Image: 20 gigapixel image of Canberra, Australia taken from the Telstra Tower.

GigaVision – Quantifying plant life-cycles from organism to ecosystem

The Gigavision camera is a wireless, waterproof 1-2 gigapixel (billion pixel) time-lapse camera system that enables “light-phenotyping” of every plant in a 10 hectare area at an approximate cost of $50 per plant over multiple seasons.

The gigavision camera hardware is closely integrated with cloud-based data collection, collaborative and educational tools that help make these types of data useful for a wide range of applications from scientific research to education to public outreach.

Co-visualization of all of these data types provides researchers with a powerful a new tool for examining complex ecological interactions across scales from the genome to the ecosystem.

If you are interested in collaborating with us to build another camera or to use our datasets please Contact Us.

Learn More

  • Here’s a recent talk on the Gigavision System from ESA 21012 in Melbourne
  • View a movie showing the online interface and data collection.
  • Read our Book Chapter (PDF) describing the technical details of the Gigavision System

Online Data collection tools

Gigavision time-lapse player for 6 months of data from the Indiana Dunes, USA

View with phenology data here



Available Datasets


  • Location of camera: +41° 40′ 35.97″, -87° 1′ 7.14″ —  Map
  • Data dates:Oct 2009 – Oct 2001
  • Images/day: 1-4
  • Total noon panoramas: 417
  • Area of view: ~7ha

 Fernessville Back Dune

  • Location of camera: Map
  • Images/day: 1-2
  • Area of View: ~500m2

Salt Lake City

  • Location of Camera: Map
  • Images per day: ~12 (1 per two hours)
  • Area of view: 360 degrees – All of Salt Lake City (Huge)


Current Work

In addition to processing the data from our three existing data sets, we are seeking to install a Gigavision camera on the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain (see image at top of page) near ANU in Canberra. From this viewpoint we will be able to capture phenology in 1,000s of Eucalypts on Black Mountain as well as the growth of all the forests at the new National Arboretum. We are also establishing repeat photography locations for capturing time-series gigapans at various locations at ANU and at the ANU Coastal Campus at Kioloa

9.7 gigapixel image of the ANU Kiloa Coastal Campus, NSW, Australia


Prior to developing the automated gigavision system We used the panoramic tripod mount and canon powershot SX10IS camera to take sand dune blowout ecosystem panoramics at almost weekly intervals through 2009.

We will continue to shoot multiple gigapans in the field on a weekly basis and we plan to install additional automatic Gigavision cameras in the field as resources permit. The Gigavision system increase our sample rate to hourly intervals through the growing season. The high resolution (~ 32Gb memory card swapped weekly) will allow plant level zoom and play. Thumbnails are being transmitted the stitched in real time for habitat level observations.


Gigavision hardware

System description

Gigavision is a hardware/software system that enables recording and analysis of decades-long time‑lapse images of the environment at a scale of billions of pixels. Gigapixel resolution time-lapse images make possible visual and numeric analysis of phenological and environmental change across a wide spatial range from the level of the individual to the ecosystem. Gigavision data can be embedded in geospatial visualization tools such as Google Earth and Google maps and used in interactive kiosk displays in National Parks and conservation areas. In addition to scientific applications, gigapixel time-lapse datasets can be used to create compelling video content to promote conservation and educate the public about climate change and other slow but significant environmental change. Gigapixel image sets can also be integrated into online interactive educational products.

The Gigavision system consists of a recording and playback system that work together seamlessly. The primary goal in system design is to maximize ease of use both in deployment of the recording system and in analysis and visualization of the recorded data. A core design principle for the TimeSystem playback system is to maximize standardization in a way that facilitates the widest possible range of uses for the recorded data.

The Gigavision recording system uses a standard 10 megapixel SLR digital camera, a computer controlled pan-tilt mechanism, a mini-computer or microcontroller, solid state data storage, a weatherproof housing and an off-grid power supply. Gigavision systems will be designed to work in rugged environments while streaming live data directly to the web via a cellular or standard 802.11 wireless connection. Optional components include weather sensors and other abiotic sensor arrays.

The Gigavision recording system will be developed to work with the TimeSystem software package created by TimeScience. The TimeSystem software is an innovative data visualization system designed to facilitate easy analysis and management of time-lapse images and related data. With both a desktop and web-based interface, TimeSystem enables easy sharing of data, collaboration between researchers and promotes a wide range of uses for long-term data sets, from academic research to educational modules. The TimeSystem interface is easily configured for use by a range of user groups from research scientists, to educators, to conservation groups. The TimeSystem software allows users to quickly create high definition video of landscape change or any other interesting event for presentations, public outreach or conservation campaigns. The TimeSystem can also function in a kiosk installation to provide compelling interactive time-lapse content for National Parks and conservation areas.


How it works

Gigavision description

How a gigavision camera works. A. A camera on a pan-tilt-zoom takes 100’s to thousands of overlapping images. B. These images are stitched into a single 1-2 billion pixel panoramic image. C. You can zoom into every plant in the scene to record (D) time-series phenology data.

The Gigavision recording system consists of a stock 10 megapixel SLR digital camera with a 100–200mm zoom lens, a computer controlled pan-tilt mechanism, a netbook mini-computer or microcontroller, a weatherproof housing and an off-grid power supply. Optional components include a weather system and other abiotic sensor arrays, wireless connectivity (either via the cellular GSRM network or standard 802.11 internet wireless).

Each gigapixel image is created by shooting a panorama consisting of 200 – 300 overlapping 10 megapixel images taken over a 5-10 minute period. Individually, each image captures a high resolution snapshot of a tiny portion of the total view; when stitched together, these images create a 1-2 billion pixel image of a 180 degree view of the landscape.

The camera and pan-tilt unit are controlled with custom-designed software running on a pc or microcontroller. For each snapshot in the full panorama, the computer sets the camera position with the pan-tilt unit, snaps a photo and downloads the image to the hard drive. If the system is enabled for wireless internet access, the computer then uploads all the images to the Gigavision server where the individual images are processed into a full panorama.


TimeSystem playback system for Gigavision images

In addition to research applications, Gigvision imagesets provide an exceptional opportunity for creating unique educational displays for museums, national parks and tourist destination. A TimeSystem kiosk installation consists of a playback computer, a large LCD display and a controller. The kiosk interface consists of a large arcade-style spinning dial for moving through time and a joystick for zooming and panning in the images. Future version could have an interface similar to the telescopes common at tourist sites. Just as with a regular mounted telescope, the user could zoom and pan around within the view, however the TimeSystem-enabled telescope would show either the live image or recorded images from the timelapse, allowing the user to look back in time while they zoomed and panned within the view the were exploring. TimeSystem kiosk systems could play back image streams from both on-site camera systems as well as any remote camera with the images downloaded via the internet. In a National Park or other conservation setting, a TimeSystem kiosk would provide resource managers with a compelling, interactive tool to showcase environmental change, restoration efforts, etc.


Online visualization of Gigavision data consists of a Flash-based playback system similar to the desktop version. Initial functionality will mimic the desktop version to the greatest extent possible within the constraints of existing bandwidth and processor limitations. The online Gigavision system will provide user accounts so individuals can customize data views and data sets and share data within collaborative groups, etc. Online tools will include bookmarking and the ability to export or download, movies, subsets of data and individual images, etc. A web-based interface also permits additional collaborative, social-networking and educational functionalities not possible in the desktop version. For example, the online interface can provide user accounts for different user groups such as “researcher”, “educator”, “student”, etc. For each group or individual, the site administrator will be able to select what datasets are available. Each user group will also have sets of tools aimed for their primary needs.  For example researchers might have collaborative tools geared towards collaboration and publication of results. Educators could have tools to create a constrained dataset more appropriate to a certain grade level and students users could have tools for writing reports and working on projects as a group.

Project Contacts

The Gigavision camera system was developed in a partnership between the Borevitz Lab and TimeScience.