Via Lucis Gigapan tests (Dennis Aubrey)


A couple of years ago, PJ and I spent a holiday weekend in Providence, partly just to have a nice getaway but also to shoot at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in East Providence and Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral downtown. It was, as always, a pleasure to shoot in these beautiful structures, but we also tried out the Gigapan Epic Pro camera system.

Gigapan Epic Pro

In case you don’t know, the Gigapan is a robot-controlled camera mount that allows for ultra-high resolution stitched panoramas for the web. The two that we did at the churches were 40 images and 48 images. That means that we shot 8 rows x 6 columns of full-frame high resolution photos that were stitched into a single image. For the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, that meant an image that measured 269,568 x 179,712 pixels. Printed at 300dpi, that would be an image 90″ x 60″.

Gigapan set up at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church

By using the Gigapan viewer online, one can look at the image at very high resolution. When you go to the links, make sure to zoom in to see the incredible detail available in the image. In the Saint Stephen’s church image you can zoom into the thermostat to the right of the altar near the two icons. At full resolution, you can read the time on the thermostat!

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, Providence, Rhode Island

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, Providence, Rhode Island

Here is the link to the Saint Stephen’s shot and here is the one for the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral.

We rented the unit from Lensrentals.com in Cordova, Tennessee. Based on this single transaction, we were quite pleased by the service and the quality of the rental equipment. The one-week rental allowed us to evaluate the technology before making a decision to buy or not. We’re not sure if we are going to make these panoramas a regular feature of Via Lucis, but are interested in hearing from you on the matter. Let us know what you think!

25 responses to “Via Lucis Gigapan tests (Dennis Aubrey)

    • Graham, since we can’t use the tilt shift, we have to settle for a “master” composition and then stitch from there. This is one of the reasons we haven’t done more since the tests, along with the fact that they need a special viewer to zoom in on the details.

      • Hi Dennis. Don’t get me wrong, it was only a minor quibble – the results are really fascinating. I’ve dabbled in the past with a few little stiched panoramas, but found them awkward to share (for example, standard blogs on wordpress.com don’t allow Java viewers to be embedded).

        Anyhow, no doubt you will be flying quadcopter drones kitted out with GoPro cameras around the naves and transpets next… 😉

      • Graham, it is a minor but – to us – a significant quibble since we work so hard to express the verticals properly. As far as the drones, we’ve already got the Go Pro and I’ve been looking at the quadcopter drones for over a year now. PJ says for you to stop encouraging me!

  1. Amazing technology, but I have been more than pleased with the images you have shared and continue to share. I will be interested to follow additional comments as you receive them.

    • Thanks, Kalli. You can see from my response to Graham that we are not sold on this for our useage because of the inability to use the tilt-shift. But we are always thinking about new technology (actually, I am, not PJ). We use lasers to measure entasis, we are contemplating drone helicopters to do exteriors and even to shoot some interiors (can you image a drone shooting the upper capitals at Vézelay?).

      • September 7, 2014 at 11:23 am
        Hi Dennis, that is very impressive. The video was also awesome, but after awhile I think it gets kind of hard to watch. It is such a different way for humans to see and I find it kind of exhausting or something, not sure what the right word is. It feels like when you go to one of those omni theaters, it is cool for a bit but then it can get kind of nauseating. That big hi-res image though, that is very nice. Lots of work for you, thanks for pulling it all together.

      • Lisa, actually the work in stitching the images in minimal, since it is done mostly by the Gigapan software. That actually made it simple. You organize the images and the software does the rest quite well. It took awhile to figure out the best way to visualize the “master” shot as a vehicle for the zooming, but that worked out as well. Thanks for the comments!

    • The great thing about this is the detail in the pictures. We have to sacrifice the vertical corrections with the tilt-shifts and use zoom lens (or long lenses) in order to take advantage of the shots. But it was a wonderful experiment and gave us a lot to think about.

    • Mike, right now the drone would be a toy, just because of the difficulty getting permissions to photograph in the churches. We could easily use it for exteriors in country churches and it would be a wonderful experiment, but that much more equipment to transport and use – not sure it is worth it at this time, much less the expense of the drone in the first place. Thanks for the commentary.

  2. Your panos are impressive but the Gigapan site is very much less so. Their specialty must be landscape panoramas, the squashed window is really not suited for your kind of work. Photosynth and Zoom.it do a fine job and have less clutter interfering with the view.

    • Ludwig, most people use the gigapan for landscapes, as you suggest. The limitations on display are some of the main reasons we have not further pursued the gigapan. Thanks for your commentary, it helps us figure this out.

  3. The Gigapan panoramas are interesting but don’t really do much for me. The drone shots however are much more interesting if a bit fast. It would be fascinating to see some of the carvings that are out of reach of other more ordinary means of photographing them and maybe some of the stained glass in some of the churches. My spouse says I’m a Luddite (I’m not, I just can’t see upgrading technology just to do it, if what I have does what I want, that’s fine. If I find something that works better then I’ll think about it. Basically if it ain’t busted, don’t fix it.) I’d get a drone and camera in a heartbeat for video like the one you posted. Just think of looking down from the vaults to the floor in a place like Vézelay or Chartres. I suppose they probably wouldn’t allow a drone inside.

    • Aquila, we haven’t done anything more with the gigapan because of the limitations on the viewing. It would be interesting to have a detailed record of the churches, but another thing we have found is that the changes in the exposures would be a nightmare. As far as the drones, even though I was a film maker in another life (25 years ago), I think we would probably use the drone for still photos instead of video. Like Graham Stephens’ shot, the perspective from directly above is quite interesting. It would also be a useful way to explore the upper exteriors and interiors of cathedrals. But we have too much work to finish on our Via Lucis work to expand into this arena right now.

      • I agree that still photos would probably be best, but a slow tour of the interior in selected venues would be marvelous. Not every church or other building would be interesting enough. I can just imagine the insanity of trying to get the proper exposures with the gigapan. The drone idea is something to keep in mind even considering your present work, there might just be a place it would benefit what you’re doing.

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