GoPro kills off Kolor

Alexandre Jenny and his company Kolor have always been a pillar of the panorama community. That era has just ended. Yesterday the mothership GoPro pulled the plug, as Alexandre announced in a heartbreaking Facebook post. The entire panorama community is in uproar.

That puts Autopano and Panotour – two of the most popular and pioneering software in this industry into the dustbin of history. The download section is pretty much all that is left of the Kolor page, so for current users this is your last chance to download final updates (also grab the free players before they're gone for good).

Kolor Download


Allow me a quick post mortem on these apps.


Autopano Pro / Giga

For the last 10 years there have been only two players in the professional stitching field: PTGui and Autopano. It was a friendly competition; almost by an unspoken agreement they both had different strengths. While PTGui allows you to micromanage a single panostitch to perfection, Autopano was the undefeated king when it comes to making enormously huge and enormously many panoramas. There would be no such thing as Gigapixel panoramas, had Autopano Giga not pioneered that field.
Here's a rundown of the unique features that no other stitcher (not even PTGui) has to offer:


Robot Import Wizard

To shoot extremely large panoramas you have to take many images with a large focal length. When you have the sky visible in the image, as you typically do in any outdoor shoot, this results in a very peculiar situation. You end up shooting tons of plain blue images, that show no other features and are impossible to align (which anyone knows who ever assembled a puzzle - the last remaining pile of puzzle pieces is all tiny snippets of blue sky). But as no sane person would ever attempt such a shoot without a robotic panorama head, Autopano Giga offered a sweet import wizard to define the initial alignment:

Autopanos Import Wizard allowed pre-aligment based on a robot's shooting pattern.


PTGui can't do that. Your best equivalent is to hack together an artificial template, or use Papywizard to create one.

Auto-Detected Batch Stitching

When you spend a weekend shooting away, you come home with a folder of hundreds or thousands of images. Autopano always had the ability to chew through the whole folder automatically, detecting which images belong together, and do an initial batch-stitch of all panoramas it could find. Although not always perfect, it's an incredible timesaver. For most users this was the defining feature advantage.

Single click, and a few hours later it has stitched 32 panoramas.


Coincidentally PTGui introduced a similar feature in its latest 11 update, with the Batch Builder. It's not quite the same yet, as PTGui is traditionally a single-project application and does not have such a slick way of presenting multiple stitcher projects at a glance.

Local Optimizer

The optimizer is the algorithm that turns detected features into aligned images. And when you have more than 1000 images, that can take a long time and cause errors to accumulate. With Autopano's unique ability to run the optimizer on selective areas only, you could quickly solve the trickiest stitches by incrementally pushing the stitching errors out of your panorama. Just like pushing out the air bubbles when applying a large car sticker.
You could do all this in Autopano's super comfortable panorama editor.

Local Optimizer in Autopanos Editor


Rest in peace, Autopano. You will be missed.


Panotour

This was the most sophisticated app for generating virtual tours. It had a slick nodal interface to combine panoramas with hotspots, fine-tune the online presentation, and even generate stand-alone runtimes for kiosk applications. Although I never used it myself, I hear that this was the app all competitors were trying to measure up against.

On the technical side, Panotour Pro was actually a backend user interface for the Krpano viewer. Klaus, the independent creator of Krpano, has some good advice in his forum:
- Panotour Pro users should update to the latest version, which exposes the templates.
- That way Klaus can deliver updated templates as Krpano evolves.
- You should export the bundled krpano license, as long as the Kolor servers are still online.

Myself, I do like hacking code directly and have always used the naked Krpano here on this website. And Klaus is in the process of making his own GUI for linking tours together. It's certainly no match to PTP yet, but usable and functional.

Other alternatives you might look into:

- Pano2VR is very much alive, super-powerful, even offers some extra functionality over Panotour. This is what I would use (if I would be into GUIs).
- 3DVista is another popular contender in this field, and they were very quick to announce a cross-upgrade deal.


The other Kolor apps

- Autopano Video was the pioneering app to stitch VR video. Has been superseded under GoPro ownership by GoPro Fusion Studio (although without any core coders, this is likely just dying a slightly slower death).
- After Effects has integrated VR tools now, that make the GoPro VR Plugins mostly obsolete.
- Nuke's Cara VR includes several nodes based on Autopano. You won't likely see any updates here, either.
- Not even to speak of all the cloud services running Autopano Server. Which, to my knowledge, are most of the OEM apps bundled with 360 VR cams.


It's really a disruptive blow to the panorama community and the VR industry. Kolor was a driving factor in both, always prominent at conferences, always pushing the boundaries and pioneering new fields. It's hard to think of a company that was more embedded in this industry. They even organized annual competitions and released gorgeous panobooks with the winning pictures (I was proud and deeply humbled to be asked as judge on the 2012 book).


My sincere thanks to Alexandre Jenny and his Kolor team. You had the best run possible.
Best of luck for all your future endeavors.
Keep innovating!

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