Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pre vs. Post

Gedankenexperiment #1:

Consider an event. Say, a wedding. Suppose that the participants all wear motion-capture gear, and that some other work is done to construct a complete real-time 3-D model of the event. Now, walk through the model and "shoot" the wedding by selecting camera positions, lighting, and framing. Run the model back and forth in time, selecting those perfect moments. Render the resulting frames, and present to the bride and groom as their wedding album. This is indistinguishable from photography as we know it today, but occurs entirely in post-processing and at a leisurely pace.

This is, if not technically feasible now, very very close to it. It would be absurdly expensive. Wait twenty years.

Gedankenexperiment #2:

Consider the same event. Instead of a 3-D model, we use light-field cameras from Lytro. These cameras have the property that focus and depth of field are handled in post, calculated from the data captured by the camera. I don't fully understand the technology, but it's there. Perhaps you have to use an array of these things to create a virtual wide-angle camera with adequate resolution, whatever. If I have to use 16 of them mounted in a bracket, that's OK. The point is you get a high resolution quite wide angle light-field "image" out of whatever you've built. Send a team out with minimal training armed with these things. Automatically take 1 exposure per second.

Edit the "wedding album" out of the 10s of thousands of frames captured. Select focus and DoF, and crop the images out of the wide angle raw image.

This is feasible now, and might cost in the low five figures to implement.

Gedankenexperiment #3:

Instead of an array of Lytro cameras use a very high resolution DSLR or digital medium format camera, with a quite wide lens. Set the thing on Auto, or Aperture Priority with a preset moderate aperture and auto-ISO. Spray and pray. Focus is decided at shutter time, and will sometimes be correct. DoF will be deep, but you can "reduce" it in post. Cropping is the reason you're using a very high resolution system.

This is almost the way pros work now. They tend to be a little more selective, trying to do more of their editing up-front in the real world. No particular reason they couldn't push more editing into post, though. I think it's just habit.

All these are variations on "spray and pray" photography, really, which is really about shifting the "photography" in to post. Where, you might ask, is the ART? Where is the SKILL? The CRAFT?

Good question, I have no pat answer.

It does appear to be on the move, doesn't it?

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