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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 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 multimedia, 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 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, as a means of generating an immersive "panoptic" experience of a vista.
Cartographic experiments during the Enlightenment era preceded European panorama painting and contributed 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 by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, and by the 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.
In the mid-19th century, panoramic paintings and models became a very popular way to represent landscapes, topographic views 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. 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" (specifically the view from the summit of Calton Hill), 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 attracting visitors for 70 years, then closing in 1863, before being converted into the church of Notre Dame de France.
Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds developed a machine to remove errors in perspective that were created when a sequence of planar sketches was combined into a cylinder. It also projected the cylindrical drawing onto the wall of the rotunda at much larger scale to enable its accurate painting. The apparatus was exhibited at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in the early 1840s.
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. The painting measures about 10 metres in height with a circumference of 112 meters. 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). Also on a gigantic scale, and still extant, is the Racławice Panorama (1893) located in Wrocław, Poland, which measures 15 x 120 metres.
In addition to these historical examples, there have been panoramas painted and installed in modern times; prominent among these is the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles, California (2004).
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. 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.
Popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but now superseded by digital presentation software, Multi-image (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.
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 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 very wide curved screen, with three synchronized projectors, and IMAX Dome / OMNIMAX movies are projected on a dome above the spectators.
Panoramic representation can be generated from digital elevation models such as SRTM. In these diagrams, a panorama from any given point can be generated and imaged from the data.