ArcSoft Panorama MakerI recommend ArcSoft Panorama Maker to create 360∞ panoramas from your photos. Output format is Quicktime (.mov), Flash (.swf), or just as a single large image (.jpg). The Quicktime movie evokes the sensation of being inside the image and looking around since you can zoom in, pan up and down, and pan sideways. The Flash output can only pan sideways.

There are several features I like very much. Other than the choice of output format, I like the Automatic Exposure Correction in case the lighting varies between adjacent images, and the Fine Tuning that you can do by selecting a region and then moving three reference points into synchronized positions in adjacent images.

Panorama Maker did a pretty good job of lining up the image, but the quality of the output was much better when I manually adjusted the reference points. While I'm a big fan of Adobe Photoshop CS 2, I found the photomerge feature in Photoshop wasn't as good as ArcSoft Panorama Maker, and photomerge couldn't output in 360 degree QT or Flash format.

What I don't like about Panorama Maker is that the Flash output is branded with the ArcSoft logo, although the QT and JPG output formats are not. I would prefer ArcSoft didn't brand my movies. Just for fun, I started digging through the Panorama Maker program directories to see if I could find some kind of a template that was probably used to create the Flash movies, hoping that I could replace an ArcSoft branded image with my own TalkingTree image file. Instead, I found an interesting file called Template0.dat which had a few hints that it might really be a Flash swf file template. I renamed Template0.dat to ArcSoft_Template.swf (with Flash extension) and double clicked it. This was the template used to create the Flash movies, but to my surprise it had a rather sexy (rated PG17) default image inside the branded frame. Could this be an easter egg?

Flash movie from ArcSoft Panorama MakerHere's a series of screenshots taken while making a panorama from a series of images taken in Spain at a place called Llanos del Hospital, at a national park in the Pyrenees. The QT output was quite large at 113 MB, but the Flash output was just 8.5 MB. Click here to view the final Flash movie, or here to see the panoramic jpg photo.

I learned about ArcSoft Panorama Maker from "Digital Photography Hacks" by O'Reilly.