Lloyd Burchill

Lloyd Burchill is the founder of Flaming Pear Software, a Canadian maker of special-interest and increasingly inexplicable Photoshop plug-ins, which draw on science fiction, obscure photochemical techniques, panoramas, cartography, medical imaging, image fusion, and discredited theories of colour. An erstwhile dot-com victim, he now splices photography, coding, travel, and business into a formless m&ťacute;lange.

Technical Details

The spherical images come from various sources: the reflection in a silver Christmas-tree ornament or a garden gazing ball, a world map, or, for maximum quality, the Robot Camera.
  1. I built an automatic panoramic gantry using Lego Mindstorms and Apple's Image Capture API, and wrote software to operate it.

    A state machine called TakePictures runs on a PowerBook and talks via AppleScript with Barney Hilken's Robot Controller, which talks via USB and an infrared link to another custom state machine -- written with MacNQC -- running on the Lego Mindstorms RCX brick. The brick powers the azimuthal and declinatory motors. Rotation sensors report whether the camera it pointing where it's supposed to.

  2. The tripod+camera+software takes about 50 pictures in all directions. It starts with the camera at the zenith and scans down toward the nadir, while a serpentine raster keeps twist from accumulating in the cables. TakePictures talks via Apple's Image Capture API to a Canon PowerShot A620, which kind of supports a poorly documented quasi-standard for obeying picture-taking commands over USB.

    If people are walking through the scene or clouds are scudding across the sky, I may do two or three complete passes to ensure adequate coverage. Infrared lens filtering is ideal for mackerel skies.

  3. Then I winnow the shots into a best set and batch-remove radial lens distortion with Kekus LensFix and Photoshop. Next I merge these into a single equirectangular panorama in Stitcher 5.5 using its SmartBlend option, and retouch problems in Photoshop.
  4. Then I bring the resulting equirectangular into Flexify and hunt for a projection and viewing parameters that suit the subject. Mainly it's a tradeoff between clarity and dizzyingness, but many panos are also beset by serious compositional problems. Often the issue is a simple sparsity of interesting features. Dull parts of the scene can be concealed and the cool parts amplified with the right choice of view.
  5. Lastly I sweeten the final result with custom tools like Kyoto Color and Mr. Contrast.