Red Bull Freestyle Motocross 2011: a giga panorama with Panogear head + Autopano Giga, by Radosław Piotrowski & Piotr Galas

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The Red Bull X-Fighters Freestyle Motocross event took place in August in Poznan, Poland: a nice playground for the Panogear motorized head to show what it is up to. As an expert of the panoramic format, Polish photographer Radosław Piotrowski and his colleague Piotr Galas created a 360° gigapixel panorama of the stadium using the Panogear head and image-stitching software Autopano Giga.

Visit the website showing this big picture and read the interview below to find out more about the Red Bull project and the other great projects of the team.

Radosław, what is your background and how did you come into panoramic photography?

I have run a computer business since 1996. We sell and repair computer hardware. Panoramic photography was a hobby and turned into an even more important business than computers.

You have just created for Red Bull a 360° gigapixel image in a stadium, showing the 2011 Red Bull X-Fighters FMX competition. How did you undertake the shooting? What hardware did you use?

First I have to precise that the project is a common work between Piotr Galas and me. Together we form a team. I am responsible for the panoramic photography part and Piotr does the programming.

We arrived a day before the event starts to make a test shooting in similar conditions as on the event day. Unfortunately the weather didn’t give a fig about our plans and it gave us cloudburst. Everything was floating in the water. We managed to shoot only a few pictures and we realized we had a pretty huge problem. The spot which was appointed for us was not in the centre of the track. Because of that, the opposite end of the tribune couldn’t be recognized with a focal length less than 140-160mm. The depth of field of Canon 70-200 F2.8 on 5D mkII was also completely at odds with that. Luckily we had taken every possible equipment with us and we decided to use a mast and the Panogear head.

You used the Panogear motorized head to automatically shoot the images. What is the aim of such hardware? What features of the Panogear helped you in the shooting part of your project?

We decided to use it because of one good reason. It was the only way to freeze the shooting remotely on a 15-meter high mast during the results presentation when the light was quite variable. A 145 focal length provided a necessary zoom and autofocus helped us to overcome a focus problem. It is worth to mention that white light was turned on only during jumps, which is under two minutes for one rider.

How did you find the Panogear head in doing the job? Would you recommend this motorized head?

In my opinion, if it was quicker it would be almost perfect. Collaboration with computer is easygoing with Papywizard software. Wireless control allows to move the head back and reshoot an image if it’s necessary, in the absence of direct access. We use masts and poles very often.

After the shooting, you stitched the images using Kolor Autopano Giga software. How many photos did you stitch together? What features of Autopano Giga helped you in this part of the project?

I stitched about 300 images. I determined it approximately because panorama was made of four layers, which overlapped partially.

How did you find Autopano Giga in doing the stitching job? Would you recommend this panorama software?

It was the most difficult panorama we have ever made, regardless the current biggest panorama in Poland which is our 13.5-Gigapixel project of

Unfortunately with a focal length of 150mm and the short time we had, the image overlap was only about 1-2 percent of the frame. Stitching the panorama took 6 days of work for couple hours a day. Working with layers in PS required another week. We also had other problems. The mast must have sloped a little because one of the shooting series din’t match full 360 degrees. To complete it, we had to use some images shot ad hoc with no light control. A chameleon would be black and white in comparison with those images.

Some of the blurry images had to be replaced with those from the second set of images. Fitting an image shot with white lights with another one shot with red lights is quite a challenge.

Shooting event panoramas has a big inconvenience. You can’t reshoot an image if something went wrong. We had to manually find most of the common points between the pictures. Fortunately, this work was enough to mark proper areas and then let the software assemble the photos by automatically adding more control points. We manually positioned a part of the images because the lack of overlap I mentioned before. Color anchors and image grouping were very useful options.

Do you have other projects you would like to share with us? What are your future plans in panoramic and VR photography?

Sure. Apart from, that I’ve told about already, which contains three gigapanoramas and several spherical panoramas we have also made:

- FanTag from a football game, made in October 2010, The author of the photographs is Piotr Galas, I only stitched them.
- FanTag made in Warsaw University of Technology –
- FanTags made for Swedish newspaper Goeteborg Posten - ,
- Virtual Tour of Foto Trade Fairs –
- both made with Panotour Pro software.

About the future, we have a lot of different ideas. Maybe FanTags from EURO 2012 ? Who knows :>)

Radosław, apart from being an excellent photographer :), you are also a reseller of panoramic equipment, including Kolor software and hardware. How would you describe your offer? Where can we find your store?

My company has been solding equipment and accessories for shooting panoramic pictures for three years already. It happened completely by chance, but my current colleague Mauro Contrafatto offered me the distribution of Nodal Ninja heads in Poland. At the moment we have several dozen items in our offer and we are still developing. Our websites are: – website with information about equipment and software – online store with equipment and software for panoramic photography – website about panoramic photography and our portfolio – website about panoramas integrated with Facebook. They are called FanTags.

Thank you Radosław for your project and your time. We wish you a great success.

Thank you very much. I will forward the congratulations to other people who helped me with this project – Leszek Cuper and Pawel Cegielski.

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