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Photog's Olympic challenge: Getting 70,000 people into one photo

July 25, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • The Olympic flame in Nottingham.
The Olympic flame in Nottingham. (Chris Wilkinson and John…)

He's not an athlete, but Getty Images photographer Henry Stuart is taking on an enormous challenge this Olympic season: With the help of a couple of cameras, a robotic mount and a super-fast computer from Fujitsu, he plans to create a high-resolution photograph of the Olympics opening ceremony, with enough detail that each person in attendance can zoom in and tag themselves in the image.

The final photo will be up to 20 gigapixels in size.

Stuart specializes in giant 360-degree photos, but he's never done one this large before.

Officials are expecting about 70,000 people to attend the Olympic opening ceremony. Stuart says he has shot 20,000 people in a stadium before, but that was the largest group he's ever worked with.

"70,000 is a huge number," he said.

To take the photo, Stuart will use a robotic camera mount that spins around taking photos of the crowd in rows and columns to make sure that he catches the scene in its entirety. He will also have a second identical camera that he will use to capture important moments, so he can stitch those into the final photo.

Then he will run back to his office to download the photos into the new computer, built specifically for photos this size, by Fujitsu. The computer, which Stuart calls the "monster" is about the size of four desktop computers and has 32 processing cores and 250 gigabytes of RAM. 

Next comes the arduous task of fitting the hundreds of photos together into one enormous file. The computer will help, but Stuart will spend hours checking its work, making sure it doesn't cut off someone's feet or head. Trying to get it as perfect as possible.

If everything goes right, he hopes to have the photo up on Getty Image's website 18 hours after he took it.

Good luck, Stuart!

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