Rediscovering History with Photoshop

2021, Feb 07

While Photoshop is a great tool to have in your development arsenal for basic image editing needs ( we use it at work often for touching up logos and generating sprites for our on-screen TV keyboard ) I've also found it super helpful in various side projects ( such as hand-coloring or retouching blemishes from old black & white photos. )

Recently, I discovered it can also be used effectively to extract panoramas from videos, as this YouTube video demonstrates.

This inspired me to apply the same concept to a couple of historic videos taken from my hometown (Paris, Texas.) Granted, this older footage wasn't captured from a precisely-positioned drone. Nevertheless, I was still ultimately impressed with the results.

The first video was recorded by Phil Johnson in 1964. Because he panned the camera around the downtown square, I was able to take advantage of those video frames by extracting them and culling the unnecessary / blurry stills. Then after processing those with Photoshop's Auto-Align Layers and Auto-Blend Layers, I ended with this set of nicely generated panoramas:

parispan64 square ne parispan64 square e parispan64 square nw

Happy with the results, I decided to repeat the same experiment with another video ( filmed from same location, but in 1927. )

This time I cranked it up a notch. In addition to generating multiple panoramas I also composited those together to create a super panorama. To accomplish this I relied on Photoshop's Free Transform and Content Fill options to smoothly align and blend the overlapping sections.

parispan27 square comp

I was quite amazed with the results. Seeing the old downtown square in one single wide shot gave me a unique way to view and appreciate the past.

Here's a colorized version from the same shot:

parispan27 square comp color