03 May, 2010

Dubai in 45 Gigapixels

Photographer Gerald Donovan just published 4250 photos, stitched together, of Dubai, creating a 45 gigapixel image. The photos were taken from the Ubora Towers on 29 April. The site allows you to zoom in on sections of the photo, similar to Google Maps. This is probably a new world record for gigapixels. The existing record seems to have been a 26 gigapixel image of Paris.


Keefieboy said...

Erm, not terribly impressed. Maybe I missed something.

Brn said...

Well, as always, your mileage my vary. I think that, while not the most amazing thing I've ever seen, it was at the very least quite interesting. I especially liked the semi-transparent cars that were an artifact of the stitching process.

I noticed in the comments that Mr. Donovan is planning on doing a full 360 in late Fall/early Winter, when the haze from the heat dies down. He reckons that one will be about 100 gigapixels.

i*maginate said...

Brn - hi there, can you explain what this means? I mean what is it?! I had a look at the link and comments, and it seems interesting but I really would like to know more and don't know much about photography to be able to understand...thx

Lirun said...

was interesting for me.. ive not yet been to dubai.. gave me a sense of scale.. for some reason its spread surprised me.. i expected less..

Brn said...

Hi i*maginate,

I'll try to explain, but since photography isn't really my area of expertise, take what follows with a grain of salt:

As I'm sure you know, a pixel is the smallest subdivision of a computer screen, basically one dot. So if your computer screen displays at a resolution of 1280 x 1024, it has 1,310,720 pixels (actually it should be square pixels, but I've never heard anyone say that).

Camera resolutions are similarly given in megapixels. Mega is the prefix for roughly 1,000,000 - it isn't exactly 1,000,000 because of binary numbers and conversions, but it is close enough that we just use 1,000,000.

So, if you took a picture with an 8 megapixel camera and wanted to display it at actually size on a 1280 x 1024 monitor, you would get only about an eighth of the picture. If you put eight monitors together, like you see at trade shows sometimes, you could see the whole photo at once.

A gigapixel is a little more than 1,000 times as large as a megapixel. So this photo of Dubai that is 45 gigapixels you require about 45,000 monitors to display it all at once.

i*maginate said...

Thanks a lot for the explanation, Brn. I shd have clarified I know what a pixel is...I know digital cameras are always increasing their pixels with the latest models...and even though Cannon Ixus has been recommended to me, it'll take gigayears for me to understand the rest of the specs to make an informed buying decision :(

Thanks for explaining also about screen resolution; now I understand why high-res pics take a long time to upload and don't show the whole pic on one screen...

Someone on your link commented Gates could purchase each pixel but I don't understand why that would be an investment. I think most of us have heard of the UK student who sold each pixel of a webpage to companies and became a millionaire..

Have a good day.

Kyle said...

This post, the term stitched together, and the actual 45 gigapixel image reminds me of a movie I had seen back home called New York, I Love You. This movie is a collection of 12 short interweaving films bearing semblance to the image and the stitched term.

To the curious minded, the wiki page contains all the goodies.

samuraisam said...

I think it's pretty much intended as just a technical feat rather than anything else.

Really the method in capturing such a large image is infeasible and also just technical wankery. No one will ever require such a large image--be it for publishing or viewing on the internet or printing on the side of a building.

It took the guy 3 and a half hours to capture the image which would mean a huge difference in lighting between the first shot and the last shot. It was also taken on a zoom lens on a crop body which means some quality was sacrificed; ideally one would use full frame and a prime lens.

Technically speaking the best image you'd be able to capture on a Canon body would be using the canon 1200mm 5.6 L--but it costs about 100,000 USD, is extremely rare and weighs about 17KG (the lens used for this gigapixel project only weights 1.4 KG in comparison)
A single image from that lens alone is able to let you see from a very, very great distance.
To give a comparison, that lens would bring the horizontal field of view of each photograph down from 3.2° to 1.2-1.7° (depending upon camera body) and would be made up of a significantly higher number of images and also be 4.63x more pointless.
Leaving 100k lenses out of it, there are other higher focal length lenses that can be used (like the 800mm 5.6 L which only costs 10,900 USD!

Basically, someone will always be able to stitch a larger image together. It'd even be easy to make a larger image by just making it a 360 degree panorama and then by adding a teleconverter.

more geekery: Alternatively to the 100,000 USD lens there is also a custom made 250KG 1700mm zeiss lens that would be fit on a hasselblad body. It was custom made for some qatari guy.

So in short, it's all about time and money. But mostly just money.

BuJ said...

i love gigapans!

i've got a few on my browser..

have u seen this?


maybe the resolution is less, but the coverage is WAY more

BuJ said...

hi Brn...

just a quick one

"So if your computer screen displays at a resolution of 1280 x 1024, it has 1,310,720 pixels (actually it should be square pixels, but I've never heard anyone say that). "

I disagree that it should be called "square pixels" because say you have 9 CDs and you lay them flat on your bed as 3 x 3.. the total is 9 CD's not "9 CD's squared"

what do you think?

Pixels are binary.. either it's a pixel or not.. there are no half pixels.. they are integers..

unlike units of length..e.g. meter x meter = meter squared.. coz you can have 1.0 m or 0.4284 m etc

Brn said...


A good point about pixels and non-existent "square" pixels. What I was trying, and failing to say, is that we use the measure pixel as both a one dimension and two dimensional measure. So we say that an image is 150 pixels wide (one dimension), but describe a camera as having a resolution of 8 megapixels (two dimensions). I cannot think of any other units that we do that with.

samuraisam said...

brn, buj: the term 'square' pixels is more of a video term where the aspect ratio of a pixel is more important (i.e. a pixel could be stretched wider or taller depending upon the usage).
This allows video to be stored using less pixels; for instance a 16:9 video could be stored on a 4:3 frame and just stretched back to 16:9 when played.
This doesn't really matter so much nowadays, but back in the day video would be stretched for TV etc. That is why when you say a square pixel you're talking about a 1:1 pixel aspect ratio.
If you want realllly technical details on it you can read about it more here

BuJ said...

thanks Sam!

i guess i got confused with the classic difference between "square" as in a ratio of 1:1 for the sides and "squared" which means 2-dimensional, such as the unit of area m^2.

anyway, i think what i said is correct because resolution is a 2-dimensional entity similar to surface area.

perhaps, if we assume a square pixel (1:1) then the correct term for resolution might be xxx "square pixels squared"?

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