For years, computer graphics have been a dominant force in cinema, pushing out practical graphics. But there’s been a disconnect the entire time. Computer graphics, no matter how great they are, are 3D artwork composited into 2D video. It means we get, for all the great effects, some really goofy ones. Lytro, though, is looking to change all that with their new light field camera.
The technology’s already out there, to a degree. Lytro’s Illum camera uses light field tech to create photographs that allow things like selective focus, 3D photography, and angle adjustment. This is sort of like that, but amped way up.
The Lytro Cinema is a 755 megapixel video camera that can capture video at up to 40K resolution and 300 frames per second, creating a staggering amount of data – 400 gigabytes per second. An hour of video on this thing would be 1.44 million gigabytes. The camera pulls in what’s called light field data, bringing in all the available light in a given frame to create a three dimensional grid.
Lytro’s lead engineer on the project, Brendan Bevensee, explains that it can capture “different perspectives, different focal planes, and different apertures,” as it stores all the light and depth information. That means that even after you’re done filming you can adjust the angle a bit on top of stuff like shifting the depth of field and focus.
The power of the Lytro Cinema doesn’t stop there, though. Because it’s capturing information in 3D, you can simply leave stuff out. Like a green screen, for example. You can film someone in a room and cut out the background and, as the video above demonstrates, put them anywhere you like.
Lytro has a software package to go with this, and the whole deal is something they plan to rent out – hardware, software, storage, and all.
As a photographic camera, the results are interesting, amusing, and to some, useful, but the cinematic camera has the potential to change the way movies are made more than anything since color. It’ll likely take a while to get a foothold, but what it’s doing looks like it could be too appealing for filmmakers to pass up.
That scene in Blade Runner where Harrison Ford’ character is “enhancing” an image at angles the camera couldn’t possibly have captured? By the time 2019, the year Blade Runner takes place in, gets here, we might already be there.