How to Make Gigapixel Macro Images

The Overall Process

The GIGAmacro images featured in the GIGAmacro Viewer are assembled from hundreds, or more often thousands, of individual photographs. 

To create a gigapixel image, we use a technique generally known as “Stack and Stitch”.

Focus Stacking
Focus stacking is a technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus planes to give a resulting image with a greater apparent depth of field.

Image Stitching
Image stitching or photo stitching is the process of combining multiple photographic images with overlapping fields of view to produce a segmented panorama or high-resolution image.

Combining Thousands of Photographs into a Single Seamless GIGAmacro
In this process, we digitally combine the images using a “Stack & Stitch” methodology. We first “focus stack” the individual photographs to increase the depth of field and then “stitch” the photographs together to create a higher resolution image.

This is a diagram of the combined techniques of stacking and then stitching a set of photographs to produce a single high-resolution image which is sharp throughout.

Photograph Matrix for Gigapixel Image

How photographs are combined to make a gigapixel image.

The resulting gigapixel image can be explored using a tiled-image viewer, (you’ve seen and used one every time you use Google Maps where, as you zoom in, the image gets more and more detailed), designed specifically for gigapixel imagery.

The GIGAmacro Viewer

GIGAmacro Viewer is available online and gigapixel images can be viewed easily with any modern browser.  As well as annotating and measuring objects in the image, side-by-side comparisons can be made.  Images can be shared with the public and others, such as researchers – both publicly and in private groups. This approach to imaging and studying subjects is typically used for research, but can also be applied to curriculum, interactive exhibits, and industrial quality control. Free accounts are available for our online GIGAmacro Viewer, registration is required, and this enables a user to save annotations etc., as well as upload their own gigapixel images for viewing and sharing.

Using the GIGAmacro Viewer you can:

  • Make side-by-side comparisons.
  • Make layered comparisons with an “xray” tool.
  • Take measurements on any image.
  • Link GIGAmacro images together at specific points in each image.
  • Link to images from GigaPan.org, add commenst, rotate and measure.
  • Load your gigapixel images into the GIGAmacro Viewer.
  • Flip GIGAmacro images vertically or horizontally.
  • Use on your own network, a cloud provider, or even on a notebook
  • Use in exhibits and curriculum, kiosk displays, etc.

An Amazing Machine
In the GIGAmacro workflow, we integrate a number of different technologies to provide a complete system to produce, manage, share, annotate and view the images. Because we have designed and assembled the equipment, software, and workflow processes, creating GIGAmacro images is now straightforward and relatively easy.

The Magnify2 System includes:
The robotic capture system that controls the camera and image capture. The system may take many thousands of images, depending on the size and resolution required in the final GIGAmacro image.

  • DSLR Camera
  • 1x – 5x Zoom Lens
  • Telecentric Optics
  • Focus Stacking Software
  • Image Mosaicing and Image Stitching Software
  • Tiled Map Viewing Technology
  • Image Viewing and Sharing.

How Thousands of Images are Captured

The process of taking thousands of images of a small subject can be quite difficult; shooting the images manually exacerbates the challenges of precise positioning, focusing, and subsequent file management.

The GIGAmacro Magnify2 is specifically designed to make all aspects of this task efficient and straightforward. It includes specialized robotic hardware, photography equipment, and software programming. Together, these tools allow for precise positioning of the camera in relation to the subject, and automation of the process of taking images in a specific pattern.

Camera, Lighting, & Optics

A range of different cameras and optics can be used with the Magnify2 imaging system, according to the use case. The standard configuration uses a Canon T6i DSLR Camera (24 megapixel), with the Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens. The camera, optics, positioning, and focus are controlled by specialized software (GIGAmacro Capture) to automate the process of capturing the images.

Subject illumination is provided by a combination of high intensity LED for setup and Macro Twin Lite flashes. Adjustments can be made to the light position and intensity and this can be previewed in GIGAmacro Capture in real time using the live view image from the camera.

 

Software Used in the Magnify2 System
Zerene Stacker one of the best focus stacking software packages available. This software, available from Zerene Systems, is included with the standard system.

Autopano Giga is an advanced and powerful professional stitching software package available separately from Kolor. This package is included in the standard system.

Viewing, Comparison, Annotation & Sharing Technology
We provide the GIGAmacro Viewer for sharing, analyzing, and comparing multiple is specifically designed for high-resolution macro and micro gigapixel images. FREE user accounts are available on our hosted system.   

Comparison of bee brood frames

Day 1 and Day 2 comparison of the brood in a bee colony (Source USDA)

 

Check out the GIGAmacro Viewer page for full details.

Graham has worked as a business and marketing leader in high technology, aviation and not-for-profit large and small organizations. He jumped out of corporate life in 2007 to ‘have more fun’ and does so helping small companies with strategy, business, and marketing as well as traveling and taking pictures.

He loves working with smart groups of people to solve challenging problems.

Gadgets of all sorts (especially anything to do with aviation and flight) and photography have fascinated since early childhood. He is also an accomplished photographer who exhibits regularly and a former competition aerobatic pilot.
Graham is a transplanted Brit (hence the humo(u)r) who has lived and worked in CA since 1996.
He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.