“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what if feels like.” – David Alan Harley
What if you could capture a whole, breathtaking in-game scenery without neglecting any detail because of the limited framing? Three weeks ago or so I discovered an interesting feature, with which we can make Panoramic screenshots in games just with a few simple clicks.
Did you ever stop walking to admire your surroundings; the trees, the sun, the river, the lights?
I personally love taking my time to memorize what I have around, even when I play a video game comfortably sit on my chair in front of the LCD screen. While what I see is digitally created and not real at all I realize how many hours, days, months or even years of work someone spent to create that building we don’t pay attention to, that area we visit for just five minutes, those things we leave behind because we barely notice them.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Assassin’s Creed: Unity was single-handedly recreated by Senior Level Artist Caroline Miousse, who spent more than two years on constructing the iconic monument. More than 730 days working over a 3D reconstruction our character can climb and explore as soon as we unlock it, yet we may just forget about it completely being busy with the main story and trying to complete the many side quests.
I personally don’t want to miss out anything, the little bird flying above me nor the grass I’m stepping on. The piece of paper at my feet, the dog or the cat lied down in a dark alley.
Because to me realism is everything in a game.
What is Panorama, then?
The Panorama technique, commonly known as Stitching, is a professional method used in real life photography to ‘sew’ different shots taken from the same scene in a single picture. Although it requires some fixes once the final image is created, the overall process is quite quick and very simple.
In order to make clean shots in your game you have to be sure the HUD is completely hidden. Certain games already allow you to remove the interface from their settings, but you generally still get annoying icons and/or a character you cannot move away from the camera unless you have a first-person point of view (and unless you want the player to be visible in the scene).
Many talented programmers and coders have created different tools and cheats in order to break the in-game limits, removing the UI and unlocking the camera for completely new angles. Dead End Thrills is a very useful site with a lot of interesting guides for all the supported games so far, with tons of links for trainers, tools of the trade and binding lines to insert in a configuration file. New tutorials are added every now and then to the list, I highly recommend to save the page in your bookmarks for future updates 😉
Once you have your game loaded you can start taking shots moving the camera around. I made some quick photos in a random area from DmC: Devil May Cry just to show you the shooting operation.
I removed the HUD, activated the free camera and applied an additional Depth of Field effect in the background, then I positioned the camera in a random spot on the left and rotated it to the right saving a picture for every single frame. Be sure to keep your camera perfectly aligned or else the final image will not look right. The whole scene should be paused and still, too (you can either use the pausing key in-game or one of the provided cheats).
Now that we have our images ready we can proceed to the next step, I’m using different screenshots here which work best for the stitching. There are actually a few programs that manage to put everything together, even Photoshop works for that through the Photomerge plugin. If I have to choose between the available options though, I’d definitely pick Image Composite Editor; free, easy and super fast.
Tthe program includes three different buttons to work on a Panorama. For what we need to do with the screenshots we made, New Panorama from Images is the option we have to select. A new window will appear, search for your pictures and load them all at once into the Editor. The Structured panorama allows you to play around with the composition manually, but I suggest you to just keep it as it is, set on Auto-detect. Sometimes though, the Planar motion with skew panorama may give you better results, depending on the “curvature” of the scene. Once your screenshots are all imported click on the Stitch tab and wait until the merging process is finished, the speed may change according to your RAM amount and image size.
This is how your final picture will look. By default it’s set on Cylindrical most of the time, but you can try the other options to see what kind of results you can get from the stitched composition. I mostly use Cylindrical, Stereographic and Perspective, depending on the number of shots I’m merging. When you’re satisfied and ready to continue, switch to the Crop tab.
As you can see we have a small issue here where you can clearly notice the image is curved in a “fishy” shape and doesn’t properly fill the entire selection. However, it is possible to fix it in the program directly instead of using an external application like Photoshop or Gimp. Simply click on the Auto complete button on the right and voilà! The empty edges will be filled even if you may still need to cut out some parts to get rid of badly stitched areas.
Once you’re happy with your composition click on Export and save your final picture.
Next to File format you have a drop-down menu to change the image from JPEG to any other format of your preference (I recommend PNG to preserve the quality), to save the picture click on Export to disk and place it in your archive.