Interview with Mr. Gigapixel

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

New York (NY) - Imagine a cityscape picture so detailed that you could see signs and plants on a window sill from blocks away.  Gerard Maynard, a New York resident and artist, recently made such a picture spanning nearly 280k by 47k pixels detailing several blocks of Harlem.  In a short interview, Maynard told TG Daily about the challenges of working with the equipment and his future plans.

Maynard used an auto-panning rig which rotated his Nikon D2X camera and Nikkor 300mm lens a few degrees per shot.  In all it took 2 hours and 10 minutes to painstakingly shoot all the photos.  You can see the final panorama on Maynard’s site here.

Taking the pictures is just part – maybe a minor part – of the process.  Stitching together the 2045 pictures was also a gargantuan task, according to Maynard.  The aggregate data for the photos spanned 21.49 gigabytes of compressed RAW files.  The photos were loaded into a 2.6 GHz Intel quad-core machine running Linux and processed with Kolor’s AutoPano software.   Maynard told us that it took 45 hours of number crunching to complete the picture.

Maynard has taken similar panoramic pictures in the past, but he was limited by software and hardware constraints like the lack of 64-bit programs and memory bandwidth.  “I’ve been taking pictures like this for a couple of years, but the software tech support companies would always tell me that their programs didn’t support such large pictures,” said Maynard.  He also wishes that Adobe would make a 64-bit program to deal with large picture processing.

“What I do is a hybrid idea between film, time-lapse photography and regular photography,” Maynor told us.  Since it took two hours to take all the pictures, the positions of the sun and clouds changed from the first shot to the last.  Maynard took some artistic license in processing some of the pictures to match everything up.

“It’s a little different than regular photography because in this case you have to ask yourself ‘what is it supposed  to look like’,” Maynor said.

The large Harlem gigapixel photo is just a stepping stone for bigger projects.  This coming October Maynard plans on taking another gigapixel photograph in Japan.  He told us that the gear is somewhat portable, calling it “backpackable”, and weighs between 50 to 70 pounds.  “It’s easily spread between two people,” added Maynard.

He also would like to see such pictures added to mapping services, saying, “It would be nice to have these panoramas overlayed on cities within Google Earth.”

For now, Maynard is trying to get the Harlem picture printed and is working with a local art gallery to sell massive prints.  “It’s going to need a very big printer, maybe a Canon 50-incher.  When it’s printed, it will look two to three times larger,” said Maynard.