Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Tool for Peeping Toms?

OK, class, anyone recognize this feature on El Cap? That's the Roof and Headwall of the Salathé Wall. The truly amazing thing is that this pair of photos is actually the same photo—the one on top is just a super-enlarged version of the one below it. This much detail is possible because the photo was created with an extremely high-resolution digital camera and special software. It was posted online by an outfit called xRez. You can see more Yosemite photos, panoramas from the Sierra's East Side, cool cityscapes (that's Boston in the other pair of photos), and more at the xRez site. The company says you can see climbers in some of these photos, but I couldn't find them in a tour up the Nose and Salathé routes, though I did spot a haul bag and blue bucket hanging somewhere left of the Nose; the El Cap photo was taken in winter (you can see snow on the ledges), which explains the underpopulated walls.

How do they do it? The xRez site says: "The equipment required to shoot spherical panoramic imagery has typically been the use of a simple panoramic nodal head, which is manually turned to dozens of preset shooting positions, covering every possible angle within a sphere of the camera. Gigapixel level work, however, requires many hundreds of shots to be taken and demands the use of an automated motion control head which has the precision (and patience) to execute the large amount of overlapping images. The resulting shots are then stitched together in dedicated software, often taking many days of uninterrupted processing for a single image to be assembled."

I don't know what most of that means, but the results are stunning. xRez clearly isn't in this biz to provide better beta to climbers. They're aiming at big-dollar markets like Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Meanwhile, the samples they've put up are gaperific. There's a mind-blowing Zion landscape "coming soon" to the site, so it will be well-worth checking back.

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