Texan stitches stratosphere into stunning panoramas
One mighty orb and six vid cameras for fully spherical imagery
Take one mighty hydrogen-filled orb, six panoramic vid cameras, hours of image-stitching jiggery-pokery and you too can produce fully spherical panoramic imagery from the stratosphere...
The 360 degree view at 29,000m
...or capture a 360 degree movie of your balloon burst at a breathtaking 29,378m (96,383ft):
The above is the result of two years' work by Texas local Caleb Anderson, who got in touch to share the results of Operation Stratosphere.
Inspired by high-altitude GoPro Hero vid footage he'd seen, and using his experience of panoramic stitching, Caleb set about blagging some cameras and putting together a data-gathering set-up comprising "four thermistors, one humidity sensor, two DS18B20 digital temperature sensors, one GPS module, one 1300mAh LiPo, one 1 gigabyte Micro SD, a huge amount of learning, and way too many late nights".
The sensor rig
As with all the best home-brew projects, the dining room table proved an essential work surface...
The payload comes together
...before launch day arrived in Burnet, Texas:
Caleb preps his payload
Lights, cameras, action: A awful lot of GoPro kit
The payload ready for panoramic duty
The mighty orb...
Caleb and his mighty orb
Hi-tech balloon control system
Ready to roll...
The payload finally came down close to Salado, Texas, some 70km northeast of the launch site, but once Caleb had recovered his kit, the work really began.
Cunningly using the GoPro audio tacks to sync the footage in Audacity, Caleb was able to pull selected single frames from each of the six cameras to produce some impressive panoramas (best viewed here in Caleb's panoramic viewer):
Stitching video proved somewhat more challenging, not least because of the rotation of the payload. Here's an entertaining view of an uncorrected panorama:
The results speak for themselves. Here's another panoramic view and video of payload touch-down as seen from all six cameras:
Another lovely view at 1,600m
Caleb told us he's entirely self-taught, and currently earns a crust as a simulation engineer, having in the past "worn the hats of game developer, console programmer, and software engineer".
Regarding future stratospheric plans, he said: "I am floating an idea in my head to do another big launch with 12 GoPro Hero 3 cameras, redundant tracking systems, more data gathering, and a ground-based optical tracking system using a telescope and some software (the mount for which and the hardware for which I'll have to develop). It won't be easy, nor will it be soon." ®