Stitching images together is just drag and drop.
I have never used one of these programs before, so I am interested to find out if I can successfully complete a 360 x 180 degree panoramic image stitched from a series of approx 30 images. At this early stage, I must stress to read the instruction manual if you have never used something like this before as it is easy to take the pictures incorrectly which leads to problems with stitching. The manual explains everything clearly and also gives the breakdown of how many images are needed at different focal lengths with what degree to turn the tripod head. The camera must stay in the same part of space for each image to avoid any issues when stitching which is why a tripod is essential. The only difficult images you will have to take will be the 90 degree down as the tripod needs to be removed so it is not included in the picture. These images are essential as they allow the stitched image to have a top so there is no empty space.
Realviz explain that to get proper results for this kind of project, a panoramic head should be fitted to your tripod and a compass would be handy. If you don't have one you will have to pretty much guess where to position the camera and hope for the best which Realviz say is not a problem as long as there is approx 20-30% overlap.
Once loaded, the pictures are all placed in a slide viewer at the foot of the screen ready to load to the project. The images can be dragged into the main viewer ready for stitching. The image you are working on will be highlighted red to signify that it is work-in-progress. To stitch an image, drag another into the template. They will both become translucent so you can easily get them lined up. Once aligned they can be stitched together using the stitch option on screen or in the drop down menu at the top.
Manual stitching for when auto stitch doesn't work.
The task can take a few moments and will highlight green if done automatically. This action is repeated for all subsequent images and you may notice you get to the end of the screen and the images might not centre. If this doesn't happen, press the = button and the highlighted image will centre. Automatically stitched images will also auto-centre. There is a possibility if the image is too misaligned, that it will not auto stitch. If this happens, a message will flag to manually stitch the images. Both images must selected by holding Ctrl and going to manual stitch. The images can then be aligned by clicking on at least three corresponding points which will match up in the final image. This is actually easy to use, the main drawback being that if a mistake is made, there is no provision to delete a marker. It can be adjusted, but if you don't click on the marker precisely, a new one is started. Manually stitched images will highlight yellow.
Once all the images are added to the first row, the next rows can be completed. The benefit is that if any manual stitching needs to take place, more images are available to get markers from, although only two can be used at any time. When stitching the upper and lower layers, the image would tend to tilt off onto its side. This can be rectified by using the align button. Draw out a line and move it up and down at one end to rotate the final image so it is easier to view. I also discovered that the images I was dropping into the template were grossly out of sync and needed to rotate them slightly. Images can be rotated by pressing Shift and holding down the right mouse button.
Closing the panoramic image when complete.
One main problem I came across was the difference in focal length in the images. It may have got knocked or I got some parallax error when shooting. Either way, when certain areas of the image were aligned, other areas were badly out of sync. There is an option of adjusting the focal length of the image to match, however, I tried it numerous times following the manuals direction and no changes were made to the image. I tried loading and stitching all the images before adjusting the focal length and that seemed to remedy the problem until I noticed that another image was then out of sync. I changed the focal length back and this solved that image and sent the original one out again. There is no solution in the troubleshooting and the manual explains only one possible outcome and they seem to think no other problems may occur.
Once the image has been completed, the horizon needs to be checked to ensure it is level and then you need to equalise the image. Equalising ensures that every image is the same exposure by resetting the brightness on each image. To reduce or remove the chances of this happening, you could always adjust your images in Photoshop first. I purposefully took my photos on auto to get a mixture of exposures. The sky has darkened some images and it seems that the program cannot cope with them. After Equalising has finished, it is time to Render your image. This creates a high-quality image ready for printing or publication.
The Unlimited version is the same as the other Stitcher packages with a few extra bits thrown in like being able to use fish-eye images, having a panorama converter and being able to support HDR. This system is actually quite easy to use. What lets it down is that it is not easy to navigate and for the beginner, can look to be difficult, but most things are just drag and drop. There are a few areas which will frustrate such as the different methods of accessing features, menus and icons. There is no uniformity which will confuse some. Whilst the manual is thorough in the areas it covers, I had things happening to me that there was no explanation for and you could be on page 76 and it will tell you to go to page 17 for something meaning no continuity in the manual either.
Ensure you save all your work regularly. The system crashed on me five times whilst creating my image and twice whilst trying to render to full size. When it had finally rendered, the image I tried to open in Photoshop was very small, with no explanation as to why.
This system is aimed at professionals with it being an extended version of the Pro package. It can be used by beginners, but don't expect it to cater to them. It's recommended for the Pro end of the market if you want a stitching package that also gives the HDR option, but perhaps not for beginners.
Difficult to navigate
No continuity with buttons
Features expect you to get it right first time
Realviz Unlimited is available from £345.