Price When Reviewed: 300 . 75
Pros: Comprehensively featured, easy-touse panorama stitching tool with efficient workflow for QuickTime VR, movie, web and print output.
Cons: Now under Autodesk ownership, this version adds only a few genuinely new features over the RealViz-developed version 5.7; pricey.
Stitcher is a multi-image alignment, stitching and rendering tool for creating wide-angle, fully circular or even fully spherical seamless panoramas from multiple originals taken with standard cameras using either standard lenses or ultra-wide-angle fisheyes. It’s generally regarded as the most versatile in the business, though not the cheapest. This is the first new release of Stitcher since its original developer RealViz was bought by 3D developer Autodesk in May last year.
RealViz introduced Stitcher in 2000, but it was Stitcher 5.0 (read our review here) in 2005 that introduced huge advances in capabilities and usability. In particular, it gained the ability to create cubic images from multi-row originals (which capture everything visible in a complete sphere around the viewpoint), for QuickTime players, VRML and other web embedding and 3D environment maps.
Although the publicity material highlights an impressive set of features for Stitcher Unlimited 2009, it turns out that most of these were already available in the previous version. Autodesk is apparently trying to introduce Stitcher as a new concept to its user base in the 3D sector, so it’s stressing all features, not just the new ones. The panoramas it creates can also be used with the ex-RealViz ImageModeler (read our review here), also recently upgraded by Autodesk, to create 3D models with photographic textures from two or more images.
Stitcher Unlimited is now the only version available, at £300. The previous lower-cost Stitcher Pro and consumer-level Stitcher Express 2 have been dropped. The upgrade price from version 5.7 is quite reasonable at £75, although less so from version 5.6 or earlier, which costs £150. An upgrade from Stitcher Express costs £250.
The Mac OS X edition runs with Intel hardware only, while the Windows version runs with XP or Vista.
Autodesk says that the highlights of Stitcher Unlimited 2009 include the fully automatic engine for alignment, stitching and colour-correction of images, manual points-matching for difficult images, the ability to select the rendering area, placement of a tripod cap image at the base of spherical images, and the ability to display and stitch 32-bit high dynamic range images in HDR or OpenEXR file formats from external programs (including Photoshop).
Support for two- or three-shot back-to-back images taken with circular 180 plus-degree fisheye lenses was added in the previous version – this is popular with property agents because shooting is so fast.