HDR Gigapanos in the house!

Gigapan EPIC gets exposure bracketing


That's right folks, the new firmware update for the Gigapan robotic head adds a special HDR bracketing mode. It can either work with your camera's built-in bracketing, or remote control your camera in Bulb mode for up to 9 frames, in 1/3 to 2 EV steps, no matter what DSLR you put on that puppy. Pretty sweet, especially for all the Canon shooters who used to be stuck with that emberassing 3- frame-bracketing. The only way to get even wider brackets is by tethering a Promote Control between the Gigapan and camera, which sometimes gets flaky and adds a lot of dangling wires.


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A happy Gavin Farrell wiring up Gigapan and Promote for some sweet panoramic extravaganza.

New Gigapan units already ship with the new firmware v.171, everyone else can download the update here. Err ... actually not. For some strange reason the firmware updater is not public, I recommend a friendly email to tech support, voiced between confused and demanding.


AutoPano Pro 2.5


And how do you stitch it all together? For such really big panos AutoPano is the most convenient app. I used it for this giant Downtown LA night pano, as well as most others in the gigapano gallery. Being able to start out with a row/columns grid, and later optimizing small local clusters, turns out to be invaluable when your fancy pano robot churned out 500+ photos. I do, however, export the project usually to PTGui for final render, because that one gives me better blending.



The new AutoPano version 2.5 might actually make this step obsolete, because it has new HDR detection and blending. Supposedly. Haven't tested it yet myself. But It definitely does come in a slick dark grey interface, that fits right in with Lightroom and Aperture. It also got some improvements in detecting bracketing series and a new haze removal option.


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I'm especially thrilled that Alexandre Jenny used some example shots from my book DVD for documenting HDR stitching.

And best of all, for most people that's a free update.

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Filmic Tonemapping in After Effects

Atlas comes to Mac and 64-bit Windows


Stefan Minning's Atlas is currently the only real tonemapping plugin for After Effects. It's free, open-source, and the latest version is guaranteed to run on your OS. It also includes the all-new tonemapping method "Filmic", that was originally developed by our friend John Hable for the award-winning look of "Uncharted 2". Way to go.

Download Atlas here, or chat with the developer in this forum thread.

BTW - here are John Hable's slides from GDC, which are also a great primer on Linear Workflow. "Filmic" tonemapping starts at slide #100, and by #250 it gets into the fancy GPU programming with lots of Uncharted screenshots...


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Out now: Original HDRI-Handbook iPad edition

I just discovered this myself: O’Reilly released ebook versions of the classic HDRI-Handbook. Now you can have my book with you wherever you go! Yay!




I’ll be completely honest with you. For the Kindle edition that’s just $9.99, but of course the black-and-white format is rather pointless for a book on photography. It’s also available as iBook in the Apple bookstore for $19.99, which I personally find rather steep.

I’m not even so sure if a conversion of the printed edition works so well. Sure, the table of contents is cross-linked, and so are some important keywords. The search function is a big improvement for the reference aspect of the book. It’s all in color, and the text reflows nicely when resizing fonts. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a professional conversion - just not much more than this. It’s not a remastering of the content to use all the interactive features this wonderful device offers. In my opinion, a true iPad edition should have video tutorial snippets, interactive panoramas, and at least some interactive exposure slider action. But of course, my day has only 24 hours like yours, and these are currently filled up with writing the second edition. I promise, at some point in the future there will be a shiny deluxe iPad edition with all the bells and whistles. Just not too soon.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know. The paper book is sold out, the second edition is still heavy work-in-progress, so the Kindle edition and iPad edition are currently the only way to get your hands on the HDRI-Handbook. There’s still lots if good info in there, almost invaluable if you need to treat yourself with a bootcamp session the day before a shoot.
And, of course, it’s a great way to show your support.

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Out now: Original HDRI-Handbook iPad edition

I just discovered this myself: O’Reilly released ebook versions of the classic HDRI-Handbook. Now you can have my book with you wherever you go! Yay!
iPad_version



I’ll be completely honest with you. The Kindle edition is only $9.99, but of course the black-and-white format is rather pointless for a book on photography. It’s also available as iBook in the Apple bookstore for $19.99, which I personally find rather steep.

I’m not even so sure if a conversion of the printed edition works so well. Sure, the table of contents is cross-linked, and so are some important keywords. The search function is a big improvement for the reference aspect of the book. It’s all in color, and the text reflows nicely when resizing fonts. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a professional conversion - just not much more than this. It’s not a remastering of the content to use all the interactive features this wonderful device offers. In my opinion, a true iPad edition should have video tutorial snippets, interactive panoramas, and at least some interactive exposure slider action. But of course, my day has only 24 hours like yours, and these are currently filled up with writing the second edition. I promise, at some point in the future there will be a shiny deluxe iPad edition with all the bells and whistles. Just not too soon.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know. The paper book is sold out, the second edition is still heavy work-in-progress, so the Kindle edition and iPad edition are currently the only way to get your hands on the HDRI-Handbook. There’s still lots if good info in there, almost invaluable if you need to treat yourself with a bootcamp session the day before a shoot.
And, of course, it’s a great way to show your support.

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Bob strikes back

Our friend from the Netherlands, Bob Groothuis, has started a new project: Dutch Light 360. After his excellent trilogy of Dutch Skies 360 HDRI collections, this new project will bring a wider variety of lighting situations. The dutch light has always been a great source of inspiration for the old master painters, and thanks to Bob, now it is for CG artists as well.

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More diversity, same professional quality. Bob Groothuis knows his game.

To kick things off, the first Dutch Light 360 promo set is our free sIBL-of-the-month. For more freebies from Bob, keep your eyes open for the new edition of 3DWorld (#140)!

Update: 3DWorld actually lets you download two exclusive sIBL-sets from Bob in their full glory! Yay!

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Open EXR Alpha plugin for Photoshop


Adobe just released a new OpenEXR file format plugin, that changes the way Photoshop deals with an Alpha channel. It used to load them as transparency, which looks like this.

Well, that may be fine for many photographers, but certainly not for panorama shooters and VFX artists.

The problem is that Photoshop actually cuts the transparent parts away during loading. But sometimes you still want to do some painting on the Alpha mask before applying it as transparency. Panorama photographers do that a lot. Or you might just want to use the Alpha as selection, to treat foreground and background separately. This is in fact very common in VFX work.

In all these cases you probably want your EXR file to be loaded like this:


So, the default cuts the background away. Get Adobe's OpenEXR Alpha plugin and it doesn't do that anymore.

There was actually a historic thread about this issue in the Adobe forum. It became pretty heated when Adobe engineer Chris Cox started schooling customers about what an Alpha channel is (despite the fact that the bug reports came from Pixar and other leading VFX houses). It's a very technical thread, not an easy read. But it became hilarious when Mr. Cox kept referring to the official Open EXR specification, to proof the point that Photoshop does it right and everybody else does it wrong. Turned out the gentleman he was arguing with was Florian Kainz from ILM, the original inventor of the OpenEXR format, who promptly replies "Reload that OpenEXR specs page, I just clarified it for you." Epic.


Of course, this doesn't really affect users of ProEXR, because they had this option for years. As a reminder, if you hold the option key while loading an image, ProEXR will come up with this options panel.


But the good news is, if you have no need for layers, snazzy compression schemes, or full 32-bit precision, then you don't have to buy ProER anymore. Photoshop's free OpenEXR Alpha plugin at least takes care of the most annoying shortcomings. Now you can save an Alpha channel in your EXR, that PTGui can use as blending mask during pano stitching. Or you can load a 3D render, where the Alpha is used to separate background and foreground.

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