I don’t really like just linking to the stuff that’s bouncing around the internet, but if you haven’t seen the panorama of President Obama’s inauguration, it’s really worth checking out. Gigapan is a company that sells a motorized gizmo that can take panoramic photos with any camera ($279, not too bad considering the cost of most pro photo gear). They also make stitching software and have a website where users can share their photos. They use the “Google Maps” interface of click+drag and scrolling to zoom, which makes it pretty fun to explore these insanely high-resolution photos.
I was reminded of the first photo like this that I saw, the gigapixel composite of Bryce Canyon, Utah that made the rounds on the internet quite a few years ago. The inauguration landscape could not have been captured with the old technology because that scene, like soylent green, was composed almost entirely of people. Modern stitching software makes decisions on where to sharply cut photos and where to use more gradual transitions. These algorithms weren’t as advanced in 2003 when the canyon photo was made, but it didn’t matter since there was virtually no movement as the panorama was being taken. As soon as you throw people into the shot, you find yourself with disembodied heads, people with excess limbs, and other grotesque forms. Gigapan’s software did a remarkable stitching job, but there are still some anomalies. My favorite is the four-armed sound engineer (if you can find him) because I’ve often thought that the additional appendages would make mixing much easier.