verdict on HDR workflow?  

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wjh31
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verdict on HDR workflow?

by wjh31 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:48 pm

Ive had a small dabble with HDR, but not really in panoramas, and although there have been many discussions on HDR workflow in these forums, im not sure ive seen anything which says 'this is agreed to be the best way to do things.
So i have just shot a sperical panorama with ~170 images, but a bright sun was casting some deep shadows so i decided to bracket it -2,0,+2, so should i:
1: pre process to HDR, stitch then tone map
2: pre process to HDR, tone map then stitch
3: stitch as 3 layers, then process to HDR and tonemap
4: stitch as 1 layer to HDR then tonemap
5: Let APP do all the hdrifying and output straight to PSB
And does the answer change depending on if you are using the raw files or jpg, and on the size of a panorama?
Thanks

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by Motarny » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:55 pm

Good question. I ask myself all the time, which method should I use...

1 - I think this workflow has potential to be the best. But It's verry slow, and HDR files created by Autopano often has problems with unblended colours :(.
2 - This is my favourite. Easy, quick and gives great results in most cases.
3 - I've tried this many times. Great in theory, but Autopano generates panos which are not identical which makes many problems in creating HDR and then tonemapping.
4 - Verry often gives strange results :(.
5. - There are much better HDR applications than Autopano :).

So, my favourite is "2", but I'm looking forward for enchancements in 1 and 4.

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by DrSlony » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:27 pm

Motarny everything you wrote is correct regarding Autopano versions 1.*, but have you retried these methods on the latest from the v2 series? Due to moving abroad and no longer being self-employed I had a kind of forced break from Autopano, but I'm returning now and I was hoping that all of these issues were fixed in the latest versions, it would be sad if they aren't, especially points 3 and 4.

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by Motarny » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:44 pm

Well, i've started from 2.0.9.
I'm not sure if i've tried 3 and 4 in latest version..
I'll make some fresh test and give feedback :).

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by GURL » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:49 pm

Here is an attempt to explain the changes, DrSlony ...

For "traditional" HDR + tone-mapping from bracketed exposures, users can use stacks and the corresponding layers to produce .hdr or .exr panos only. HDR color mode is to be selected for that. No tone-mapping filters are included in Autopano anymore. There is a particular HDR anti-ghosts option.

A new method to handle bracketed exposures, named exposure fusion, is available. Like HDR mode it uses stacks and layers. The fused result can be previewed and adjusted in the pano editor, the color mode to be used will be NONE in most case but LDR with anchors is possible (and then one yellow anchor per layer is required or it fails.)

For both methods using stacks is highly preferable. A stack is series of source image including the same region at varying exposure levels. The relative image positions in a stack can be adjusted using control points or left "as shot" (in this latter case a strong panohead and a remote trigger are recommended.)

Both methods requires layers (one layer per exposure level is needed.) Having control points and link in a single layer is possible (this is helpful to avoid useless bad links between over-exposed and under-exposed source images.) Having control points between adjacent images of any exposure level is possible, too (but this is often difficult to optimize.)

Obviously, pre-processing source images in any HDR application is possible: no stacks, no layers, no anchors are to be used for that and the NONE color mode is to be selected.

I hope my description of the changes will help, how was the world during your trip?
Last edited by GURL on Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Georges

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by Motarny » Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:48 pm

GURL, thanks for this explanation. I'll try excactly this way.

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by GURL » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:05 am

I forgot some points...

When, by using stacks and the corresponding layers, a bracketed source image series is "well optimized", one can produce easily 3 different kinds of result:
1) a fusion method pano (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD), an image, ready for display
2) a "more than 16bit format" HDR Radiance or EXR file, which is ready for tone-mapping (using Photomatix, Photoshop or any of the many applications which can handle these file formats.)
As a result users who are accustomed to use tone-mapping should test fusion at a little expense...
3) a series of "bracketed layers" (one layer per bracketing level): in my opinion this just looks like a bad idea, but...

Using tone-mapped source images as input is one among several possible ways to produce high dynamic range panos without Autopano knowing that. Here are some more possible workflows. In my opinion they should not be used but their disadvantages are worth knowing:
- One could stitch each exposure level independently: bad correspondence between exposure levels and hard to stitch over-exposed and under-exposed levels are the reasons this would be difficult.
- One could put all the bracketed source images in a single unorganized group (no stack) and take care of the very large number of links this produces. Deleting the "bad links", the "too long links", the "useless links" and the "stupid links" manually is a very laborious and rather difficult task!

Finally there is no obvious reason a given workflow being the best one for a 2 images x 2 bracketing levels simple pano, an 8 images x 9 bracketing levels spherical pano, a gigapixel bracketed pano, etc...
Last edited by GURL on Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Georges

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by DrSlony » Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:52 pm

Thank you for your reply GURL, I read it on time but decided to try things out again before replying. It's all as you wrote it. AP still needs its preview fixed when using exposure fusion (I filed a bug report, you probably saw it). It would also be great if we could create real HDR panos from LDR source images and tonemap them in AP or export them as HDR, but I'm sure that's something Kolor are also thinking about for the future :]

GURL wrote:how was the world during your trip?

I had no real trip, just some short holiday trips. My real world trip still awaits me. An open-ended voyage with nothing holding me back - no home waiting for me with an ever increasing stack of bills when I return, just let go of it all and go. Camp out in the wild, visit people I've only met online, visit family and old friends, and make new ones. The first possible date of departure is next spring. My only worry is how will I store my photos and recharge my camera battery :]

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by Nanard » Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:55 pm

I am using workflow #2 (preprocess to HDR, tone map, then stitch) with most of the time good results.
However, I think workflow #3 (stitch as 3 layers, then process to HDR and tone map) should in theory produce better results. Why ? Because a) tone mapping is applied to the whole image and not piece per piece, and b) because tone mapping is applied as the last step and what you see is the final result. This workflow is the one recommended by Michael Freeman in his book (HDR, mastering extreme contrasts).
However in practice workflow #3 has a prerequisite : the panos generated by APP must be strictly identical , except exposure, and it has a drawback : Photomatix needs much more RAM than with workflow #2.

I decided to launch a series of tests with 3 (-2,0,+2) x 7 tiff images, 16 bits, no moving objects.

With APP 2.0.9 stacks are unknown so I defined 3 groups (per braket), smatblend, got 3 panos of the same size (yes!) and RMS 2,50 after some CP editing. No problem with Photomatix (4.0, 8GB RAM), align unchecked, and the result was almost perfect : one single 'ghost' in a very small part of the image ! This was quite surprising to me, as APP 2.0 with smartblend was known to produce non identical panos, resulting in a final image with a lot of 'ghosts'.

Now APP 2.5.2 , with the same images, was very disappointing.
First the preview was completely unusable, displayed as small as a post stamp, see image.
Second , I got different results when selecting manually the 21 images, or when analyzing the folder containing only those 21 images !!!
I could not believe it, and did the test 5 times each , see the images, and some differences :
. analyse a folder : 21 images in 7 stacks , RMS = 2,57, size = 31.962 x 64.235 pixels
. select manually : 21 images (no stacks ?) , RMS = 3,03 , size = 32.362 x 65.039 pixels
of course all parameters being equal (GPU no,always stacks of 3, links structure free,links in all braket levels,in a stack cp,robust optim)
Third the pixel size in all cases was completely wrong, it was 11.549 x 4.015 with APP 2.0.9
Fourth , well I stopped, no point to go any further

My conclusion at this point :
1) APP 2.5 is not as stable and reliable as 2.0 : 2.5 was designed for hdr, with stacks and layers,.. and 2.0 performs better in this domain !
2) There is , once again , a serious problem with the preview. What is the usefulness of a preview when it's too far from the final result ???

Bernard





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by Nanard » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:07 pm

Hello Kolor,

What do you think about my problems described above ?
Unless I miss someting , I see two problems / bugs :
. the pixel size of the panos are wrong, resulting in a very small preview display
. the results (RMS, pixel size, stacks, number of CP and number of links) are different when you select manually the images or when you analyse the folder containing only thoses images;
These images are 3(-2,0,+2) x 7 = 21 tiff, 16 bits, vertical orientation.

Bernard

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by Lionel Laissus » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:56 pm

Do you have the same problems in APG 2.6.0 B1

Could you zip your images and put them on our FTP ftp://ftp.autopano.net/incoming/
For more information http://www.kolor.com/forum/t766-ftp-server

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by Nanard » Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:26 pm

Lionel,

I have the same problems with APP2.6.0B1.
I have been obliged to convert my 21 images from 16bits to 8b, (same problems with 8b images) and the zip is approx 500 MB.
Did you get it ?
Bernard

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by rschlierbeck » Sat Jul 23, 2011 2:19 pm

I would like to add that I have had great success using #3. I always stitch to layers and then process to HDR and tonemap in a separate application. But here are the caveats: I typically shoot a 3x3 or a 5x5 mosaic with no more than 7 bracketed exposures per frame. This does result in very large files and the only HDR/Tonemapping application that I have found to successfully process these large files is Oloneo PhotoEngine. Photomatix, Picturenaut and others just can't handle that much data.

One additional benefit to #3 is that HDR isn't always necessary and blending an extra layer or two in Photoshop works just as well.

I have had success with this workflow shooting 360s as well but never anything more than about 30 frames per layer.

Scott

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by Destiny » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:23 am

Hi.. just checked out Oloneo PhotoEngine.. now that looks interesting.... No Mac version those... bummer!!!

Eventually I would like to buy an automatic pano head to take gigga pixal images using a normal lens.. I was under the impression that apg was perfect for this.. I realise there are issues with HDR with apg but not sure about anything anymore... I guess it all comes down to the individual needs...

Destiny....

rschlierbeck wrote:I would like to add that I have had great success using #3. I always stitch to layers and then process to HDR and tonemap in a separate application. But here are the caveats: I typically shoot a 3x3 or a 5x5 mosaic with no more than 7 bracketed exposures per frame. This does result in very large files and the only HDR/Tonemapping application that I have found to successfully process these large files is Oloneo PhotoEngine. Photomatix, Picturenaut and others just can't handle that much data.

One additional benefit to #3 is that HDR isn't always necessary and blending an extra layer or two in Photoshop works just as well.

I have had success with this workflow shooting 360s as well but never anything more than about 30 frames per layer.

Scott

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by Nanard » Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:15 am

Lionel Laissus wrote:Do you have the same problems in APG 2.6.0 B1

Could you zip your images and put them on our FTP ftp://ftp.autopano.net/incoming/
For more information http://www.kolor.com/forum/t766-ftp-server

Did you get the zip file containing the 21 images ? I sent it saturday.
Have you been able to reproduce the problems ?

Bernard

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by klausesser » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:36 pm

Destiny wrote:No Mac version those... bummer!!!

Use a VM.

Destiny wrote:I was under the impression that apg was perfect for this..

It is! But it´s a bit tricky to handle as we know . . . :cool:

A robotic head definitely is preferable for highrez-shooting. The most cost-effective solution is the Merlin and PapyWizard or the Merlin with te T&C handheld controller. The latter cost about 200.-€ extra, but is easy and and straight-forward to handle (and you´d have to get a Nokia N800 for Papy anyway - so the difference to theTC instead is about max. 100.-€).
Seeing it in Euro it´s about 400 - 500-€ for a working solution. I used the Merlin for years - first with PapyWizard on a Nokia N800 via Bluetooth and then with the TC controller and serial. Both - Papy/Nokia and TC - write positioning files for APG. The TC drives the Merlin a bit faster.

After some tome to get used to the import procedere in APG :cool: . . . both solutions work fine. Doing highrez manually is a pain in the *** . . . :D

best, Klaus
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. Coco Chanel

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by Nanard » Sat Jul 30, 2011 3:23 pm

Nanard wrote:
Lionel Laissus wrote:Do you have the same problems in APG 2.6.0 B1

Could you zip your images and put them on our FTP ftp://ftp.autopano.net/incoming/
For more information http://www.kolor.com/forum/t766-ftp-server

Did you get the zip file containing the 21 images ? I sent it saturday.
Have you been able to reproduce the problems ?

Bernard

Hello Kolor,
Any idea concerning these problems ? I hope you got the zip file ???
Bernard

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by Nanard » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:58 pm

Another similar problem, with completely unusable preview.
A very simple pano, 5 NEF images, no HDR, nothing special.
Look at the result with APP 2.6.0 B1 first, APP 2.0.9 second image !
(the render with 2.6.0 gives an error message (tiff file greater than 2 GB !!) and the resulting file is 0 KB.)





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by Nanard » Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:27 am

Hello Kolor,

Would be nice to have an answer concerning the problems I described in items #9,10 & 11 of this thread.
Did you get the zip file containing the 21 braketed images ?
Have you been able to reproduce the 2 problems ?
Do you assign an issue number ?

Thanks for your support,
Bernard

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by Lionel Laissus » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:34 pm

Nanard wrote:Hello Kolor,

Would be nice to have an answer concerning the problems I described in items #9,10 & 11 of this thread.
Did you get the zip file containing the 21 braketed images ?
Have you been able to reproduce the 2 problems ?
Do you assign an issue number ?

Thanks for your support,
Bernard

Sorry for the delay ...
I got your images I stitched them with APG 2.6.0 B1 ... what do you think ?
I just browsed the folder then detect , antighost render and exposure fusion render

About the editor (small preview) Could you check if:
main window menu /edit/Settings/(tab)Panorama/Panorama Layout/preferred extend is NOT selected on "Maximum projection range" BUT "Clamp to panorama content"
or
in the panorama editor select menu /View/"Fit pano on screen"


-------------------------
The first render used Anti-Ghost preset
The second render used Exposure Fusion preset





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by Lionel Laissus » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:41 pm

Nanard wrote:Another similar problem, with completely unusable preview.
A very simple pano, 5 NEF images, no HDR, nothing special.
Look at the result with APP 2.6.0 B1 first, APP 2.0.9 second image !
(the render with 2.6.0 gives an error message (tiff file greater than 2 GB !!) and the resulting file is 0 KB.)

Is the preview come from a previous .pano file from 2.0.9 (for instance) or it's a "fresh" detection ? THX

About the tiff error I think it's normal because you are trying (against your will ;-) ) to render the "full cylindrical projection" and not only the panorama.
Could you give me the size of the "full" panorama I think it's pretty big for that file format
What you can do it's to clip just around the panorama ....

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by klausesser » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:46 pm

Lionel Laissus wrote:-------------------------
The first render used Anti-Ghost preset
The second render used Exposure Fusion preset

The first one is much better! The second one looks like a mistake.

best, Klaus
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. Coco Chanel

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by Nanard » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:24 pm

Lionel Laissus wrote:
Nanard wrote:Hello Kolor,

Would be nice to have an answer concerning the problems I described in items #9,10 & 11 of this thread.
Did you get the zip file containing the 21 braketed images ?
Have you been able to reproduce the 2 problems ?
Do you assign an issue number ?

Thanks for your support,
Bernard

Sorry for the delay ...
I got your images I stitched them with APG 2.6.0 B1 ... what do you think ?
I just browsed the folder then detect , antighost render and exposure fusion render

About the editor (small preview) Could you check if:
main window menu /edit/Settings/(tab)Panorama/Panorama Layout/preferred extend is NOT selected on "Maximum projection range" BUT "Clamp to panorama content"
or
in the panorama editor select menu /View/"Fit pano on screen"


-------------------------
The first render used Anti-Ghost preset
The second render used Exposure Fusion preset

Lionel,
Thanks for your answer.

The first problem (small preview, 2.6.0 B1) is[hr /] solved by unselecting max projection range ! (But 2.0.9 was ok with max proj. range, ok does not matter).

The second problem is still there :
. browse the folder : 21 images in 7 stacks, 39 links, 2152 CP
. select same images manually : 21 images (no stacks mentioned) , 75 links, 4201 CP

very very strange no ???

Bernard

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by Lionel Laissus » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:31 pm

The second problem is still there :
. browse the folder : 21 images in 7 stacks, 39 links, 2152 CP I did this
. select same images manually : 21 images (no stacks mentioned) , 75 links, 4201 CP

I'm confused what did you expect ? Same number of control points and links ?

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by Nanard » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:33 pm

klausesser wrote:
Lionel Laissus wrote:-------------------------
The first render used Anti-Ghost preset
The second render used Exposure Fusion preset

The first one is much better! The second one looks like a mistake.

best, Klaus

Klaus,

I agree, I never used APP fusion so far.
Furthermore, using workflow #2 (photomatix first, than stitch) gives even better results than the first render here with anti-ghost.
Bernard

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