Using Microsoft ICE to Stitch and Export Your Panorama

28 Nov , 2017 Academy Dimona Dougherty

Using Microsoft ICE to Stitch and Export Your Panorama

Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) is an advanced image stitcher made by the Microsoft Research division. 

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

Commonly performed through the use of computer software, most approaches to image stitching require nearly exact overlaps between images and identical exposures to produce seamless results, although some stitching algorithms actually benefit from differently exposed images by doing HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging in regions of overlap. Some multi-lens systems can stitch their photos internally and some use your phone to carry out the stitch. 

The Microsoft ICE takes a group of overlapping photographs from a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of file formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight DeepZoom, as well as allowing multi-resolution upload to the Microsoft Photosynth site.

Features of the Microsoft ICE

  • Stitching algorithms automatically place source images and determine panorama type
  • Advanced orientation adjustment view allows planar, cylindrical, and spherical projections
  • Support for different types of camera motion
  • Panorama stitching from video
  • Exposure blending using Microsoft Research fast Poisson algorithm
  • Automatic lens vignette removal
  • Automatic cropping to maximum image area
  • Optional automatic completion of missing image parts (helpful for sky, clouds, grass, gravel etc.)
  • No image size limitation - stitch Gigapixel images
  • Constrained assembly of image sets taken on a known regular grid, e.g. with a Giga panohead
  • Native support for 64-bit operating systems
  • Output in a wide variety of image formats: HD View, DeepZoom TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and others, Layered Photoshop format
  • Panorama publishing to Microsoft Photosynth

However, Microsoft ICE currently does not provide any anti-Ghosting-mechanism, like other panorama stitching programs such as Hugin which we’ve covered with a previous panorama tutorial, and various commercial applications.

Download and prime your Microsoft ICE

Download Microsoft ICE here, where you can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit.

Once installed, upon opening image composite editor you are presented with the initial options for creating a new panorama from images or video, as well as opening a saved project:

Microsoft ICE-photo stitching software

Click on ‘New Panorama From Images’, and you will be able to navigate to the folder where your image set is stored, and load them by group-selecting the images.

Begin editing images with Microsoft ICE

The next screen previews the 360 images selected and allows you to make various decisions about the stitching process. Clicking the next button at the top right will start the images processing.

Editing 360 photos with Microsoft ICE

This process of aligning and compositing the image can take a lot of space and RAM to complete. If the machine you are working on is capable of handling the stitch, and the software can find stitching points, you will eventually be presented with a copy of what ICE has been able to do with your image set.

Panoramic photo stitching

When ICE has completed the processing of the image set, known as stitching or ‘the stitch’, you will need to adjust your panorama so that the horizon is flat and matches up with the mid-point. You can use your mouse to do this. 

You can also choose from the variety of projections to whatever suits your processed image the best.

Press ‘Crop’ at the top and your image will be projected as you chose.

Projecting panorama

Leave all these settings in the new window at default. If there are and blank spots on your image, press the ‘Autocomplete’ option to fill in these gaps the best as the program can.

Crop panorama photo with Microsoft ICE

Make sure you are exporting as JPEG with the maximum quality. Click Export to disk. When complete, your image will be saved to disk. 

Exporting high quality 360 images

Export your panorama and input metadata

To make this image into a 360 image with the required attributes, you must open it in your preferred image editor and adjust the size so the height is exactly half the size of the width, to make a 2:1 ratio (important). In Microsoft ICE, the default panorama width 17408 pixels, meaning the height should be adjusted to 8704. Make sure to adjust the height of the image without stretching your panorama, and just adjust the size of the ‘Canvas’. Finally, move your panorama to the bottom of the canvas.

 

Save/export your image.

 

Now you need to put the required metadata into your images Exiftags, and to do you that you will need to:

Download ExifToolGUI

Download ExifTool

Extract the files and rename the extracted file to exiftool.exe and move it to C:\Windows\

 

Download the template (‘GPano2.ini‘) which will allow you to edit the Make and Model fields of the EXIF data in your image within ExifTool.

 

Open up ExifToolGUI from the folder you had extracted it to.

 

Navigate to the folder containing your panorama in the ‘Browse’ pane on the left, and select the photo in the file list. Go to menu and navigate to Program>Workspace definition file>Load and load ‘GPano2.ini’. You should now be able to change Make and Model in the Workspace properties under the Metadata section on the right of the interface.

 

Make sure to hit “Save” after changing all values and you should now have an image that you are able to upload to any social media site that accepts 360*180 spherical format images and have an interactive 360 photosphere for users to play with.

 

More 360 photo stitching/creating software tutorial, check out

Pano2VR
KRpano
Kolo Autopano

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Dimona Dougherty

Dimona is a VR evangelist and spherical content creator based in London, UK. They have been experimenting within this arena since discovering VR as empathy machines whilst studying psychology at university. Dimona can be reached at Dimonauk@360camerasandfilm.co.uk or on social media by searching for dimonauk.


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