The Garmin Virb 360 has the ability to record in RAW and produce two JPG fish eye unstitched images. In able to get better resolution and maximum pre and post production value we can manually stitch the images together for a perfect image in Autopano Giga.
How to stitch Garmin Virb 360 Raw Images in Autopano Giga
Why would you want to record in RAW vs auto stitch for images? Well, you might have selected the Travelapse option for images and are riding a bike while automatically taking images every 10 yards. Because it is attached to your head or bike and you do not have a gimbal to keep it stabilized, the image will be distorted. Most likely the images horizon will not be correctly aligned. To fix this we can record in RAW mode and manually stitch each picture to make sure the images are perfect. Be aware that manually stitching images is a time consuming process, so make sure to choose wisely to either record in RAW or auto stitch mode in the Garmin Virb 360.
Virb 360 RAW Images
The Garmin Virb 360 Camera has the option to record photos and video in ‘RAW’ format, which is their way of recording unstitched photos and video. This can be beneficial if you want maximum pre and post efficiencies for each photo or video you take. To select the RAW format mode go to the settings option in the main menu of the Garmin 360 Virb. Select the Lens Mode option to see the multiple Lens Modes available.
We have the options of 360 degrees, 16:9 Front Only, 16:9 Rear Only and last but not least RAW. Go ahead and select the RAW mode to set the Lens Mode to what we want.
With the RAW Lens Mode selected, we can have a variety of options to use for photos and video. For photography in RAW mode, we have the options of a single photo, burst photo and time lapse photo. For videos on RAW mode we have the options of a normal video or a time lapse video.
Once you have selected what type of recording options you want for photography, go out and take some photos. Next we will import all those photos into our computer from the SD Card and select our stitching software. For this example, I am going to use Kolor Autopano Giga software. There are many other options to use to stitch RAW images of Garmin Virb 360 camera, but this one I personally think is the best.
Kolor Autopano Giga
Kolor has a wide variety of products for both Photography as well as Video, but we are going to use APG Autopano Giga to manually stitch our high resolution fisheye lens JPG files from the Garmin Virb 360 camera. So lets go ahead and start the process.
Starting new project
First lets open up Autopano Giga and select our two fisheye photos to import into the software.
Once we have the two fisheye photos selected, either drag and drop them into the left side panel or select the import photos button. Now we want to make sure that Autopano giga either knows what the specifications of these lenses are so it can automatically detect the best settings or we need to automatically need to change them. To get the best possible stitch from Garmin Virb 360 RAW images we need to make sure we adjust these values. Let’s go ahead and click on the image properties button at the top left corner.
Now once we are inside of the image properties window we are on the first tab called images. Here we can set the specific focal length, conversion factor to focal and lens type. Sometimes Autopano will have an option for the specific camera that we are using in the Camera sensor scale dropdown. But because the Garmin Virb 360 camera is pretty new, there is no default option to select to fill in our values for us. But that is ok because we know what the specifications are.
Here we want to select Focal length of 6.00mm, conversion factor of 1.00, Focal (35mm eq.) to 6.00mm and finally select the Lens type to Fisheye. We now have the basic information set for Autopano Giga to know how to create control points and start to automatically create a stitch for us. But, to get the best possible resolution and stitch possible we want to adjust the Circular crop of each Fisheye lens. So click on the Circular crop tab at the top.
Now that we are in the Circular crop tab, we can see each of our fisheye photos and be able to set the crop around the maximum amount of pixels that we want to use. I always suggest selecting more than is needed because in the end you will get a higher resolution with a few more extra hundred or so pixels. I would adjust one, then click the Apply to all images so they both match exactly the same. This will help our manual stitching of the Garmin Virb 360 camera RAW photos because we have more pixels to work with.
Now that we have all of our specifications selected and any other options set, we can continue the process. Apply all the changes and exit the window. Next we want to auto detect any control points that Autopano giga will find to make our stitching process easier. Go to the top left of the window t to click the detect button which has the green and white arrow at the top left of the screen.
Automatic Control Points
This will start the automatic creation of control points within the software. Autopano will try to go over each photo and automatically match control points that the algorithm finds correctly. Sometimes this works well, other times not so much. So we will have to be doing a lot of manual creation of control points. Below is the results of the auto stitch based off of the automatic control points that Autopano Giga has found in both images.
Obviously this does not look good. The automatic process of creating control points did a horrible job. This is why we have to manually create control points to get the perfect stitch from the Garmin Virb 360 RAW images that we capture. So go ahead and click on the top left button ‘edit’ so we can add new control points to slowly but surely perfect our stitch. Here we can see the automatic control points that Autopano Giga has found for us.
The next step is to start the manual creation of control points. The purpose of this is to help the program stitch the best possible 360 degree panoramic image for us. The best way of doing this is by focusing on the very top, farthest left, farthest right and the very bottom of each image. This is because that is where the hardest part of stitching the images together is located at. So ignore the middle part and focus on the sides. Focus on everything not red in the image below.
Manual Control Points
Now is the time to start creating manual control points at the correct locations. Focus on the locations where the red is not located at. Usually the closer to the edge the better, because it will give enough info for the Autopano software to do its thing and create a perfect stitch. For this example we are going to focus on the bottom of the door way because that is on the edge of both fisheye images. There is a lot of detail that we can create control points for in this location.
We want to add a decent amount of control points to this location. It is very detailed and has specific geometric shapes and locations that will help the software to automatically stitch everything together. I would suggest just doing a simple skeleton layer of control points first, then if the stitch doesn’t look good you can add more meat and consistent control points closer to each other. Next let’s focus on the top corner of the door.
Now that we have a few spots all around the edges of our fisheye images, we can optimize the panorama. Optimizing the panorama option tells the Autopano Giga software to recalculate the control points and to re-stitch the panoramic image. If we see that the results are good, we can focus on those spots or find new ones. Click on the optimize panorama option found at the top of the menu bar.
Let’s take a look at the new control points that Autopano rated and grouped for us.
Overall the control points look like they are highly rated. The more green and yellow control points, the better chance of a good stitch for the images. So the control points look great, let’s take a look at the stitched image. If we go back to the other window, we can check to see what the panorama looks like.
The results look fantastic. From what I can tell there are no errors or missing areas in the panorama image. The final stitched RAW image of Garmin Virb 360 camera have come out to look pretty good. So we have one last step before exporting and examining the panoramic image. We need to blend the panoramic image to make sure everything gets cleaned up.
Render and Export the Panorama
We now have our final stitched panoramic image. Finally, we have almost gone through the entire process of stitching RAW images from Garmin Virb 360 camera. To set the specifications of the export we need to go back to the original window. The one where we imported the two fisheye images. It is the same window with the detect button. On the right side of the panel we can see a gear option in the menu. This is for rendering and exporting the panorama image.
It will open up the Render window, which gives us plenty of more options. Most of these are automatically set for us, the only thing we might want to change is the output location.
Now for the final results, we can see that the image is very good.
Overall the process of manually stitching RAW images is very time consuming. Especially if you have tens to hundreds of unstitched RAW images from Garmin Virb 360 camera. But, the value is definitely worth it. You get to make pre-edits and post-edits to make sure it looks perfect. One of the main things I enjoy is being able to fixing the horizon. If you do a lot of Google Street View uploads this is a great workflow.