A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a panoramic photography product under development. The sample picture they showed was from burning man and the sight reminded me of a company I started way back in 1997 or 1998 with Steve Schaffran, my brother Dan Gessel, and Ken Peters. Steve did most of the business work, Ken built the circuit, and my brother wrote a stitcher application and a fast viewer in openGL.
We made a couple of panoramic tripod heads together: an automatic one and a manual one. They were designed around the old Kodak DCS 120, a camera with a full MegaPixel of resolution.
The manual version was an indexing head that held the camera fairly rigidly and had a kinematic indexing table so that index points were, in theory, subpixel accurate. Of course that depends on the stability of one’s tripod (something we did not, alas, address).
The automatic version had a similar indexing head, but was driven by a small gear motor. The system ran on 8 AA batteries and communicated with the camera via the serial cable. There were two modes: high and low resolution.
In high resolution mode the circuit would tell the camera to zoom all the way in and then start indexing and taking pictures at each point.
In low resolution mode the circuit would zoom the camera all the way out and take a picture every other index point. We had considered doing 3 modes (with a 3x zoom lens) but the camera did not (primitive device that it was) report the actual zoom so there was no way to seek a point other than the ends.
Like the gigapan project, I found burning man an interesting subject… but that was a decade earlier and the crowds were a lot smaller.
Our camp (dis.org) was, that year, exiled some distance from the main camp, but that is a whole different story.
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