApixels photos?

You've practically handed over the entire high-end photobusiness to Apple, with Windows poor support for large size files.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Make an OS that can handle 10-megapixels first
Nice try attempting to sound like a market leader.

Has anyone pointed out that your Operating Sytems struggle with 10-MEGApixels photos?

You've practically handed over the entire high-end photobusiness to Apple, with Windows poor support for large size files.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nothing too new hear--but how do you balance exposure on stitched pics?
I should have known that they're just talking about stitching pics together. Really not the interesting, unless they develop the software to make it do something else.

I have always wanted to know how to balance the exposure on the multiple pics so that you can't tell the lighting differences. Is there an easy way to do this? Anyone know??? Please post advice for balancing exposure on stitched images.
Posted by mgwatson (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lots of software to balance exposure
there's lots of software to balance exposure around:

Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Photoshop do a good job, try searching for panoramic photo software.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Nothing too new hear--but how do you balance exposure on stitched pics?
I should have known that they're just talking about stitching pics together. Really not the interesting, unless they develop the software to make it do something else.

I have always wanted to know how to balance the exposure on the multiple pics so that you can't tell the lighting differences. Is there an easy way to do this? Anyone know??? Please post advice for balancing exposure on stitched images.
Posted by mgwatson (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lots of software to balance exposure
there's lots of software to balance exposure around:

Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Photoshop do a good job, try searching for panoramic photo software.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Nothing too new hear--but how do you balance exposure on stitched pics?
I should have known that they're just talking about stitching pics together. Really not the interesting, unless they develop the software to make it do something else.

I have always wanted to know how to balance the exposure on the multiple pics so that you can't tell the lighting differences. Is there an easy way to do this? Anyone know??? Please post advice for balancing exposure on stitched images.
Posted by mgwatson (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nothing too new hear--but how do you balance exposure on stitched pics?
I should have known that they're just talking about stitching pics together. Really not the interesting, unless they develop the software to make it do something else.

I have always wanted to know how to balance the exposure on the multiple pics so that you can't tell the lighting differences. Is there an easy way to do this? Anyone know??? Please post advice for balancing exposure on stitched images.
Posted by mgwatson (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mac compatibility with large image files
I cannot speak for Microsloth programs being capable of
processing large image files but Macintosh OSX and software
designed to work on it is not phased by large files so long as
there is sufficient RAM to handle it. A professional level machine
capable of 4 gig of RAM can handle image files in the
multigigabyte range with a combination of hard drive paging
and RAM so that such images can be manipulated in a normal
manner. It is slow of course compared to more reasonable sized
image files but it is not an impossible feat. Smaller ram
footprints simply slow down the process but OSX is quite
capable of keeping order in the process as is the ubiguitous
Photoshop that no doubt would be the professonal's choice to
do this. What would be great for consumers would be digital
cameras at reasonable prices that gave us even 50 megabyte file
sizes, never mind giga-anything files. Just realise, an 8
megabyte file is already equal to or superior to a 35mm image
negative or positive taken with standard ISO films and thus, a
higher resolution file could be quite stupendous in terms of
sharpness and detail. A gigabyte image would be mindboggling
in its wealth of detail all things being equal.
Posted by NeilFiertel (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows & large files
I worked with large MPEG clips on Windows for years without much difficulty. I don't see why an image file is all that different from a multimedia clip from the operating system's perspective.

Microsoft's old FAT file systems do have problems with large files; but NTFS has supported multigigabyte files well since at least NT 4.0 - which was probably the first OS I actually used GB clips on.

Problems with large file support under Windows is usually the application's fault. Else it's the customer's fault for insisting on installing the OS on an ancient legacy file system that was designed 25+ years ago.

- Joel
Posted by joelcorley (15 comments )
Link Flag
Mac compatibility with large image files
I cannot speak for Microsloth programs being capable of
processing large image files but Macintosh OSX and software
designed to work on it is not phased by large files so long as
there is sufficient RAM to handle it. A professional level machine
capable of 4 gig of RAM can handle image files in the
multigigabyte range with a combination of hard drive paging
and RAM so that such images can be manipulated in a normal
manner. It is slow of course compared to more reasonable sized
image files but it is not an impossible feat. Smaller ram
footprints simply slow down the process but OSX is quite
capable of keeping order in the process as is the ubiguitous
Photoshop that no doubt would be the professonal's choice to
do this. What would be great for consumers would be digital
cameras at reasonable prices that gave us even 50 megabyte file
sizes, never mind giga-anything files. Just realise, an 8
megabyte file is already equal to or superior to a 35mm image
negative or positive taken with standard ISO films and thus, a
higher resolution file could be quite stupendous in terms of
sharpness and detail. A gigabyte image would be mindboggling
in its wealth of detail all things being equal.
Posted by NeilFiertel (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows & large files
I worked with large MPEG clips on Windows for years without much difficulty. I don't see why an image file is all that different from a multimedia clip from the operating system's perspective.

Microsoft's old FAT file systems do have problems with large files; but NTFS has supported multigigabyte files well since at least NT 4.0 - which was probably the first OS I actually used GB clips on.

Problems with large file support under Windows is usually the application's fault. Else it's the customer's fault for insisting on installing the OS on an ancient legacy file system that was designed 25+ years ago.

- Joel
Posted by joelcorley (15 comments )
Link Flag
Too much
I have had trouble printing anything beyond 80 Megapixels. The other photos mentioned here would have a lot of stitching errors (half a car, half a body ...). I think it is very challenging to make a very high resolution image with no flaws.
I tried it several times:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.aguntherphotography.com/machupicchu_222mp.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.aguntherphotography.com/machupicchu_222mp.html</a>
But I never saw a reason to go beyond 300 Megapixels.
Posted by andre75 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too much
I have had trouble printing anything beyond 80 Megapixels. The other photos mentioned here would have a lot of stitching errors (half a car, half a body ...). I think it is very challenging to make a very high resolution image with no flaws.
I tried it several times:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.aguntherphotography.com/machupicchu_222mp.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.aguntherphotography.com/machupicchu_222mp.html</a>
But I never saw a reason to go beyond 300 Megapixels.
Posted by andre75 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Awesome post! Interesting info to know.
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Posted by kevin000001 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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