In March 2011, I received an email from Jeffrey Martin asking for the fastest available computer to create a 20 gigapixel panorama of the FA Cup Final 2011 at the Wembley Stadium.
His plan was to shoot a 360 degree panorama of 1000 individual photographs with a digital SLR camera and bring it online the NEXT DAY!
What does that mean? Stitching 1000 images together and blending them into a single image is very extreme anyway. But running this task in just a view hours is nearly impossible, if you can not keep the
whole dataset in memory. Beside multiple CPU cores, RAM is the key, the more the better.
We were thrilled by Jeffrey´s idea and immediately committed our support. The Monster, this is how we (internally) call our CELSIUS R670 Workstation with 192 gigabytes of RAM and 24 CPU cores
was the perfect choice for this job. We used it for the 80 gigapixel worldrecord panoramic photo of London. It is equipped with 12x 16 gigabyte RAM modules. 16GB RAM modules are currently the biggest you can get.
For the upcoming event, we upgraded the machine to the latest 3,46Ghz Intel XEON X5690 CPUs, currently the fastest six core processors on the market. To maximize the transfer rate, we added a 6Gbit/s RAID controller and two high speed SSDs to the configuration. The SSDs are working in a RAID 0 stripe set. This gives us the best performance for temporary application data files. You have to know, that during the stitching, the software need to read and write thousands of small temporary files. On a regular hard disk setup, this will slow down everything and the CPU utilization will never go to the maximum.
The Monster was prepared for the fastest gigapixel stitching ever. Solid state disks rock!
Directly after the football game, Jeffrey loaded 1147 raw images (20GB total size) onto the Monster and started processing. Converting the raw images to jpg used all CPU cores but not all RAM.
Stitching used all CPU cores 100%, but not all RAM (cool!). Blending used not all CPU cores but all RAM. After only 2 hours, the final image, a 80 GB Photoshop file was written to the SSD Raid.
Opening the final image used nearly all the RAM. Puh! Just to give you an idea how big the file is, a 10 Megapixel Camera JPG file is 3888 x 2592 pixels, the 20 Gigapixel Wembley panorama is 200000 x 100000 pixels.
Here is a picture of Jeffrey in front of the Monster. It was taken shortly after the panorama went online on sunday morning.
Check out the video on Facebook here
See the 90,000 fans in one single images: http://wembley360.wembleystadium.com/
Thanks to Jeffrey Martin for another stunning peace of panoramic photography!