A User Created Photosynth Primer: Jump In!

This is a guest post by swami_worldtraveler, a fairly new user who has really jumped in and started producing some great work and finding interesting ways of sharing his new passion with others.  We’re very excited to see people like him take such an interest in Photosynth (and we’re jealous of his profession… he lists it as “world traveler”).
-View the original article here.

Photosynth Primer

I decided to put together some visuals and text to entice you into my latest foto/3D obsession....

Here are a series of screen-grabs. They were chosen to be visual compelling, and to cover a broad range of features, user controls, and user interface particulars. Highlighted ruins include the Temple of the Inscriptions, a grand view of the site, and the skull from the Temple of the Skull. Totally new to most, and hopefully exciting, is the 3D "point cloud" model resulting from the synth. Exactly what this is will be come clear below.

Take a quick visual scan below, then jump right in, if you like!

Go here: Mayan Ruins of Palenque (take 3's the charm!?)" - and yes, it was the charm 🙂

For those interested in getting the full experience (or who just get into this stuff), your tour begins now 🙂 ...
(Or for a quicker introduction, consider looking at the "Quick Guide" in my travel blog)


This is the basic, COMPLETE INTERFACE running in the Firefox web browser. You can see multiple planes (fotos) making up the panorama. Most of the fotos are concentrated around the temple in the center. And notice the interface icons around the border. Click 'em and see what happens! Hold the mouse cursor over one to get a description.


In FULL-SCREEN mode, here's a different angle of the temple. This is certainly the preferred viewing mode.


BAM! 3D 'POINT CLOUD' MODEL! The program has used sophisticated robot vision algorithms and relative spatial analysis to create a 3D facsimile of the scene! Clicking and dragging the donut in the middle reveals the various viewpoints shot. Use the 'p' key to enter this mode. Click 'p' multiple times to cycle thru.
Note: this donut only appears under certain conditions.


This is another view of the temple point cloud, but no foto was taken from this exact angle! By doing a Ctrl+click-n-drag on the donut you can orbit anywhere and get a better sense of the 3D environment. More fotos of a given area lead to more detail (i.e. points). The sparse points to the upper-right of the temple represent the trees on the ridge.


This is a "grand" view taken from the Group of the Crosses. This is the first screen you see for this particular synth. The Temple of the Inscriptions can be seen center-left, just behind some trees, and The Palace is just to its right. To the fore-left is the Temple of the Sun.




And here's the grand view seen full-screen.


This is the GRID VIEW. It's a simple layout of all the fotos in the synth. They're grouped into 'clumps.' These fotos are all connected in a 3D space. They all have objects in common with at least one or more other fotos. Click the 'm' key to move from clump to clump. This works in Grid View and 3D view. Fewer clumps mean more connectedness and a greater "% synthy" scene. But "100% synthy" does not necessarily mean better. In this scene I've included maps, and hieroglyphs which aren't meant to connect, but add to the experience.


Here's the GRID VIEW in FULL-SCREEN mode. More real estate; easier to navigate!:)


This is a CLOSE-UP of a foto in GRID VIEW. Single-click to select and zoom to. Use '+' and '-' to zoom in and out. You can also click-n-drag. And quite useful is to use SPACEBAR/Shift+SPACEBAR to move from foto to foto. This works in 3D view, too. In fact, this is a good way to ensure you see all there is to see. You can also click the PLAY icon.


By double-clicking on the foto in grid view you go to 3D view, centered on that foto. Can you find this skull!?

OK. That's it. Have fun 🙂

Comments (10)

  1. Joe says:

    Photosynth is kind of cool to look at once or twice but it loses its appeal fairly quickly.  I think the main reason that it becomes uninteresting is the jumpiness between pictures.  Despite all the technology, the synths are hard to navigate and kind of confusing for the average viewer.  For instance, often you go right and the synth goes up – there are just way too many planes that aren’t smoothly stitched together.

    Does the Photosynth team have any plans to make navigation smoother or is this simply impossible with current technology?

  2. swami_worldtraveler says:

    Hey Joe,

    Ease of navigation is definitely important to enjoying a synth. This is why I wrote the primer. Now, there’s always room for improvement, of course, but your comment about how the experience "loses its appeal fairly quickly" has less to do with technology and more to do with being human. As an animator, especially a 3D animator, I am aware of how the "gee whiz" factor of visuals can wear off quickly. Ollie Johnston, famous Disney animator, addressed this issue long ago. Basically, he said that more important than visual appeal is human appeal. The viewer must have an interest in what the character is thinking and feeling; what is motivating the character. The viewer must have an emotional involvement and response. This is why I try to make my synths more about an experience, an experience that a fellow human can connect with. Does it tell a story? Does it convey what it felt like to BE there? Plus, I may throw in some supplemental images for context, or some surprises sometimes even. Everybody likes fun! Of course, a synth is not an animation, but I still think there’s a lesson to be learned in Ollie’s wisdom.



  3. lostinthetriangle says:


    "The viewer must have an emotional involvement and response. This is why I try to make my synths more about an experience, an experience that a fellow human can connect with. Does it tell a story? Does it convey what it felt like to BE there?"

    I could not have said it better myself!

    Oh and job well done on the Primer.

  4. swami_worldtraveler says:

    Tnx, Mr.(Ms.) Triangle:) I truly hope the Primer helps sum ppl. N as for the wisdom imparted (n followed), all credit to the late great Ollie Johnston.

    I realize I’m in the minority around here, what w/ all the point cloud crazies, but hey, I’m used to being on the fringe. Hopefully, my input is a welcome diversion from the norm:)

    P.S. Went to ur page. I c u’v been VERY busy! I c ur biggest synth has over 1000 pix! Who holds the record? How many? More hardware; more time! I wonder what the practical upper limit is. Anyhow, keep up the good work…

  5. Rich says:

    hey there, I had a comment/question – not related to this post though.

    I’m creating a synth for Easter – containing an Easter Egg hunt. Users have to find the eggs in the synth and follow the clues –  the first to piece the puzzle together will win a prize.

    Would you be interested in featuring it on the blog? The more people who play, the merrier.

    Let me know, I’m richard_summers at mac.com



  6. Elibhetluna9 says:


  7. swami_worldtraveler says:

    Hola Elibhetluna9:)

    ¿Qué pasó? No hay enlace a sus fotos o synths. ¿Dónde están?

    No conozco Puerto Rico, pero me voy este otoño. Escríbame a swami@cfl.rr.com, o en Facebook a http://www.facebook.com/people/Swami-Worldtraveler/580637599.

    Hasta la próxima,


  8. swami_worldtraveler says:

    El bueno enlace a mi Facebook es:


  9. swami_worldtraveler says:

    ¡Ay caramba! Looks like I’ll have to write an updated Primer now that Silverlight has taken center stage…

  10. I’m interestin this so my photo’s are all in one for the trip.

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