How to create a 3D panorama of the battle of Borodino

    Last year, Russia's victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 was celebrated. The battle of Borodino is considered its key event. But, unfortunately, there are very few high-quality presentation (graphic and video) materials on this topic on the Internet, and the information in written sources is contradictory. In contrast, for example, from the United States, where museum archives and historical data are actively digitized and laid out for public viewing.

    To correct this misunderstanding, in October 2012 we created a 3D panorama of the Battle of Borodino as a gift for the memorable date. In fact, we made a photo reproduction of the famous panorama picture, and also drew the missing fragments, added sounds and tooltips so that the viewer could feel himself at the epicenter of events.

    Specialists in 3D graphics can reasonably point out that this is not 3D at all, since all objects are flat. In this case, the term “3D panorama” is used as generally accepted in the industry, and, in general, roughly understood by advanced Internet users.

    Photographing and gluing

    At the very beginning, the photographer went to the museum and took 40 photographs in a circle. He was not allowed to take pictures from a tripod (and there was very little time for coordination before the onset of the festive moment, in addition, the idea was to present the work as a surprise), so he took pictures using improvised tools, which made gluing a little more difficult at the next stage, but overall the result was worthy.

    Then, using the LightRoom editor in batch mode, basic color correction was carried out and the photos were converted from digital negatives to a format more suitable for work at the gluing stage.

    For gluing photos in a single row, the PTGUI program was used. Built-in algorithms automatically placed the photos in the right places, but due to the fact that the photos were taken without a tripod and at different unpredictable angles, some joints between the glued photos turned out to be of poor quality, and I had to manually set the control points for gluing the photos, but the result is still not was perfect. In the end, some joints had to be corrected in Photoshop (at later stages).

    The dimensions of the glued image are impressive. It became noticeable that the computer used at that moment could hardly cope with such volumes of calculations.

    Earth and sky

    The generated image was imported into Photoshop, and the most difficult was to draw the sky and the earth.

    Everything was simple with the sky - since it contains almost no information, the upper half was flooded with the background color, after which clouds, birds and smoke were drawn using the “stamp” tool.

    But with the ground it was much more complicated. Firstly, the earth was a huge number of details and textures that needed to be drawn, which in itself under the external simplicity of the picture for the viewer hides a huge amount of work for the artist.

    And secondly, it was required that after gluing the panorama into a 3D sphere or square, the fragments on the opposite parts of the image would stick together seamlessly.

    Green color shows the areas that had to be finished.

    At first, the earth, by analogy with the sky, was roughly painted over with a stamp tool, and then objects and textures from various sources were gradually added.

    For the convenience of working with objects, the picture was converted using the Pano2VR program into a cubic projection, in which, unlike the equidistant one, there are no strong distortions, only six flat squares that can be operated like with ordinary flat photographs.

    Here’s what’s about to happen with clouds, if you draw them without taking into account distortions in an equidistant projection, and then upload the image to the 3D panorama viewer and look at the sky:

    Therefore, for convenience, the image was converted to a cubic projection (the illustration below shows the projection with the drawn heaven and earth):

    Some lovers of historical facts reproached us for using our imagination and painting details without historical value (debris, pits, soil scattered on the ground, etc.). Nevertheless, it was washed away, because without the drawn sky and earth the panorama would not be complete, it would not produce the proper impression, and the effect of presence would be lost.

    Adding Tooltips

    When the heavens and the earth were drawn, pleasant details were added, and the computer with grief in half several times converted from one projection to another file a couple of gigabytes in size, it seemed that the work was moving towards completion, and the worst was over. It was necessary to make tips, add sounds and upload work to the site.
    But at the time of writing and placing pop-up tips in the space, it turned out that some data on the location of troops contradict each other. Moreover, it turned out that the panorama itself is not a historically correct reflection of the course of the battle, but combines its key points, sometimes supplemented by the artist with even conflicting details.

    More information about the artist’s mistakes can be found in the article ("around the world" magazine), a link to the article is given at the end.
    Graphic elements - buttons, pointers, as well as the hints themselves are made in the form of PNG images, which are dynamically loaded into the panorama flash file when you hover over the pointer. This is convenient, because if you need, for example, to correct a typo in the text, there is no need to download and modify the entire file with a panorama.

    Voice acting

    To voice the battle, it was necessary to find a suitable sound line. It was impossible to voice ourselves - the sounds of horses, hundreds of screams, shots from guns were needed. Searches for sound drains dragged on, since a historically suitable record was hidden among thousands of records of modern battles with automatic bursts and screams in English. However, after some time, it was possible to find a sound recording from the reconstruction of the 19th century battle, which was perfect for the soundtrack of the panorama of the battle of Borodino.

    In addition to the main sound background, for added realism, sounds tied to a particular point in space were added.

    Export panoramas and launch a project

    Using standard Pano2VR editor tools, the panorama was exported to a SWF file for viewing on ordinary computers, as well as HTML5 (xml, html and javascript) for viewing on tablet computers and mobile phones. Unfortunately, due to lack of time and incorrect operation on some devices, it was not possible to implement gyro support for navigating in a panorama, and this function was decided to refuse.

    When exporting, the panorama was automatically divided into a huge number of small square fragments, so during loading the panorama is loaded with "squares". This solution allows you to reduce the waiting time for the panorama to load.

    After the launch of the site with a 3D panorama placed on it, the news about the project quickly spread across the Internet, began to appear on various news and educational portals, and, most pleasantly, on entertainment portals (where young people are sitting and often spend time aimlessly). Thus, it was possible to attract the attention of the younger generation to the theme of the Patriotic War of 1812. An important role in the development of the project was played by our partners - the educational portal Thanks to their support, on the first day several thousand schoolchildren learned about the project and visited the panorama website.


    By our own resources and means, we created the opportunity to see the panorama of the Battle of Borodino to any resident of Russia via the Internet, and now we don’t need to go to Moscow. It will be great if, after reading this article, enthusiasts who want to continue the work appear.

    What famous panoramas in our country have not yet been digitized:

    • The assault of the village of Akhulgo (Makhachkala)
    • Defense of Sevastopol (Sevastopol)
    • Volochaev battle (Khabarovsk)
    • The Liberation of Proskurov (Khmelnitsky)
    • Breakthrough of the blockade of Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    (not all are listed here)

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