When Lytro came out with their rectangular tubed field camera that can adjust the depth of field even after you’ve taken the picture, I thought man, if they could do that with a movie camera it could change the way we make movies. Well, they have, and it’s going to make filmmakers completely rethink not only the way they film, but also how they make visual effects.
“Today marks another milestone at Lytro and an achievement that could very well change the future of filmmaking. We are proud to launch Lytro Cinema, the world’s first Light Field solution for cinema with breakthrough creative capabilities and unparalleled flexibility on set and in post-production.” – Lytro Cinema
How the Lytro light field camera works is by using a custom algorithm to convert differences in light and shadow to to detemine depth in three dimensional space. This information is then embedded in the image, and it will allow post processing to change not only the focal length of an image, but also the depth of field. The subject in focus can essentially be changed after the fact without having to reshoot.
Lytro has been using this for light field imagery in a still image camera since the device was introduced back in 2006. That camera was a square tube less than five inches long with a lens aperture in one end and a 1.5-inch LCD touch screen on the other.
It didn’t need a variable length zoom lens, because the technology was in the software itself. So it could virtually zoom, not digitally, mind you, and create different shots along the focal length and change the focus of the subject.
Now they’ve announced Lytro Cinema, which takes the lessons learned from the Light Field Camera’s various models, and applied them along the video spectrum. Lytro says that their Cinema Camera has 755 megapixels, and shoots in Raw at up to 40k resolution and at 300 fps, and produces a massive 400GB of data per second.
With that kind of metadata, directors and post-production artists will be able to manipulate their dailies by adjusting the depth of field, focus position, shutter speed or dynamic range… all after the fact. If you don’t like what the camera is focused on, you can merely change the focus. Want a darker image, adjust the light, or adjust shutter speed or aperture.
Not only that, but the director can decide after principal photography to create other image options including IMAX, RealD 3D, Dolby Vision, ACES, and create a higher frame rate presentation. All options are still on the table, no matter what the original image was shot at.
Editors will also be able to experiment with new shots that weren’t even filmed during principal photography, making it far cheaper by avoiding expensive reshoots. Not only that, but visual effects artists will be able to explore new ground by harvesting that distance information for more accurate CGI.
They’ll be able to create what Lytro calls a “depth screen,” that could do away with green screen chromakey to create virtual worlds. The Lytro image will be able to simply separate the subjects from the background and lift it into the virtual background and not have to deal with that pesky green or blue fringes due to inadequate lighting of the chromakey.
The Lytro Cinema system will come with the Light Field Cinema Camera itself, but also a local/cloud data storage stack which comes with all the software needed to harvest the visual data that the camera records.
But it isn’t cheap. At this stage, Lytro isn’t selling camera packages, but renting them at rates starting at $125,000. But when you consider that you can take the initial photography and change it from 2D to 3D, to virtual reality and beyond, it seems like that six figure sum starts to shrink by comparison to the options it gives you.
Hat Tip – Tech Crunch