History in the making - How did we do it?
Fans at The FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Stoke City on 14 May are part of Wembley history, starring in the home of football’s first ever 360-degree panoramic photograph.
At whopping 10-gigapixels, The Wembley 360 is attempting in just 24 hours to shoot, stitch, fine-tune and upload; an unprecedented feat of online publishing.
The story began a few months before the Final when Wembley commissioned renowned photographer Jeffrey Martin from 360 Cities.net, creators of the 80-gigapixel London Panorama and 40-gigapixel Renaissance Library Panorama shot inside a Prague monastery which currently holds the record as the largest interior photo ever created.
Capturing a stadium filled with moving fans, flags and drama, would pose its own very unique set of challenges and to prepare for the Final shoot, Wembley invited Jeffrey and the team along for a dry run at The FA Cup Semi-Final between Manchester City and Manchester United to ensure everything went according to plan on the day.
360Cities.net photographer Jeffrey Martin taking practice shots in Prague.
Online satellite maps helped approximate the distances from the camera to the farther reaches of the inside of Wembley and Prague’s Victory Square was chosen to stand in for Wembley Stadium in the first test.
This enormous outdoor space was then captured in 360-degree panoramic detail using the same equipment and in the same amount of time that would be available during the match. The result was then analyzed for clarity of detail and settings noted for the next test shot at Wembley for the Manchester United v Manchester City Semi Final on 16 April.
Since positioning Jeffrey in the middle of the pitch during play, or suspending him from a wire above the pitch, raised one or two practical issues, Jeffrey and his camera were positioned just on the halfway line behind the cameraman.
He proved a master in multi-tasking, staying alert to shield his tripod from the odd stray ball while remaining crouched down out of sight of the spectators in the front row behind him while monitoring the progress of the robot tracking device and photographing around the inside of the stadium.
The kit itself comprised of a professional Digital SLR and zoom lens mounted on a custom designed programmable robotic tripod head. The robot turns, focuses and snaps photos in a continuous motion around 360-degrees until the entire inside space of the stadium has been captured.
The hundreds of high-resolution images were then transferred to the stitching server via a super fast broadband pipe. Once uploaded, the images are automatically joined and blended together. The actual processing of the final image was done on a special Fujitsu Technology Solutions Celsius R670 workstation with 192 gigabytes of RAM and 24 CPU cores.
In short, upwards of 1000 individual photographs are sorted, matched, stitched and enhanced to produce a finished image that would otherwise take days or weeks to create using traditional methods.
Setting up the equipment for a dry run at the FA Cup Semi Final
With some large differences in light, particularly at Box level, the Semi Final threw up some challenges to take to the Final.
With a packed stadium and high drama the Wembley 360 worked its magic capturing 90,000 fans and 90,000 memories for the final. Tag yourself in the crowd and be part of history.
*What is a 'gigapixel' photo?
A gigapixel photo is an image of at least one billion (one thousand million) pixels in resolution. By contrast, the photos from the phone in your pocket have about 3 million pixels, the photos from your digital camera about 12 million. A gigapixel photo is made by stitching together hundreds or thousands of individual high-resolution photos to produce a Godzilla-sized image that allows the viewer to zoom way in to see amazing detail.
360 Cities is the largest collection of beautiful high-resolution panoramic photos on the web, as well as the biggest online community of panorama photographers. With tens of thousands of geo-referenced, 360-degree images of amazing places, 360 Cities lets visitors explore the world. 360 Cities is a Premium Content Partner of Google Earth.