Microsoft Photosynth

With Microsoft's new Photosynth, you can create an interactive 3D viewing experience using a selection of digital photographs depicting the same scene or object. Photosynth examines images for similarities and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point where each photo was taken. With this information, the space is recreated and used as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

Microsoft's Seadragon™ technology makes it possible to browse through dozens of 5, 10, or 100(!) megapixel photos effortlessly, without dealing with thumbnails and waiting around for large images to load. This immersive viewing experience is made possible on multiple operating systems by tapping into the power of Silverlight, Microsoft's rich web application technology.

Click to enlarge picturePhotosynth Example (© Perry Stern)

With Photosynth, you can zoom in, rotate and move through a selection of images.

Creating Your Own
Creating the best synth starts with the right photos. This will help you understand how to take photos that Photosynth can use to create the best experience. These tips could save you from taking a few hundred pictures only to find out later that Photosynth won't put them together the way you imagined.

  • Start small: Pick a simple subject first, such as a piece of furniture or a single painting. You should be able to make a great 10-photo synth in just a few minutes if you follow the tips below. Then move on to something more ambitious.
  • Remember the "Rule of 3": Each part of the scene you're shooting should appear in at least three separate photos taken from different locations. This rule means that you are going to shoot a lot more photos for a synth than you would for any other purpose.
  • Panorama first, then move around: Start by taking a panorama of your scene, then move around and take more photos from different angles and positions. If you just do a panorama you won't end up with a good 3-D experience.
  • Have lots of overlap when shooting panoramas: Try for at least 50% overlap between photos.
  • Limit the angles between photos: When moving around objects, try to get one photo every 25 degrees or so. That will make the synth work better. Larger angle differences on a subject won't match up.
  • Shoot scenes with lots of detail and texture: The visual texture in the photos is what ties them together. A blank wall won't synth. One with lots of art or posters will work well.
  • Don't crop images: It confuses Photosynth.
  • Shoot wide shots: Wide angle shots (photos taken from farther away, or with your camera's lens zoomed all the way out) reconstruct more reliably than closer shots. It's good to have close-ups, too, but you'll want to have good coverage of your subject with lots of nice overlapping wide shots.
  • Orientation: Make sure your photos are all right-side-up before you start synthing.
  • Shoot for Highlights: Since you can call out your best shots when you're done synthing, think about specific areas of interest you'd want to highlight.

More details and further instructions are available at photosynth.net.

Ready to Make Your Own Synth?
A few things you should be aware of:

  • All synths are uploaded to the web. They're big, so you need to use a broadband Internet connection.
  • Synths are by default public and will be visible to everyone on the Internet. You can set the display preference to unlisted if you do not want your synth to be public.
  • Currently the "synther" only runs on Windows
  • You'll need to Sign Up for a Photosynth account. It uses Windows Live ID.

Click here to create your own Photosynth.