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8.6 gigapixel stitched photograph of Italian fresco revealed  
Thursday, October 19, 2006 | by Rob Galbraith

hal9000.jpg
Big Picture: The website of HAL9000's 8.6 gigapixel stitched image.

HAL9000, an Italian group that specializes in art restoration, preservation and high-resolution art photography, has posted an 8.6 gigapixel stitched image of an Italian fresco. The group claims it's the highest resolution digital photograph in the world.

A total of 1145 frames - shot with a Nikon D2X (set to capture NEFs) and  Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF VR (fixed at 400mm for all frames) - were captured during a 13-hour shooting day on January 30, 2006. The precise workflow used to assemble and crop the final image of 96,679 pixels x 89,000 pixels, says HAL9000's Mauro Gavinelli, is a closely-guarded secret, owing to the proprietary tools and techniques the company has developed to produce high-resolution pictures like this. Says Gavinelli:

"About data conversion and all the other software I have to admit that we are a little jealous about the tricks and workarounds we invented to reach the end  :-)  but ...I can tell you that none of the programs available at the time we afforded the job (early 2006) could manage all the processing. All the main programs for panorama stitching are really good software, but each one have problems, here or there along the whole processing, to manage 1145 pictures even if in theory are all designed for higher numbers. We solved the problem keeping from each one the good points and writing dedicated software for some job peculiar tasks because this kind of image can't be generated with a 'shoot and stitch' approach."

Open in new window
In Progress: As part of the frame alignment process, this wall-size printed grid was created. It's not, says, Gavinelli, the final grid; the one pictured was used during an earlier step in the workflow and was generated at about 100 megapixels of resolution. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Mauro Gavinelli - HAL9000 S.r.l. - Novara, Italy)

The photo is of a 1513 work entitled Parete Gaudenziana, which is over 35 feet wide and graces the interior of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Varallo Sesia, Italy.

To not harm the centuries-old painting, says Gavinelli, they chose to light it with flash units designed to not emit ultraviolet and set to the minimum power needed to do the job. The strobes were placed about 30 feet out. He estimates that the total light exposure the painting received was equivalent to no more than a few seconds of natural illumination.

The online version of the photo allows zooming and scrolling right up to full resolution.

Revision History
 Added more detail about how the photo was shot and processed (October 19, 2006)
 Added detail about the lighting used (October 20, 2006)
 Added framing grid photo (October 23, 2006)

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