Bernalrama 360

I’m a fan of our little Sutrito Tower, but the fact that it’s fenced off makes it impossible to take in the full 360° panorama of gorgeous views we have at the top of Bernal Hill. So I thought I’d try to create a synthetic panorama from pictures taken just outside of the fence, and stitch them together with software. My first effort, using the Autostitch app for iPhone, didn’t turn out too well — lots of double-vision blurriness at the seams. Still, that was better than Photosynth, which refused to even try stitching when it thought I’d moved too far between shots.

Via Twitter, I learned that Burrito Justice had the same idea a few years back, and had good results with Panorama. I tried it. Frustrating UI. I ended up just taking a bunch of pictures in the Camera app, working my way around the hill. Also via Twitter, I’d gotten a suggestion to try Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor — a panorama-making desktop app for Windows. I have to say, it did a pretty nice job stitching together the 30 pictures I took around the hill:

Impossible 360° panorama from the top of Bernal Hill. Click for larger view.

This is slightly edited from what ICE produced — there was a ghostly half-Sutro that I had to get rid of, and a couple of other small patches where I thought there was a better shot than the one the software chose. And though Burrito Justice got there first with the whole impossible panorama idea, he stopped at 270°. This new panorama goes all the way around, including the southern view of Holly Park and San Bruno mountain.

Of course, I’d rather just climb up to the top of the tower and shoot from there. Hmm… Sutrito Tower Observation Deck… Bernal Heights would be overrun with tourists! Where would they all park?


3 thoughts on “Bernalrama 360

  1. Pretty good, given the shooting constraints!

    I’d love to see this in a wraparound panorama viewer that supports proper multi-resolution loading like Photosynth’s. (Regrettably, since doesn’t allow the posting of HTML iframe elements you couldn’t embed it in your post here, but there’s always Blogger, Tumblr, or independently hosted versions of WordPress for that.)

    Since you had to do some manual editing before uploading it, the Photoshop to Photosynth panorama publishing plugin is probably the best fit for this particular panorama.

    I tried the flat version of the panorama in

    Your fellow photographer,

  2. Oh, a secondary note:

    You may not care, since your interest seems to be panoramas, but although Photosynth’s mobile app is essentially mobile ICE (for the time being) Photosynth’s original app on Windows is actually not really about panoramas (2D stitching), but rather about moving beyond that by using decade’s old photogrammetry techniques (3D stitching) to determine the relative spatial arrangement of both the camera positions as well as location of individual details in the scene which are seen in multiple photos which were from different positions.

    That basically just boils down to meaning that Photosynth on Windows is all about breaking away from the constraint of panorama shooting of needing the camera to stay in the same place for all the shots, to then be able to move the camera all around or through a subject and have it automatically matched.

    To be clear, though, this means that the photos are no longer merged into a single chunk of photography, due to the differences in viewpoint, but instead the photos are arranged in 3D space. This is not too unreasonable, given that our own two eyes and brain can only line up a single distance at a time.

    A few basic examples of photosynths, rather than panoramas on
    Gary Faigin Studio by David:
    Blue Ridge House For Sale by David:
    Campanario de Dumaguete by almostchristian:
    Santa Barbara Courthouse Fountain Sculpture Statue by EdLee:
    Orbital Propulsion (Gravity Assist) by Nathanael:

    If you happen to be viewing those links on Windows and already have Photosynth’s Windows app ( ) installed, look in the lower left corner of any photosynth’s webpage for a link to the faster + smoother Direct3D photosynth viewer. The Direct3D viewer works in Internet Explorer or Firefox 3 (yes, 3 – not Firefox 4+).

    On an iOS device, the above photosynth links won’t work in Safari yet as the Photosynth folks have only finished support for panoramas in their CSS3/HTML5/WebGL viewer so far, but you can search for the titles in the unofficial iSynth app and view thumbnail versions there. Later in 2012, we’ll hopefully see both panoramas and photosynths (and, if we’re lucky, spin movies ) able to be loaded in Safari.

    The dream is to eventually link together photosynths, panoramas, photos from the web, videos, spin movies, Bing Maps imagery, etc. so that we can float among all of them as though the entire world is one large photosynth. The guys at Bing Maps also plan to open source their standards-based all-in-one viewer so that developers can adapt it to different graphics technologies on the operating system of their choice. I’m tracking news about Bing Maps’ Read/Write World project here, if you’d like to learn more:

    A little help:
    How to Synth:
    Photosynth Photography Guide:
    Thoughts from those who have been there and done that:

    That’s probably enough from me. ツ
    Until next time,

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