This massive 114-gigapixel virtual tour of Barcelona took three months to create

Mar 31, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

This massive 114-gigapixel virtual tour of Barcelona took three months to create

Mar 31, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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gigapixel barcelona

Gigapixel images are so fun to explore, especially if they show cities you strongly want to (re)visit. George Palov and Michael von Aichberger teamed up and created one for the city I’ve strongly wanted to revisit for years now: Barcelona, Spain.

It took three months to complete, and the duo faced many challenges, but in the end – it was all worth it. We chatted with George about this project and learned plenty of interesting facts about the project.

Meet the artists

George is an architect and panorama photographer from Sofia, Bulgaria, and Michael is a photo engineer and photographer from Coburg, Germany. Both photographers specialize in high-resolution, or “gigapixel,” photography and have accumulated a lot of experience over the years.

The guys first met in Sofia in 2021 to shoot the largest image ever taken in Bulgaria. Then in 2022, they decided to meet again for another gigapixel challenge. George tells us that they chose Barcelona because of its charming cityscape and the surrounding hills which open up nice views of the city.

“We spent about seven days in Barcelona, and on three of them, the weather was good enough for gigapixel photography,” George tells DIYP. “We made the most out of it.” The three days of shooting and three months of processing and stitching resulted in eight ultra-high-resolution gigapixel panoramas from 4 different locations: 114 gigapixels combined!

barcelona gigapixel

While it sounds simple written like this, George and Michael faced many challenges before completing this project. We chatted with George about them, too.

Challenges of creating gigapixel image of Barcelona

First of all, George and Michael did this project out of pure love and enthusiasm – meaning that they weren’t paid to do it. “These gigapixel challenges are personal projects and not sponsored by any third party,” George explains.

“We used our own and very expensive equipment: A Swiss-made panoramic robot and a 45-megapixel Canon R5 with a big EF 4/600 L II IS telephoto lens, which at times was extended to 1,200 mm, which is unique.”

Another huge challenge were file storing and post-processing. As George jokingly says, it deserves a two-day seminar to discuss all the issues they had to overcome. But don’t worry; he cut it short for the sake of this article. :) I’ll share George’s explanation as he sure knows his craft better than I do:

“In short, Photoshop won’t accept more than 300 000 x 300 000 pixels. PtGui renders the panorama in bigtiff format (tiff has a limitation of 4GB file size), which Photoshop can open (if it is less than 300 000 pixels/ but can NOT write back bigtiff files.

So… we needed to cut the bigtif in pieces with GigaPX Tools, again bigtiff or RAW file format, then load them into Photoshop, retouch them, save, and bring back the cut pieces together into one big panorama. If we worked with RAW file format, we need to convert it with KrPanoTools to bigtiff or psb files, so that we could load them into Pano2VR to output the web tour version (145 000 + tiles!!!).

Loading files 300 000 pixels long in Photoshop made 1 TB temp files… Each of our 8 panoramas is more than 70 GB per file, often larger than 100 GB. So I heavily used my 2Tb M.2 NVMe SSD. I also have 64 GB RAM memory (which fills fast while rendering the gigapixels).

So the main challenge with extremely large photos is the software pixel limitation, and the different file formats, which can support such resolution at all – one software accepts one format, the other- another, so it is VERY time consuming to convert, cut and merge such images. And it is a bit /a lot actually/ technical and has its own specifics.

It took us 3 months to stitch, retouch and make the skin for the tour, which had its own challenges.”

George and Michael also had to manually focus-stack more than 100 files (yikes). With the shallow depth of field and one building in front of another, this had to be done for a crisp final result.

Vignetting and heat haze were also major problems the duo faced with each gigapixel panorama, and the one of Barcelona wasn’t an exception. “For vignetting and light equalization we use our own tools, George tells DIYP. “None of the available commercial tools can handle this very well so it doesn’t look bad (create stripes) in the final output.”

As for the heat haze… Well, not much can be done there. “In Barcelona we were prepared for 120+ Gigapixel image from Tibidabo,” George notes “But because of the bad heat haze we didn’t do it – no point in extra-large muddy image.”

barcelona gigapixel image night

The final work

After three months of painstaking post-processing work, George and Michael ended up with their final image. They wanted to make it unique and add more value to it, so they tagged famous places in Barcelona. They also provided information about the sculptures and scenes from the Bible and Latin inscriptions on the Nativity Façade of the Sagrada Familia cathedral. It’s a building of great importance and a landmark of this beautiful city.

As a special treat, they incorporated the tour several 360 panoramas in the virtual tour, They show interesting and famous places in Barcelona to provide an even better experience for the viewer. “The user can also share their exact viewport,” George tells us. “For photographers, we have included technical specifications in an Info button, like the duration of each photo shoot, the number of images, image size, etc.”

George tells us that he and Michael believe that this gigapixel panoramic tour will appeal to the citizens and visitors of Barcelona alike. But even if you’ve never been there, I think it’s also interesting to photographers who view and explore this panorama and read the story behind it.

“For one gigapixel panorama, we had to shoot hundreds, sometimes thousands of images, which were then stitched into the very big panoramas,” George concludes. “It was an immense effort for us to finalize the project, but we think it turned out great!”

Here, go ahead and explore the Barcelona gigapixel image! And make sure to follow George (website | Facebook) and Michael (website | Twitter) for more of their work.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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