Kinect + DSLR = 3D Cinema & CLOUDS
The future of filmmaking has been imagined and re-imagined in a number of different ways over the course of the last hundred years. In keeping with our increasingly digital world today, thanks to astounding advances in computer processing, networking, and data storage, two formerly parallel production tracks have been growing increasingly together: live action and CGI.
What is it that George and Minard are doing exactly?
In short, they’re creating the imagery for their experimental documentary film, CLOUDS, by merging 3D data from a Kinect game console with video from a DSLR camer
“Ever since the Kinect emerged on the scene, its depth-sensing camera has fascinated legions of creative coders, but the team behind the RGB+D Toolkit is one of the few attempting to transform the gaming console into a real filmmaking tool. Using a Kinect and a standard DSLR camera, like your Canon 5D, these avant-garde image-makers have created a technique that allows you to map video from the SLR onto the Kinect’s 3D data to generate a true CGI and video hybrid.
Why is this exciting? Well, for one thing, convincing CGI is incredibly difficult to do—it took the team behind Rockstar’s L.A. Noire a full 32 cameras and god knows how many man hours to record and digitally reconstruct their characters in 360 degrees. And while the experimental output from the RGB+D team is a far cry from those painstakingly constructed game visuals, that’s kind of not the point. The point is the implications—this has the potential to change the way we think of 3D filmmaking and to significantly lower the barrier to entry using commercially available hardware and open source software.”
CLOUDS features a series of interviews with people who work at the intersection of art and technology, including creative coders, artist hackers, experimental photographers, and new media artists.
Minard and George are quick to point out the experimental nature of their work. The fact that the technique they’re using and resulting imagery are just now in the very early stages of development leaves a lot of room for further exploration and creativity.
Kaganskiy continues on the Creators Project blog,
“It is an infinite conversation, a networked portrait, an experiment in virtual cinema,” explains Minard, who works as a new media documentarian and is a fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Studio for Creative Inquiry, where he first joined forces with developer James George and recorded the first series of interviews for Clouds during the Art & Code conference last year.
“The goal behind the documentary is to capture the creative hacker ethos in a media that suits the subject,” explains George. “Clouds is a window into the mentality of the scene responsible for inventing the format that was used to create the film.” Which is probably why anyone who is familiar with the aesthetics of data visualization or has seen one of the countless Kinect hack demos from the past year will recognize influences of both in the film’s style. “The subjects float in a black void, their figures composed of tiny points connected by lines that flicker and break apart at the edges,” continues George. “They’re made out of pure computational matter—the same material the artists depicted work with on a daily basis.”
A post on the Ikono blog (June 5, 2012) describes the technique used by George and Minard as,
“… ‘re-photography’, in which otherwise frozen moments in time may be visualized from new points of view. Despite the sometimes wildly moving camera, the video was in fact shot with a stationary Kinect-like depth sensor coupled to a digital SLR video camera. To compose their shots, the filmmakers developed custom openFrameworks software that aligns and combines color video and depth data into a dynamic sculptural relief.
In a process of “virtual cinematography” … selecting new angles, dollying, and zooming — to compose new perspectives on the data as if playing a video game. Fixed camerawork is thus transformed into a malleable and negotiable post-process, in which shots can be carefully recomposed to highlight and inflect different latent meanings.”
Could this be the beginning of a new aesthetic in film? Will it lead to new forms? New genres?
See what you think – take a look at the RGBD Toolkit site.