Babbage Difference Engine In Gigapixels
Written by David Conrad   
Saturday, 01 December 2012

If you know even a little about the history of computing you will know that one of the first calculating engines was Babbage's Difference Engine. Now you can view a reconstruction in Gigapixel glory. Even if you have no interest in the subject matter, it's an eye opening experience of Gigapixel imagery.

There are two reconstructions of the difference engine: one in the London Science Museum and the other in the Computer History Museum Mountain View CA. Both machines were built to prove that it could be done and that Charles Babbage might have gone on to create a full working Analytic Engine - a Victorian computer.

Earlier in the year xRez Studios was commissioned to make a Gigapixel image of the machine in the Computer History Museum.  Gigapixel images are based on the technique used in mapping applications such as Google Earth. The huge photos are delivered to the user as tiles which are selected according to the area being viewed and the zoom level.




The problem with creating a Gigapixel image of a machine like the Difference engine is that at such close range focus becomes critical:

"The combination of a very telephoto lens and shooting at this proximity reduces the depth of field (area in focus) down to the centimeter scale. The challenging shoot required a complex custom solution that orchestrated Gigapixel motion control using a Rodeon VR head, computer controlled focus and focus stacking software."

Focus stacking is a computational photography technique where multiple photographs taken at different focus distances are combined to create a single photo with a much enhanced depth of field. In simple terms, focus stacking takes the in focus areas in a number of photos to create a single photo with all of the areas in focus.

"It required 2 days to test for and shoot four cardinal views of the complex and beautiful object, each containing up to 1,350 images and as many as 28 images in each focus stack."

The result, on xRez Difference Engine, is worth seeing and if you think that things aren't very sharp just wait a moment for the appropriate tile to load and be amazed as it snaps into focus.

There are four complete views of the device and a high resolution movie of it in action was also shot and you can see it below:




More Information

xRez Difference Engine


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