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just wanted to figure out whether photosynth synths according to the order that the photos were taken or according to the way they stitch together. i recently synthed a series which seems to move back and forth between the scene rather than seemlessly moving from right to left or left to right.
If you're asking what the playback order is when you view a synth, then by default the playback order is a spatial order of the photos.
When Photosynth synths the photos (which is to say, when it scans their textures for matching patterns and performs the calculations to determine where they must be in relation to each other for those patterns to appear in the places which they do in the photos before the synth is published) it actually compares each photo to every other photo, so asking whether photosynth 'synths' [the photos] according to the way they stitch together seems a little confused.
If you switch to grid/2D/images mode you will see Photosynth's spatial order. It will show exactly which photos were able to synth into the same groups and which order it is going to play them back in. An important distinction is that the default first photo will probably not be the one in the upper left corner in the largest group of photos (unless your synth is 100% synthy). The first photo displayed by default is the photo determined to have the widest angle view within the largest group of photos. (This is so that there will be plenty of images in front of the viewer to click on when the synth first loads.) This might mean even the very last photo in the largest group of photos.
You can change the slideshow order between Photosynth's spatial order and the filename order (which should be the order in which the photos were taken) by using the [Edit Synth] button on your synths when you're signed in. Filename order is only really good for 100% synthy synths, though, otherwise you may wander between different groups of photos, making a complete mess of experiencing as many photos linked to each other as possible. On synths where the author has not enabled 'filename order', but you would like to see what it looks like, you can use the fullstop key [.] to move forward and the comma key [,] to move backwards.
More useful is the ability to change the first photo that is loaded in a synth (also found behind the [Edit Synth] button. This way you can set the first photo to the first image in the largest group for spatial order or the actual first photo that you took when your synth is set to 'filename order'.
Here are a few older conversations related to what you're asking about: