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Click on image for fullscreen Quicktime VR 360 degree panorama - Quicktime needed

Blending large multirow panoramas with Photoshop CS3 Auto-Blend

Workflow for using CS3 Auto-blend
The most used professional panoramic stitching software like PTgui, PTMac and RealViz Stitcher all gives you the possibility of performing the final blending with external blenders like Enblend and Smartblend along with the native blending.

The way you do it may be a little different depending on the software.

Smartblend is a blender which is known to be able to correct for problems like parallax errors and moving objects between the images in the panorama. Smart blend is not available for Mac besides a special version for RealViz Stitcher.

Enblend is especially good at blending images with slightly different exposures which for example are caused by lightfall at the edges.

PTGui's own native blender is very similar to enblend but works faster and blends areas with very sharp details more smooth.

Now we have an additional option built into the next version of Photoshop CS3 which has just been released as a Beta version.

It is called Auto-Blend Layers and is available from the Edit menu.

Auto-Blend works in an intelligent way blending the images dependent on the content of the images in a similar way as Smartblend. See the examples on this page of how the different blenders blends the same panorama.

In addition Photoshop Auto-Blend is very fast and if you have enough Ram you can now blend large panoramas faster than with any other blending tools.

The panorama below is a multirow panorama made with a Canon 20D + a Sigma 10-20mm used at 20mm.

38 images was used in 3 rows + the zenith and a nadir image. All images was set up in PTGui and optimized with automatic controlpoints. This process took less than 10 minutes including extra optimizing for the nadir image which was included in the project..

The image was stitched with PTGui´s own stitcher and exported as Photoshop (psd) individual layers.

In Photoshop all the layers are selected and then you just select Auto-Blending Layers from the Edit menu.

Photoshop creates masks on the layers and if necessary you can do correction before flattening the image.

Below you can see the time used for warping and blending the panorama in a size of 10.000x20.000 pixels - 8bit.

Computer. MAC G5 2.0 dualcore with 4.5 gigabyte Ram

1. Stitch your panorama as usual in PTgui, PTMac or RealViz Stitcher.

2. Render it as a Photoshop PSD with individual layers

In PTMac and PTGui you can also include a blended panorama with Enblend, Smartblend or the native blender.

This may be an idea for panoramas with many different stitching problems as you will get 2 versions with several options to blend between them

PTGui will always give you some empty masks, they are not needed by Photoshop Auto-blend but they seems not to do any harm.

3. Select all layers Command -Alt-A

4. Choose Auto-Blend Layers from the Edit menu.

5. Flatten layers and Save or just save the blended layer file for further editing.

Problems:

Blending across the 360 degree wrap is not supported. See solutions here scroll down to bottom of page

Photoshop CS3

Warping and saving PSD file from PTGui : 26 min

Open file in Photoshop 3 min

Performing Auto-Blending 14 min

Flatten file 1-2 min

Save 15 sec

In all: 45 minutes

A test was also made on my Intel MacBook Pro 2.0 dualcore with 2gigabyte Ram.

Opening the PSD file took 5 minutes and the auto-blending 21 minutes

PTGui Blender.

Warping+color correction and blending in all 74 min

Enblend 1.3 with 4 gb Ram

PTGui warping 48 min

Enblend 113 min

In all: 161 min

Enblend 1.3 is a special fast version for Mac which can run on dual processors.

Enblend 2.5 takes about double as long time.

See below for quality of vesion 1.3

Full size stitched 10.000x20.000 pixels

Click to view Fullscreen QTVR CS3 blended panorama reduced to 3500x7000 and 2000pixels cubefaces- 3.7mb | Small version 1500 pixels

Move your cursor above the image to see the PTGui blended version. There are only a couple of small differences.

You will se a shadow below the statue which comes from the nadir image. It is from a part of the panohead in the nadir image which I normally would have cropped with an alpha mask on the source image. The CS3 auto-blending did not include it.

This is the Enblend 1.3 version. If you move the mouse over the image you can compare to the CS3 Auto-blend version

Enblend 1.3 Mac only, is not working properly with 8 bit images. It changes the colors and gives you some unacceptable color changes in flat areas.

See below to compare it closer.

When using Enblend 1.3 with 16 bit images for better quality the maximum size you can blend is less than 8000x16000.

To blend larger panoramas you have to use Enblend 2.5 which is painfully slow. Blending this panorama at 10000x20000 in 8 bit would take 4-5 hours.

To the left Enblend 1.3 - To the right blended by CS3 auto-blend

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