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18th-Century Painters Give Photography New Perspective

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Wissahickon Creek, Philadelphia, PA

Panini software's wide-angle perspective is based on techniques employed by painters in 18th-century Venice. This image shows the Wissahickon Creek and the Walnut Lane Bridge in Philadelphia, PA.

Credit: Thomas Sharpless

Software engineer Thomas Sharpless and colleagues have developed Panini, software that can make wide-angled digital photos with perfect perspective using a technique first developed by 18th-century painters. The researchers knew that vedutisti painters who worked in 18th-century Venice had excelled at painting wide-angled views of the city that appeared to preserve perspective perfectly, so they reverse-engineered the technique.

Sharpless picked several vedutisti paintings of the interiors of buildings for which ground plans were available. In each painting, he picked about 20 points and located them on the plan. Comparing the coordinates from the painting and the plan, he developed mathematical functions to map transformations in images, and dubbed them the Panini projection. The researchers then used this data as the basis of a software viewer that can make a panoramic image using several photos to create a single view.

Dozens of panoramic images are available on Sharpless' website.

The Panini projection is particularly useful for architectural vistas, deep views, and scenes where features in the center are more important than those near the edges, where other projection methods fail, says Furtwangen University's Helmut Dersch.

From New Scientist
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