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LGM Day 3, Day 4, Follow Up

Days went by so quick, so here is a summary.

Day three was intense. The presentations were very interesting, particularly those of Andrew Mihal about Enblend-Enfuse and about GPU stitching. In the evening we had the conference supper, a very pleasant social event at which I learned from about Øyvind’s Now By Then installation and got a chance to purchase one of the last “Architecture Fiver“‘s  that Stani brought along for his talk. He also patiently gave me an insight into the thinking pattern of curators, lifting my morale from the previous day.

On day four I had a near-death experience. Since Tom Sharpless could not attend, I picked up his slide and hosted the talk. In the morning I prepared my notebook in dual display mode, so that on one display I can run the demonstrations of Panini, MathMap and Hugin, while on the other display I had my notes, which I kept editing until shortly before my talk. Without saving. Disaster strikes when I connect the notebook to the projector. My notebook’s native resolution is 1400×1050, too much for the projector to handle. Must restart X. Lose all presets and notes! I froze on the spot. Had to cut on a few gimmicks such as recording the talk with the catadioptric lens or shooting a stitched panorama during the talk (I made the move with the camera around the tripod, but had no available brain cycles to even think of setting the exposure or pressing the real button. I felt like a zombie and was disappointed at my performance which I felt was terrible, although a look at its recording comforted me: it was not that bad after all, even if I forgot to say half the things I wanted to say, the live demo and the interaction with the public were not that catastrophic.

The good news from day four was that Sébastien and Vincent debugged the flat display in extremis so that people walking out of for the lunch break passed by and could admire Guillaume’s stunning Boulevard Bancel (we’ll gladly admit that once this was on screen and working we pulled the cables on the slide show so that nothing can go wrong. Proper slide show the next time).

Since the cafeteria was closed on Sunday, we had to order pizzas for lunch, which was great as it inspired more exchanges before the last presentations. In the end, I even got the honor of shooting the official group picture, and to offer some of the present teams a panorama inside a panorama in the Cyclorama, while our team helped folding up the exhibit canvases.

After protracted good byes, I drove eastwards with Alexandre and Pablo. Alexandre only joined us for a tour of Québec-City. Pablo continued with us to Boréalie before I drove him back to Montréal for his flight on Wednseday. The rest of the week, and the weekend, I had to catch up with pent up business. Particularly the weekend was difficult, with a few difficulties upgrading servers remotely from FreeBSD 6.3 to FreeBSD 7.2 (the worse thing is that all manipulations worked well on the guinea-pig server in the office that is pretty much an exact mirror of the servers to be upgraded).

I still made time on Sunday evening for another quick hop to Montréal, and I am happy I did. Joergen Geerds was visiting for the weekend with his girlfriend. Interesting people.

After

Don’t Let qtpfsgui die!

My SonQtpfsgui is the tongue-thorning acronym that identifies one of the most interesting graphics application of the last years. It was registered two years ago on Sourceforge by Giuseppe Rota who as a student saw a need waiting to be fulfilled and an opportunity for a good project: an Open Source graphic user interface to the HDR/Tonemapping process. There are plenty of HDR/Tonemapping tools out there, some of them free (as in beer, not as in speech). Most of them limited to a few tone mapping operators (TMO). And then there is the scientific community, chruning out new TMOs on a regular basis. Rafal Mantiuk is doing a great job at keeping the command line driven pfstools up to date with the latest scientific developments to which he is a significant contributor himself. But the command line is not what graphic artists are used to, especially in a context in which they need visual feedback when turning the knobs and playing with the different parameters of the TMOs.

Unfortunately, not much has happened with Qtpfsgui in the last half year. Giuseppe asked for help with a new name and maybe an icon. Nothing happened yet. With the help of Roman Bednarik and Alexandre Prokoudine, he mentored Vladimir Smida in a season of usability project. But Giuseppe is now busy with his day job, and so little has been going on in the repository. If there is somebody out there reading who knows C++ and Qt (or who wants to learn it), this is a great and very useful project with a significant number of users.

And it is the only tool that got the conversion from RAW of my son’s beautiful eyes just right. Below is standard RAW processing, with Photoshop.

My Son, original

Upgrade II

Amazing! Alexandre Prokoudine, our Google Summer of Code admin, has a camera that is too big for the Nodal Ninja 3 MkII. Bill upgraded him to a Nodal Ninja 5. I am speechless. Now Alexandre is better to show us some nice panoramas from Moscow.

When the dust settles

It’s a few week before the official coding starts. The students are bonding nicely with the community. Ideas are flowing, and some patches too. I can’t wait to see what they will do when they are officially on Google’s payroll and assigned to work full time on hugin.

While Pablo and Alexandre P. are at LGM, time to introduce properly this year’s team that will participate in the Google Summer of Code. There is a lot to be written, and more may come over the next few months as the summer unfolds. For now, here is an overview of the six projects we’re working on, of the people, and of exciting things to come.

The Projects

There are six projects this year in our portfolio, even though only five are listed on the Hugin/panotools entry at Google. The sixth project is a joint effort with VideoLAN on their leading cross-platform media player. It is listed on their page at Google.

OpenGL hugin preview

The preview windows is central to the panorama making process. It is here where the author looks at his composition before rendering it. It is here that framing decisions are being made, interactively. Right now the interaction is slow.  James Alastair Legg, mentored by Pablo d’Angelo, will improve the panorama preview windows by giving it the speed of OpenGL. We expect near real-time interaction for the author when composing his panorama.

Automatic Feature Matching for Panoramic Images

Critically important to stitching panoramas is to identify overlapping images in two features and align them in space. In the past, this was tedious, manual work. Then control point detectors came along. Those available to hugin users are still tainted by patents. It’s a two step process: detecting features and matching them. In Google Summer of Code 2007 Zoran Mesec wrote the detector, MatchPoint. This year Onur Küçüktunç will write the matcher, mentored by Alexandre Jenny, author of the original autopano and of Autopano Pro. A beautiful example of cooperation and co-existence between the proprietary and open source world. We expect to have a fully patent free control point detection process.

Masking in GUI

Overlap regions between two images are the nature of stitched panoramas. Since the world is in movement, such overlaps often present challenges that won’t match. The current solution is to render each image on a separate layer, and then mask out manually one of the two images so to display only one frozen instance of the moving object. This can often be a painful work at the single pixel level. Fahim Mannan, mentored by Daniel M. German, will introduce a simpler workflow: just mark the moving object with a couple of approximate brush strokes and his code will work out the exact object boundaries automatically. We expect an improvement for those using hugin to stitch action panoramas.

Batch Processing

Photographers often come back from the field with tons of photographs to stitch. A lot of this could be automated. Even more so with the up and coming pano-videography. Marko Kuder, mentored by Zoran Mesec, will improve hugin’s batching abilities. We expect to be able to process repetitive tasks without human intervention.

Machine-based Sky Identification

Some areas of photographs are better suited for control points than others. The sky, with its moving clouds, definitely not, as good control point don’t move between images. Timothy Nugent, mentored by Yuval Levy, will train a support vector machine (SVM) to identify clouds in the sky as a bad area for control points, so that it can be masked out before triggering the control point detection. Once working the method can be extended to other features as well, such as foliage and water.

Panorama Viewing in VideoLAN

19 years after Tim Berners-Lee invented the web there is still no universal format to view panoramas on the web. Apple’s QuickTimeVR, the original technology to display full spherical panoramas, is not available on platforms other than Windows and the Macintosh, and it is no longer developed by Apple. A lot of good things have happened with Flash panoramas in the last year. Nevertheless, a lot of legacy content out there is captive of the QuickTime format, like the World Wide Panorama. In Google Summer of Code 2007 Leon Moctezuma added functionality to FreePV. This year Michael Ploujnikov mentored by Yuval Levy will integrate panorama viewing in VLC, a leading cross-platform media player. We expect Linux users and users of other alternative platforms to have access to the majority of QTVR content soon.

The team

I’m happy to pass the admin role to Alexandre Prokoudine this year. We had more available mentors, student applications and project ideas that we would have loved to follow through, but resources are limited also for large corporations and Google is already very generous with us. We would have loved to see students working on leading edge image processing under the supervision of Andrew Mihal of enblend/enfuse fame, or John Cupitt of VIPS. Maybe next year. Other mentors that registered with our organization on the Google Code page and are left without student are Bruno Postle, Jim Watters and Ken Turkowski. We are a team, and like last year I expect a lot of help and community support to the six lucky students.

Partners

Cooperation is a topic I particularly care about for this edition of the Google Summer of Code. We are leveraging the Summer of Code to reach beyond our small world. I am proud that we found an ally in the VideoLAN team, a larger mentoring organization. Granted, we are natural allies: hugin/panotools is used to create media; and VLC is used to play it. Nevertheless, this cross-collaboration, whose idea is the result of a meeting with Jean-Baptiste Kempf at the 2007 Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit, is IMO a demonstration that the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts and that an initiative like the Google Summer of Code adds much more value to the world of FOSS than what can be stated in (highly appreciated) numbers. 175 mentoring organization, 1125 students, 90 countries.

And in our small world we’re working a partnership deal to further motivate and propel the hugin/panotools team, similar to what we did last year. Stay tuned for an announcement.