A trifocal configuration for high dynamic range photography might be on the development roadmap

Could a camera capable of creating “hybrid 3D” that was co-developed by Disney, camera maker Arri and German research firm the Fraunhofer Institute be on its way in Hollywood?

The makers of the prototype trifocal camera — which creates 3D by combining 3D cinematography with conversion techniques — outlined the developing technology during a session Saturday at the IBC convention in Amsterdam.

The system uses a camera rig that holds three cameras: a main camera, the Arri Alexa; and two small cameras used to capture depth information. The goal is to allow the filmmakers to focus on the 2D shoot, and make depth decisions at a later time. (The Hollywood Reporter’s Behind the Screen previously described this developing technology here.) To demonstrate the potential, a short titled Make/Believe was created with the camera system, and was screened at IBC.

“We are at the beginning of development, but I think it is very promising,” said Ralf Schefer, head of image processing and interactive media at the Fraunhofer Institute. “My dream would be to make it work in real time, as that would open it up to TV production. 3D TV production will only fly if we can bring the cost down to that of a 2D production. This might do that.”

During IBC, Fraunhofer’s Digital Cinema Alliance is also demonstrating developments aimed at creating more “immersive” cinematic experiences, under its “Spacial AV” initiative.

This includes a light-field array of cameras. Combined, the captured information could be used to create depth maps or to change camera focus after principal photography. Fraunhofer believes this has the potential to eventually replace the need for green screen in visual effects shots. “It offers completely new creative options,” Siegfried Foessel, head of Fraunhofer’s department of moving picture technologies, told THR. “Effectively, you can do what you normally can only do in a CG environment, but now you can do it with live scenery.”

Fraunhofer is also exploring the potential to use light-field camera technology in a trifocal configuration, that together could extend the dynamic range of the photographed images beyond what is possible today, Foessel related. The remaining question, he said, is whether today’s cameras are already capable of capturing enough dynamic range for future HDR displays, or do we need more.

Another technology that is part of the Spacial AV initiative is a developing omni-directional camera, dubbed the Omnicam, which uses multiple cameras to capture a panoramic 360-degrees. With the growing interest in virtual reality, it would appear that this camera system could attract some interested VR developers.

This camera was recently used to shoot the final of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and that footage will eventually be on display in a panoramic theater at the not-yet-opened FIFA Museum that is being built in Geneva. It’s also been used on shoots including the Bon Jovi Australian Tour in 2013, a Counting Crows concert in London and the Berlin Philharmonics.

The Spacial AV project also involves work on a mixing system for object-based audio (i.e., Dolby Atmos).

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