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06_MexiBurguerWhen Microsoft Research produced its first gigapixel panorama of Seattle’s skyline in 2006, it was an amazing success in image compositing. But there was still something missing.

“Although the panorama was beautiful, it struck us upon exploring the image that there were hardly any people to be found,” explains Michael Cohen, a Principal Researcher in MSR’s Interactive Visual Media Group, in a blog post. “Whenever we discovered a person in the panorama, we were excited to think about who that individual was and why they were there. It was fun to spend hours exploring this single image. But we always wished there were more interesting things to find.”

When they revisited Seattle’s panoramic views, the MSR staff wanted to make sure that they added a bit of humanity into their work.

01_JumpingGirlThe result is Gigapixel ArtZoom, a gigantic, 20-gigapixel panorama of Seattle dotted with artists, performers and their works. Shot from the top of the Bay Vista condominium building, it lets users explore the streets and open spaces of Seattle to find local artists and performers, along with biographies and statements about the works on display. Contributions to the image include dance performances, art cars and acrobatic displays.

To get the final image, Microsoft Research staffers shot the artists using long telephoto lenses from atop the building over the course of several sessions in October, and then stitched them into an existing 20 gigapixel panorama shot from the same location using the company’s Image Composite Editor software. After months of work, users can now explore the fruits of their labors.

A hint you’re exploring the image: Most of the artists are near city landmarks.

For people who aren’t willing to patiently comb through the entire panorama for glimpses of the artists, there’s also a page that collects all of them whose contributions are included in the piece.

Here are a couple of videos showing how MSR managed to pull it all off:

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