Interview: Henry Stuart, photographer of the Royal Wedding Gigapixel Panorama (Kate & William giga photo), stitched with Autopano Giga
Henry Stuart is the director of Spherical Images, a London-based company specializing in the creation of high-quality virtual tours. Very recently he released several amazing 360° tours, including St Paul’s Cathedral 15.5 gigapixel virtual tour. In April 2011 he was the photographer of the Royal Wedding gigapixel panorama, ordered by the BBC. The photo shows Prince William and Kate Middleton on the procession route, surrounded by a crowd of thousands of people. Henry Stuart used Kolor Autopano Giga image-stitching software to assemble the 189 images of this panorama.
Henry, what is your background and how did you come into panoramic photography?
I actually did a degree in Biology, photography was always just a passion. Then I saw my first QTVR back in 2005 and was hooked! Started up Spherical Images in 2006 after seeing some terrible virtual tours on property websites and feeling I could do better.
You created the famous gigapixel image of Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding, that was published on the BBC website. You only had one chance to succeed this photograph. How did you manage the whole project?
This was a tricky one, the GigaPan setup I was using takes a while to do a full sweep so I actually had to piece together moments from different times in the day that looked like one moment. Plus I had a second camera setup for shooting the procession hand-held at the moment itself.
What hardware and software did you use to create this panoramic?
Hardware: Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm VRII lens, Gigapan Epic Pro, lots of memory!
Software: Aperture 3, then Autopano Giga, then Photoshop.
You used Kolor Autopano Giga software to stitch the photos of the royal wedding. How did you find the application in doing the job? What features helped you create this big image?
I had actually shot the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral a few weeks before and had struggled to get other stitching programs to handle the large number and size of the images. Autopano Giga, did the stitching faster and better than any other program I tried. It also had the most common sense interface and could utilise the GPU of my computer. Plus, as I was shooting on a GigaPan I could use the GigaPan import option.
What do you expect from the next versions of Autopano Giga?
I would love to see the ability to export as PSB cubefaces, as spherical projections of high GigaPixel images are pretty memory intensive on the users’ computer, especially when looking at the zenith or nadir.
Among all the stages of the creation of the gigapixel image, what were the most difficult parts? Could the whole process still be improved?
The most difficult part was definitely looking for floating heads or half people and other inevitable stitching errors, then finding the original shot and masking over to correct. I don’t though see how this could be much improved in the software unless some kind of masking feature was introduced, although this would not be practical for GigaPixel shots.
Virtual tours and gigapixel imagery are just at their early stage. How do you see their development in the next few years?
I think we are right on the cusp of major take up of the technology. Potential customers are more aware of Virtual Tours and 360s and the introduction of tablets and smartphones has greatly increased the need for interactive imagery. With further integration with other forms of media such as Facebook or Twitter the influence can only spread.