Summary: Expand Panorama Merge GUI to allow "hints" of how wide and tall the pano is ... or even as detailed as the number of rows, starting file-name, and count within each row.
I'm impressed by the CS4 "Panorama Merge" capability, but am frustrated by how slow it is. Here in Colorado Springs, CO USA on the "Front Range" of the Rocky Mountains, we have terrific opportunities for scenice panos. From multiple vistas, I can see USAFA, Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, and Cheyenne Mountain.
We humans are great at pattern recognition. It is easy for me to know which image belongs to the left, right, above, or below the file of interest. I also can easily tell the first and last file within a row. I am amazed that CS4 can line up which file belongs where. It seems well able to handle the general case of not knowing whether the images are in rows, in columns, or even a random order. I have no idea if there are heuristics of starting with adjacent files from a time-stamp point of view.
Lately I've been going out "pano hunting" with a 15mp Canon 50D DSLR. I often return with 400+ RAW .cr2's, in perhaps 30+ groups of 3 files up to 200 grouped images (trying to get a giga-pixel pano with one billion pixels to come out).
With individual non-pano pictures, it is quick and straight-forward to accept or reject an image .... you glance at it in Bridge and make a decision. With panos, most of the images are in daylight on a tripod, and so are technically acceptable. However, I can't tell if they are keepers or rejects until I actually let CS4 grind through the group. I find this to be very tedous with lots of manual interventions.
I have tried out the Bridge menu-item for "Tools + Photoshop + Process Collections in Photoshop", but my experience is that this doesn't work all that well (and I have made a Feature Request related to it). Perhaps it works ok for small groups (5 or under), but hasn't worked that well for me with larger groups (but the saying goes ... a poor craftsman blames his tools).
Even if the "Process Collections in Photoshop" worked well, it "grinds" for a long time discovering the layout that I could provide easily.
With a complex pano with "tiers / rows" of images, my speculation is that it would speed up pano generation to make provision to specify the beginning and ending file-names of the row. I would gladly accept the reduced flexibility to speed up CS4 pano generation. My pattern is to work left to right, and top to bottom.
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
For the above example, I might specify something like
Row 1: 01 - 10
Row 2: 11 - 22
Row 3: 23 - 32
I would accept the restriction that I have to shoot in a certain pattern, if that would speed things up.
At some point, I will try software that is specialized for panoramas, but I am reluctant to do this. My budget is limited, and CS4 drained it for 2009 and most of 2010.
My main interest is in speeding up Pano-Merge. I have a reasonably modern, capable computer ... Win-7-64-Home-Premium with Intel e8400 core-2-dual, 8gb of DRAM, pair of WD 300gb 10k-rpm VelociRaptors, and 64gb SSD (upgrading to 160gb Intel SSD next week).
But perhaps I'm unaware of a work-around, existing solution, or I'm doing something wrong?