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- How do you blend? - Well, thanx, and you?

enblend

 brief:

Panoramic / mosaic picture software is a bit complicate argument. The best process often passes trough a series of free, opensource, lowcost software, that act as a Lego-creation. A series of bricks that interacts together, that you can choose in base of your needs and build up in a complete workflow.

We are speaking now of one of the last part of the image There is more than one software, now, that helps in blending panoramas, mosaic-pictures and so on. Once only Enblend was avaliable, it was the first software ever capable of taking all the reprojected images and blend them together without having to do big manual intervents. Within 2004-2005 a new software was born, initially as a "looking for investors" flag, then gradually grew up, as a real usable alternative.

 Here you will find a comparison table that will help you to choose your blender, with pros and cons of both software. Obviously not every pro or con have the same weight, it depends on situation and needs.

Tests and consideration were done using PC and PTGUI interface, no command line interface.


smartblend

 Enblend: 2.3
:-D It is open source!!!
:-D it is generally supported from stitching softwares, easy to use, little experience requested
:-) it works pretty good. Great general quality **
:-( Lacks in case of scarce overlapping
:-D Supports 16bit tiff output
:-) Output tiff only, imput whatever.
:-( high memory demand, however configurable.
:-) It can handle files as big as you want... if you have a rendering farm!
:-/ Resource-consuming and slow. With dual-core-Hyper-Trading or double CPU you do not notice it in background... but it is eating ALL your resource

download Enblend

 Smartblend: 1.14
:-( It is not open source!!!
:-( It is not generally supported, command line only. I failed any attempt to use the recomended GUIs ***
:-) It is free!
:-)) it works pretty good. Great general quality **
:-D Resolves little parallax mistakes, lost heads and legs. *
:-( Bad result with architecture straight lines.
:-)) perfect work even in case of scarce overlapping
:-) Output in tiff, jpg
:-(( Does not support 16bit tiffs, nor imput nor output
:-D DAMN' FAST
:-(( Does not allow you to manage big files (limits are still unclear)
:-) Not so much resource-consuming while working, very well optimized.

download Smartblend

* - What does it really do?? does it work?
Well, do not expect miracles, even if sometimes it really do some. The one presented by the software author itself in the first page of his site in one of the cases it seems to make miracles.

- In cases of composites, mosaic pictures, handheld with common digital cameras (not wider than a 24mm equivalent), distant subject, it DOES the miracle. you can be out of NP and do not have to retouch in photoshop later, fantastic! Some problems may accour with long horizontal lines

-In cases of use with panoheads and so on: Resolves many problems of missing heads/legs, moving subjects, little and big panohead misalignment.

-in cases of 360 degrees photography, and correctly aligned head, is very useful with moving subjects. With a 3shot head is a big plus due to little overlapping areas. Horizontal or long straight lines are things you still may have to correct, some scarce times worse than enblend, but in most cases saves a lot of photoshopping.

** - About blending quality:
Here also Smartblend seems to behave better in difficult situations

- It can hold bigger exposition differences or vignetting lenses (do not ask too much, like a perfect Nadir with 4 differently exposed fisheye shots!!!)

- It needs only a little overlapping to do all the job! great for 3 fisheyes shots!

Aside emblend supports a full 16bit workflow and output. To understand what this means, try to imagine an high contrasting 360x180 scene you will have to correct for highlights, colors and shadows, and imagine you can do it on the FINAL image. you can deal with HDR panoramas more easily etc.

- 16 bit workflow is a GREAT plus in professional panoptic photography, and delivers a better quality.

- In case of well shooted images the quality is as good as smartblend, so some of the big plus of smartblend are unuseful.

- Being opensource, developing is continuous, kept on running by severel people.

***TIPS!

How to use Smartblend on PTGUI directly:
PTgui looks for a software named "enblend.exe".
But Since Smartblend was made instruction-compatible with Enblend...
Why not try to change its name and simply use it???
Follow these instructions:

1- Ceate a folder named Smartblend aside of your Enblend folder
2- Put inside that folder all the content of the ZIP you downloaded.
3- Rename smartblend.exe in enblend.exe (The program does not offend!)
4- Choose in the plugins options of PTGUI the smartblend folder as "enblend
path"

PROS:
you finally have an interface.

CONS:?
You have to select tiff output like enblend. I think this causes PTstitcher to choose the seams and pre-cut the images as he wants. To have Smartblend working properly it would be better to feed it with tiffs having alpha channel just in the empty areas, to let it choose the things to cut or leave...

  TEST1: speed and spheric 360° capabilities
Test2: mosaic picture.
 

Conclusions:
No conclusion is definitive, if we think both software are constantly under developing. Even if it is not opensource, smartblend had a costant improvement and a very active developer, so both softwares are now "alive and kicking".

However... I use both! Why not? I use Enblend for pro work in VR photography, always 16bit workflow. I use Smartblend for all photomosaics, difficult situations and many particular cases.

Wishes:
16bit full support, a 32bit support for HDR, and full integration with my favourite softwares are things that could lead me to make a final choice.
Speed is important, but a secondary task. I usually batch-stitch my images
Memory and file handling is important too. Often I've problem of these blending apps crashing for very big panos. Depending on FAT32 limitations? I do not know, but I'd like somenìone to explain me these things.

- © Luca Vascon 2005 -