For other uses, see Panorama (disambiguation).
Panorama of the inner courtyard of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, in Tunisia

A panorama (formed from Greek πᾶν "all" + ὅραμα "sight") is any wide-angle view or representation of a physical space, whether in painting, drawing, photography, film, seismic images or a three-dimensional model. The word was originally coined in the 18th century[1] by the English (Irish descent) painter Robert Barker to describe his panoramic paintings of Edinburgh and London. The motion-picture term panning is derived from panorama.

A panoramic view is also purposed for multi-media, cross-scale applications to an outline overview (from a distance) along and across repositories. This so-called "cognitive panorama" is a panoramic view over, and a combination of, cognitive spaces[2] used to capture the larger scale.


The device of the panorama existed in painting, particularly in murals, as early as 20 A.D., in those found in Pompeii,[3] as a means of generating an immersive 'panoptic' experience of a vista.

"Vue circulaire des montagnes qu‘on decouvre du sommet du Glacier de Buet", from Horace-Benedict de Saussure, Voyage dans les Alpes, précédés d'un essai sur l'histoire naturelle des environs de Geneve. Neuchatel, l779-96, pl. 8.

Cartographic experiments during the Enlightenment era preceded European panorama painting and contributed [4] to a formative impulse toward panoramic vision and depiction.

This novel perspective was quickly conveyed to America by Benjamin Franklin who was present for the first manned balloon flight over Paris in 1783, and by American born physician, John Jeffries who had joined French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard on flights over England and the first aerial crossing of the English Channel in 1785.[5]

In the mid-19th century, panoramic paintings and models became a very popular way to represent landscapes, topographic views[6] and historical events. Audiences of Europe in this period were thrilled by the aspect of illusion, immersed in a winding 360 degree panorama and given the impression of standing in a new environment. The panorama was a 360-degree visual medium patented under the title Apparatus for Exhibiting Pictures by the artist Robert Barker in 1787. The earliest that the word "panorama" appeared in print was on June 11, 1791 in the British newspaper The Morning Chronicle, referring to this visual spectacle.[7] Barker created a painting, shown on a cylindrical surface and viewed from the inside, giving viewers a vantage point encompassing the entire circle of the horizon, rendering the original scene with high fidelity. The inaugural exhibition, a "View of Edinburgh", was first shown in that city in 1788, then transported to London in 1789. By 1793, Barker had built "The Panorama" rotunda at the center of London's entertainment district in Leicester Square, where it remained until closed in 1863.

A panorama of London by Robert Barker, 1792

Large scale installations enhance the illusion for an audience of being surrounded with a real landscape. The Bourbaki Panorama in Lucerne, Switzerland was created by Edouard Castres in 1881.[8] The painting measures about 10 metres in height with a circumference of 112 meters.[9] In the same year of 1881, the Dutch marine painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag created and established the Panorama Mesdag of The Hague, Netherlands, a cylindrical painting more than 14 metres high and roughly 40 meters in diameter (120 meters in circumference). In the United States of America is the Atlanta Cyclorama, depicting the Civil War Battle of Atlanta. It was first displayed in 1887, and is 42 feet high by 358 feet circumference (13 x 109 metres).[10] Also on a gigantic scale, and still extant, is the Racławice Panorama (1893) located in Wrocław, Poland, which measures 15 x 120 metres.[11]


360 degree panorama picture of the center courtyard of the Sony Center at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. This picture was calculated from 126 individual photos using autostitch

Panoramic photography soon came to displace painting as the most common method for creating wide views. Not long after the introduction of the Daguerreotype in 1839, photographers began assembling multiple images of a view into a single wide image.[12] In the late 19th century, flexible film enabled the construction of panoramic cameras using curved film holders and clockwork drives to rotate the lens in an arc and thus scan an image encompassing almost 180 degrees.

Pinhole cameras of a variety of constructions can be used to make panoramic images. A popular design is the "oatmeal box", a vertical cylindrical container in which the pinhole is made in one side and the film or photographic paper is wrapped around the inside wall opposite, and extending almost right to the edge of, the pinhole. This generates an egg-shaped image with more than 180° view.[13]

Popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but now superseded by digital presentation software, Multi-image[14] (also known as multi-image slide presentations, slide shows or diaporamas) 35mm slide projections onto one or more screens characteristically lent themselves to the wide screen panorama. They could run autonomously with silent synchronization pulses to control projector advance and fades, recorded beside an audio voice-over or music track. Precisely overlapping slides placed in slide mounts with soft-edge density masks would merge seamlessly on the screen to create the panorama. Cutting and dissolving between sequential images generated animation effects in the panorama format.

A 270 degree panorama stitched "in-camera". Many modern digital cameras can automatically stitch a sequence of images shot while the camera is rotated.

Digital photography of the late twentieth century greatly simplified this assembly process, which is now known as image stitching. Such stitched images may even be fashioned into forms of virtual reality movies, using technologies such as Apple Inc.'s QuickTime VR, Flash, Java, or even JavaScript. A rotating line camera such as the Panoscan allows the capture of high resolution panoramic images and eliminates the need for image stitching, but immersive "spherical" panorama movies (that incorporate a full 180° vertical viewing angle as well as 360° around) must be made by stitching multiple images. Stitching images together can be used to create extremely high resolution gigapixel panoramic images.

Panoramic view of the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array under the clear sky over the Chajnantor Plateau, in the Chilean Andes.[15]

Motion picture panorama technology

See also: Immersive video

On rare occasions, 360° panoramic movies have been constructed for specially designed display spaces—typically at theme parks, world's fairs, and museums. Starting in 1955, Disney has created 360° theaters for its parks[16] and the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland, features a theatre that is a large cylindrical space with an arrangement of screens whose bottom is several metres above the floor. Panoramic systems that are less than 360° around also exist. For example, Cinerama used a curved screen and IMAX Dome / OMNIMAX movies are projected on a dome above the spectators.

Non-photographic digital panoramic representation

Panoramic representation can be generated from SRTM and other forms of laser or radar derived range-measurement data. In these diagrams, a panorama from any given point[17] can be generated and imaged from the data.[18]

See also


  1. A Review of ‘The Panoramic River,’ at the Hudson River Museum -
  2. For more see the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics.
  3. Grau, Oliver; Custance, Gloria (2003), Virtual art : from illusion to immersion ([Rev. and expanded ed.] ed.), MIT Press, ISBN 978-0-262-07241-0
  4. as argued in Oettermann, Stephan, The Panorama: History of a Mass Medium. trans. Deborah Lucas Schneider (New York: Zone Books, 1997)
  5. John Jeffries. Two Voyages of Dr Jeffries with Mons. Blanchard (London. 1786: reprint, New York: [Aeronautical Archive of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences and the Works Projects Administration]. 1941 ), 17, 20.
  6. The USA Library of Congress holds 1,172 images of panoramic maps of American towns and cities and the British Library has panoramas of UK cities and towns, and of many in its colonies
  7. This reference, the earliest found so far, is suggested by Scott Wilcox in 'Erfindung und Entwicklung des Panoramas in Grossbritannien', Sehsucht. Das Panorama als Massenunterhaltung des 19 Jahrhunderts, edited by Marie-Louise von Plessen, Ulrich Giersch. Basel and Frankfurt am Main: Stroemfeld/Roter Stern, 1993, p. 35 (note 11)
  8. The Bourbaki Panorama, which shows the plight of the French Troops of General Bourbaki in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, is the subject of Jeff Wall's 1993 photograph Restoration. Wall constructed a fictitious scene in which actual conservators were posed as if they were in the process of restoring the painting which was not in fact undergoing restoration at the time. (Mieszkowski, Jan (2012), Watching war, Stanford, California Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-8240-1 p.91)
  9. Bernard Comment (2004),Panorama, Reaktion Books, page 214
  10. Marty Olmstead (2002), Hidden Georgia, Ulysses Press, page 204
  11. Jan Stanisław Kopczewski (1976), Kosciuszko and Pulaski, Interpress, page 220
  12. for example, the Cincinnati Panorama (1848), a daguerreotype by Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter. 6½ x 68 inches (15.24 by 21.59 cm). Held at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
  13. Eric Renner (2008). Pinhole photography from historic technique to digital application (4th ed). Amsterdam Focal Press pps. 129-140
  14. Kenny, Michael F.; Schmitt, Raymond F. (1983). Images, Images, Images: The Book of Programmed Multi-Image Production. New York: Eastman Kodak. ISBN 978-0-87985-327-3.
  15. "ALMA Panoramic View with Carina Nebula". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  16. Joshua C. Shaffer (2010), Discovering the Magic Kingdom: An Unofficial Disneyland Vacation Guide, AuthorHouse, page 200 ISBN 1452063125
  17. McAdoo, B. G., Richardson, N., & Borrero, J. (2007). Inundation distances and run‐up measurements from ASTER, QuickBird and SRTM data, Aceh coast, Indonesia. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 28(13-14), 2961-2975.
  18. Fedorov, R., Fraternali, P., & Tagliasacchi, M. (2014, November). Mountain peak identification in visual content based on coarse digital elevation models. In Proceedings of the 3rd ACM International Workshop on Multimedia Analysis for Ecological Data (pp. 7-11). ACM.

Further reading

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