The Overall Process
The Gigapixel Macro Photographs featured on this website are constructed from thousands (or, in some cases, only hundreds) of individual photographs. Initial photographs are captured using the GIGAmacro Professional Imaging System, and are then digitally combined to create a seamless Gigapixel Macro Photograph with astounding resolution and depth of field.
The final Gigapixel Macro Photograph can be explored using a tiled-image viewer, similar to one used in Google Maps, which has been designed specifically for gigapixel imagery. Also, multiple Gigapixel Macro Photographs can be compared to each other using the free GIGAmacro Comparative Viewer, and shared with the public and researchers using the GigaPan.org website. This new approach to photographing and studying subjects is typically used for research, but can also be applied to curriculum, interactive exhibits, or print format.
In the GIGAmacro photography process, we bring together a series of old and new technologies to provide a complete set of tools to produce the photographs. Because we have designed and assembled the equipment, software, and workflow process, creating Gigapixel Macro Photographs is now relatively easy.
- Robotic Linear Axis CNC Devices & Software
- DSLR Camera with USB Interfaces
- Telecentric Optics
- Focus Stacking Software
- Image Mosaicing and Image Stitching Software
- Tiled Map Viewing Technology
- Image Sharing Sites
How Thousands of Images are Captured
The process of taking thousands of images of a small subject can be quite difficult; shooting the images manually exacerbates the challenges of precise positioning, focusing, and subsequent file management.
The GIGAmacro Professional Photography System is specifically designed to make all aspects of this task efficient and straightforward. It includes specialized robotics hardware, photography equipment, linear axis engineering, and software programming. Together, these tools allow for precise positioning of the camera in relation to the subject, and automation of the process of taking images in a specific pattern.
Camera Equipment, Lighting, Optics, & Telecentrics
A range of different cameras and optics can be used with our imaging system. The standard configuration uses a Canon T2i DSLR Camera (18 megapixel), with the Canon 100mm Macro and Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lenses. The camera and optics are controlled (via USB interface) by specialized software to automate the process of capturing the images.
Optional high speed cameras can also be configured for use with the system and software. High speed cameras offer a 4 megapixel resolution at a blazing 240 frames per second. These cameras allow for capture of subjects that are in motion, and also accelerate the overall capture time.
Each lens is outfitted with lens adapters which produce a nearly perfect telecentric view. The adapter is a custom milled optics holder with an acrhomat lens that corrects for parallax between adjacent images.
Multiple, moveable light sources are provided by customized Ultra High Intensity LED lights. Each LED produces approximately 900 lumens, and is actively cooled with a micro fan, dissipating heat generated by the chip driving it. The benefit of using these lights is the relatively low cost, flexibility, compact size, and continuous light intensity that they provide. Adjustments can be made to the light position and intensity, both of which can be previewed instantly on the live view image from the camera. Ring lights, flashes, and other lighting can be added or substituted as desired.
Combining Thousands of Photographs into a Single Seamless Gigapixel Macro Photograph
In this process, we digitally combine the images using a "Stack & Stitch" methodology. We first "focus stack" the individual photographs to increase the depth of field and then "stitch" the images together to create a higher resolution image. Below is a comparison diagram of the combined techniques.
- Focus Stacking
Focus stacking is a technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field.
Software We Use & Recommend
- Image Stitching
Image stitching or photo stitching is the process of combining multiple photographic images with overlapping fields of view to produce a segmented panorama or high-resolution image.
Software We Use & Recommend
- Autopano Giga.
One of the most advanced and powerful professional stitching software packages available. Available from Kolor. This software is included in the GIGAmacro Professional Photography System.
- GigaPan Stitch.
Easy, intuitive, stitching software that combines stitching with tools to upload imagery to the GigaPan website for sharing. Available from GigaPan.org. This software is included in the GIGAmacro Professional Photography System.
- Autopano Giga.
- Stack & Stitch Tools
Currently, there isn't a single software package that does both stitching and stacking for macro photography. The GIGAmacro Professional Photography System provides the tools and workflow programming to do both with relative ease. Our capture software is designed to organize and prepare the images for the stack and stitch process. Each software package is pre-configured with templates and settings specifically designed to optimize the quality and speed of combining the individual photographs into a single seamless Gigapixel Macro Photograph.
Viewing, Comparison, & Sharing Technology
Viewing a gigapixel image is made possible through the development of tiled image viewing technology. This technology allows for extremely large images to be viewed online by almost any computer (or Flash-enabled mobile device) that is connected to the internet. While these technologies are predominantly used for navigation and mapping, the process is the same, and translates quite well to gigapixel imagery.
We provide a free viewer called the GIGAmacro Comparative Viewer for sharing, analyzing, and comparing multiple gigapixel images. It is specifically designed for high-resolution macro and micro photography. It is built upon the Modest Maps framework (by Stamen), which provides an incredibly fast and efficient platform for displaying tiled imagery.
Using the GIGAmacro Comparative Viewer you can:
- Make side-by-side comparisons.
- Make layered comparisons with an "xray" tool.
- Take measurements on each image.
- Link Gigapixel Macro Photographs together at specific points in each image.
- Load Gigapixel Macro Photographs from the GigaPan.org website.
- Load Gigapixel Macro Photographs from a Zoomify tileset.
- Load Gigapixel Macro Photographs from your local hard drive.
- Flip Gigapixel Macro Photographs vertically or horizontally.
- View in Fullscreen Mode
- Use on your own website.
- Use in exhibits and curriculum.
Other Viewing & Sharing Software Options:
An excellent site to upload, view, and share gigapixel imagery.
An open source tool for viewing imagery.
- Microsoft HD View
An excellent tool for viewing and exploring imagery.
- Krpano Panorama Viewer
An excellent tool for panoramic imagery and multi-resolution imagery.