Lytro is best known as the camera company that pioneered light-field photography. Now it's pushing a new type of image capture by creating an innovative way to capture and edit reality for the virtual world.
The Lytro Immerge is the company's 360-degree video camera rig that should capture the real world in a more immersive and realistic way than anything available now. This should mean mixing real world footage and computer graphics (CG) will look more seamless and real than ever.
Lytro hasn't just created a camera to achieve this, it's built servers, editing tools and smart playback software that'll work with current kit. It aims to give this to filmmakers to help shape the coming future of virtual reality cinema.
So how is Lytro aiming to change the virtual world? Here's everything you need to know.
Filming in 2D doesn't work
At the moment most virtual worlds area created by filming with traditional 2D cameras, lined up to capture a 360-degree view. The problem here is they're still capturing in 2D. Lytro wants to do this with more depth.
Light field capture should mean each object is seen with what it's dubbed Six Degrees of Freedom. Essentially this is like traditionally seeing paper cut outs of people stood all around you, versus real people. The depth and edges as well as how light bounces off the 3D objects will now be captured too. So if you move your head to the side a bit you'll see the edge of that person from that perspective, rather than a single point.
This will all then be processed using a new Light Field processing engine and editing software that works with current tools like Nuke.
The result will mean a far more realistic and immersive video image for the wearer of a VR headset. The wearer's brain will find it tougher to distinguish between this and the real world.
The Lytro Immerge camera captures real 3D
The camera, built specially by Lytro, captures what it calls Light Field Volume. This is essentially means the entire scene is captured, from all perspectives. The result is an ability to add in computer-generated elements that take into account the three-dimensional environment.
For special effects creators who work on virtual graphics this should mean access to inter-ocular baselines after capture, accurate horizontal and vertical parallax and precise visual perspectives from any supported point of view.
All that means an ability to meld the virtual, computer generated, world and real filmed world more convincingly. The VR headset wearer should end up feeling more immersed as everything looks more real to the brain.
The Lytro system will work on current headsets
Once all this next-level capture and editing is done, to create a more convincing virtual world, it can all be viewed using current kit.
Lytro says it will initially be sticking with the high-end devices. That means Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, Microsoft HoloLens, HTC Vive and the like. Lytro has also said while this is optimised for high-end headsets it will work with mobile devices, so perhaps the Samsung Gear VR will support it too.
Lytro Immerge arrives in 2016
The Lytro Immerge camera rig, along with the servers and software to back it will be arriving in early 2016.
Initially pricing has not been mentioned but since this is aimed at production level, and Lytro talks about rental options, it's likely to be expensive.
Here's hoping James Cameron is impressed by this and Avatar 2 will be a virtual reality movie experience.
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