If you are looking for free panorama stitching software that is almost totally automatic, try Autostitch. You can download the free demo version
which is completely functional but only works with jpeg files. Unzip the folder and you are ready to go. The software is "free standing" and requires no installation. Just put the Autostitch folder on your desktop or anywhere you want on your hard drive. When the demo expires, just download the current version and you are ready to go again. As of the date of this article (Feb 2006), there isn't a Mac version but one is supposed to be in the works.
I've tested Autostitch on several series of images and it works very well. It is better than any other free stitching software I have tried, and it is also better
than most of the commercial software ($100 and under) that I have tested.
To open Autostitch, open the Autostitch folder and click on the "autostitch.exe" file. The small Autostitch window opens. Before you stitch any photos together you should set the OPTIONS. Go to EDIT > OPTIONS and the following window opens with the default OPTIONS already set.
There are only three options you will need to change for most uses. Change the
OUTPUT SIZE for web files or to make prints. Click the SCALE radio
button and enter 10% or 25% for panos for the web. Once Autostitch has created the pano, you can use your image editing software to size the file
down to the exact web size you want to use. If you want to print your pano, I would suggest you set SCALE to 100%. If your images aren't already right side up, use IMAGE ROTATION or your final pano will look very strange. Under OTHER OPTIONS you can leave SYSTEM MEMORY at 0.25 GB for
web sized files. If you want to print your pano, set SYSTEM MEMORY to 0.5 GB, 1.0 GB or larger or your system will grind to a halt. JPEG QUALITY
should be set at 75 as a bare minimum for web use, and higher for print sized files. The other OPTIONS settings should be fine like they are. Click OK.
LOADING PHOTOS INTO AUTOSTITCH
From the Autostitch window, choose FILE > OPEN and browse to the folder
with the images you want to open. It will makes things simpler if all the images for one pano are in their own separate folder. Select all the photos in the folder. Click OPEN
and Autostitch does the rest. After it has created you pano, it will save it as a file named "pano.jpg" put it in the folder where you have the individual image files came from. It will also open
the image in your image editing software. Simple! For web sized images it is pretty fast. Print sized images will take a while.
FILE ORDER QUIRK
Autostitch has one odd quirk. Most stitching software arranges a 360 degree pano so the lowest numbered file is on the left side of the pano, and the
highest numbered on the right. If you have 9 photos in your pano, they will be arranged like this: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. For this reason, when I shoot a 360 degree pano, my first shot is the one I want on the left side of the final print
and my last shot is the one I want on the right. That means I begin shooting the pano by facing the opposite direction from the whatever it is that I want
to be in the center of my final print. With most software, if I wanted a 360 degree pano of the scene at the top with the fountain in the center, I would
begin shooting the pano with the camera pointed in the opposite direction from the fountain.
If you are doing a complete 360 degree pano, Autostitch assumes the first (lowest numbered) image in the folder is in the
middle of the pano. For example, if you have 9 photos in your pano, numbered 1 through 9, Autostitch will arrange them like this:
6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5. If this isn't how you want your final pano arranged, renumber the files so the file you
want in the middle will have the lowest number, the image to the right of it will be one number higher, and so on around your pano. If your pano isn't a
full 360 degrees, Autostitch puts the lowest numbered file on the left. If Autostitch was my primary stitching software, and I wanted a 360 degree
pano of the scene at the top with the fountain in the center, I would begin shooting the pano with the camera pointing at the fountain so I wouldn't need to renumber the files later.
Autostitch is free, give it a try. If you need commercial software that does more than Autostitch, including 360 degree virtual tours, I highly recommend Panorama Factory which I mention on this page.
The image at the top was created with Autostitch from seven separate images. The view is approximately 330 degrees. See a larger version here.
Another example of the Mayan Ruins at Alta Ha is here.
February 18, 2006
Updated May 10, 2007