Making of panoramic images for Federation Tower website. Part One

Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four

All of this started when it turned out that to complete one of the Studio’s projects somebody had to fly the helicopter around Federation Tower. The skyscraper is now being built and so is the complex it is a part of. A 3D model—the one used in the video about Federation Tower—was supposed to help this situation.

The most challenging part of it was that I had to have a total of 10 shots. Each shot is to capture a one-hour change during the day and a ten-year shift in time.

Unfortunately, a helicopter is very unlikely to spend 10 hours in the air. And it is not even possible to follow exactly the same (pixel to pixel) route 10 times in a row. So, for starters I need an animated panorama of Moscow—10 pictures shot at hourly intervals.

Mark Kozhura, our freelance photographer, having received all these explanations, is to visit building site number 13 of Moscow City complex.

What he has to do is to scan the site at hourly intervals using his camera. And it would be best to have different weather conditions for each panorama. This surely meant more than one trips to the site.

Narrated by Vasya Dubovoy

Approximate panorama radius

Next, Mark all dressed up in protective clothing does the shooting from the top of the unfinished skyscraper to cover the entire scene.

Here is what he got:

If we play them in the right order, we will see the panorama through the photographer’s eye.

I went through all the photographs Mark had taken from one point and chose a little less than a half of them. Each session has a different number of shots and they are taken from different angles.

Our aim now is to stitch the shots together to make 10 panoramas. The superimposing is to be done with minute accuracy or else the final animated image will jitter.

Mark told me that it takes his wife one evening to put together a panorama like this using Photoshop.

My first approach was to use one of the stitching software packages.

This one was the most entertaining. I haven’t got any clue what it was trying to do with the shots.

Other applications did a better job, but there was no way I could accept shaded stitches.

The point is that I need precise stitching to have the panoramas done properly. To accomplish this I have to figure out what is the trick Mark’s wife uses.

“In theory, to marry a photographer a girl should first manage to be noticed through the middle of the objective lens, because that’s where the distortions are the least. In possession of this knowledge, any girl, theoretically speaking, can become a photographer’s wife.”

Lets make an experiment.

We cut off one half of each image and draw straight horizontal lines to divide the image into four equal parts.

Then, we find “resonant” spots, say, in the bottom part.

Rotating and expanding the image just a little as we move away from the resonant area, we keep a careful eye on the stitch line—
it has to be perfect.

We have succeeded to stitch together the first two shots. There are 36 of them in this session.

And just then I discovered that in the place of stitching horizontal lines I drew broke because of the changing camera view.

If we ignore the bending lines, the stitches are flawless. Or, to be exact, we may notice discordance if there was something on one photograph that is lacking on the other—it could be a shade from a cloud that disappeared a moment later.

We go on to glue together the rest 34 shots and take a look at the circular panorama with shots oriented horizontally.

The tail area reveals how focus is gradually gained.

We do the rest of the sessions.

I proved right in supposing that the image would jitter because the sessions were different.

It’s only too bad that Mark didn’t have a small motor and an alarm clock attached to his camera to perform exact timing and angle adjustment.

When stitching the shots together, I had to rotate and expand one half of each shot. That means that if Mark took photographs to cover the all-round panoramic view, the result of my work would look like a spiral, not a ring. After all, according to a theory of perception we are surrounded by flows of substance, and Mark’s shots are the imprints of such flows from just one point among the eternity. City landscape is a substance not as changeable as, say, the river waters, or people, or cars and clouds. All the buildings, therefore, keep their constant position (as it should be), so to get things right you should eliminate all distortions caused by the turning of the camera.

To “tune the strings” in the panoramas I will need something that could be called an “optical guitar.” This is what the second part is all about.

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