Lytro is a company which specialises in producing Light Field Cameras. The technology is complex but effectively these cameras allow the user to focus and make other changes the image after it's been taken. Put simply the cameras not only record the colours in an image, but also how far away everything is from the camera and which direction light is travelling in.
Whilst Lytro have had limited success with the stills cameras which were their first products, they have recently prototyped a cinema camera which can record moving images. The camera is a beast as can be seen below, but what it can do is very impressive.
Here are the stats on this monster camera -
- 755 (raw) megapixels
- 300gb data/s recording capability
- 16f stops
- Comes with it's own server to store the captured data
- Number crunching to produce an image is handled by Google Cloud
- Rental prices start at $125,000
- F0.3 aperture
- 1 foot image sensor
The data recorded by this camera allows you to do a number of clever things and these include:
- refocusing the footage after it's shot
- keying in a similar way to using a green screen without the need of a green screen
- perspective camera moves after the footage has been shot
- easy integration with computer generated environments
It's the last point that we feel has the most profound implications for our industry. If VR takes off as a lot of people are predicting it will, then one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the easy creation of photo realistic VR environments that the user can move freely within - this camera helps make that possible.
Currently there are two distinct routes to creating VR:
- by using a camera which records a 360 degree environment from a static point - the user can look anywhere they want, but they can't move from the spot.
- by creating a computer generated environment similar to a computer game and using computer gaming technology to allow the user free movement within that space.
The second of these options is the most exciting and is the logical destination for VR, but the production of the computer generated environment is prohibitively costly. You only need to look at the cost of developing computer games which use these free movement environments to get an idea of the work involved - Grand Theft Auto cost £170M, a great part of which was the production of the 3D environment.
The Lytro Cinema Camera has the potential to record computer generated environments with the simplicity of the first route (a video camera recording a 360 degree image) and the flexibility of movement within the environment of the second route.
There is more information about this camera including a film showing what it can do on their webpage.