Even in the age of high-resolution cameras, it’s still quite difficult to fathom that anyone could create a terapixel image. But that’s precisely what the folks at GIGAmacro did at a SIGGraph Conference in Vancouver, B.C. with an 80 plus-foot long mosaic as its subject. The resulting image is so big that if you were to print it at 300 dpi, it would be taller than the One World Trade Center at 1,825 feet long. What’s even more impressive is that you can zoom into any part of the image on a macro level. You can view the entire photo now on GIGAmacro’s website.
Headed by GIGAMacro photographer Gene Cooper, the Terabite project involved over 100 attendees creating a food mosaic using local sources for five days. Overall, the volunteers prepared 63 separate panels which were fed into a special camera rig to be photographed. To prevent blank areas, every 2 ft. x 1.5 ft panel was connected to the previous one before photos of it could be taken.
To create the terapixel macro photo, three GIGAmacro Magnify2 robotic imaging systems were outfitted with Canon 5D Mark III DSLRs using Canon MPE 65mm macro lenses. The special rigs “scanned” each panel that went through the system, amassing a total of 630,000 photos in four days.
By taking six pictures from different focal positions and combining them using a technique called focus stacking, the mosaic retains its definition on a macro level. In fact, GIGAmacro volunteers even included 60 small non-food items as “easter eggs” they want you to find while viewing the image on your computer.
To ensure that every panel was properly lit, the GIGAmacro team used Canon MT 24EX flash units together with a backlight flash they built to illuminate the mosaic from below. They were synchronized to fire at the same time ar 1/1000th of a second.
Of course, making a terapixel macro image doesn’t end at taking pictures. To turn hundreds of thousands of photos into one long mosaic, the team still had to do tedious post-processing. Sorting the files alone took a total of 21 hours. They also had to spend 1,260 hours to stack several photos into one composite to ensure the sharpness of the image. Once they were done with the focus stacking, they had to stitch all the pictures together and cleaned them up in Photoshop manually. In total, the GIGAmacro team spent 2,187 hours just for post-processing.
Food isn’t GIGAmacro’s only specialty. Apart from their Gigabite project, they also have an extensive collection of high-resolution macro photos that include anything from small insects to computer chips. Just like the food mosaic, you can use the GIGAmacro viewer to zoom into the images and enjoy their incredible details.