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Panoscan–A Breakthrough in Panoramic Capture

In life, we can look straight ahead, to the side, and if we wish, turn to look behind us. We expect to be able to do this. Yet the limitations of photography have forced us to accept a single angle, limited view of the world. Looking at a Daguerreotype from the late 19th century, a snapshot from the 50s, or a digital image from the late 90s we accept the fact that that’s all there is. Although they might want to, no one ever thinks they might be able to see what the rest of the scene looks like. Still photography has defined what we accept as visible.

By the summer of 1999, the term immersive imaging is not a household word, it has not even made its way into the dictionary. Yet it promises to completely change the way people think of looking at an environment.  
Early in the century, several methods were devised to take panoramic images. In one type of device long pieces of film were rolled into a camera that moved the film past a thin slit opening as the camera turned around in a circle. Other methods involved various lenses or mirrors that compress the 360 degree image onto a small round piece of film. These methods produced an image of the whole scene, but not in a way the typical mind could fully understand, based on it’s understanding of flat pictures and three dimensional reality.

The introduction of perspective correcting software such as QuickTime VR in the mid-90s changed that. These software players allowed the viewer, using the computer to navigate around a 360 degree image—to see in all directions with the perspective corrected to look like a normal view. The methods of acquiring these images are modern adaptations of the slit scan method, the mirror method, fisheye method or to take many digital images that cover the entire 360 degrees of the shot, and stitch them together electronically. All of these methods involve loading, shooting, developing, scanning, and bending the image into the digital VR format.
Panoscan’s no stitching, instantaneous viewing represents a genuine breakthrough in immersive imaging, yet it is only one of a variety of its exclusive features.
The widely used method of stitching several pictures together to create a panorama can take significant time, depending on the nature of the scene, and then transforming the stitched image into the VR format.

In January of 1999, Panoscan, Inc., a Los Angeles based company, introduced The Panoscan System, a digital panoramic solution that promises to change the way VR photography is captured, forever. The Panoscan System delivers a digital, high resolution, seamless, panoramic image, in a single file. No film, no developing, no stitching, in fact, no post processing of any kind is necessary to view the image, which can be imported directly into players such as QuickTime VR, Ipix, Hot Media or most any other VR player.

Panoscan inventor, Theodore Chavalas, is a pioneer in VR photography. In 1992, two years before Apple Computers introduced QuickTime VR, Chavalas took his Navascan system to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge to capture a full panoramic image of the Bay Area. This early technology was the beginning of six years of research and development that led to the present Panoscan system. Chavalas is a mechanical engineer, a photographer, an expert in computer software and hardware technology, and a visionary. It is this combination of qualities and training that allowed him to create, coordinate and fine tune all of the elements needed to create Panoscan’s breakthrough technology. An example of this is the flawless coordination of hardware, firmware, software and optics that allow the camera to capture 169,728,000 individual pixels in its 360 degree revolution.

Panoscan’s no stitching, instantaneous viewing represents a genuine breakthrough in immersive imaging, yet it is only one of a variety of its exclusive features. Panoscan’s extraordinary resolution and image quality are possible because Phase One’s digital line scan technology is built into the system. The Phase One Power Phase camera won the 1999 DIMA shoot out in the digital line scan category. Phase One is a world leader among digital camera developers. Panoscan also uses Phase One’s extremely user friendly software, and a special OEM Panoscan plug-in for the system’s unique panoramic requirements.

Panoscan’s ultra high resolution makes it the ideal capture system for a variety of industrial applications. Two major police departments are experimenting with the system for use in crime scene capture. At highest resolution Panoscan can document a crime scene for later investigation. This was demonstrated in a test at a mock crime scene. By zooming in the titles and authors of books on a shelf, an address on an envelope across the room, and the contents showing inside a wastebasket, were easily legible.

The interior design industry has used Panoscan’s high resolution to capture environments that allow for close-up inspection of fabrics, wall

High resolution and outstanding light sensitivity makes Panoscan ideal for many applications and situations.
coverings and architectural details. Experiments are being done using infrared lenses, using the images for 3-D, and also for a variety of military, aerospace and training tool applications.

Outstanding light sensitivity is another of Panoscan’s unique features. Panoscan has a dynamic range of 11 F-stops, making it better than 4” X 5” film. Shadows are very detailed, and using the software’s film curve feature, these details can be brightened while windows and overexposed parts of the image can be dimmed. Light source mixing is also possible with Panoscan. Images have been captured in environments that include natural light, incandescent, mercury vapor, neon, and fluorescent lighting. All looked natural without special filters Panoscan is absolutely pixel accurate. After a scan, the system returns to the exact same position each time. Another feature allows a section of an image to be selected and exposed at different settings. These two features working together, make it possible to match multiple exposures instantly.

Other time and money saving features include a focus tool, that allows you to see the focus on a graph, or to literally hear the camera come into focus, using a unique audio tone.

All of these features make Panoscan captures fast and easy. A Panoscan photographer can capture a typical six-room house, create hot spots, link everything together, and show the complete tour to the home seller or Realtor for approval and email it to his web site, all at the location, and all within about an hour.

Panoscan can be used with a variety of lenses. The images can be turned into spherical, cylindrical, or conical images. In coordination with a Phase One or Kaidan turntable, object movies are completely automatic. The system also takes rollout pictures—a feature that captures a flat representation of a 3-dimensional object—and it takes excellent studio still photos.

Panoscan is designed for rugged field use. It weighs under 40 pounds including tripod, laptop computer, and lens. It is also compact, easily conforming to airline carry-on baggage regulations.

For more information, and many examples of Panoscan captures, visit the Panoscan’s website at



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