Imaging company Lytro continues its pivot away from consumer cameras with the announcement of Lytro Cinema: an all-in-one solution that brings the company's signature light field technology to film and TV crews. The company claims that Lytro Cinema makes it easier to blend live footage and computer-generated effects while allowing directors to make changes to their footage in post-production that could previously only be made on set.
green screen without green screens
As with Lytro's consumer cameras, Lytro Cinema captures light field information: detailed data about the angle and direction of every bit of light in frame. This allows cinematographers to modify a video's focus and depth of field after it's been shot. Lytro says its technology also makes it easier to add in CGI elements. The Lytro Cinema cameras capture the depth of all the objects in a shot, allowing directors to isolate background or foreground elements, making it easy to add green-screen elements without having to use a physical green screen.
Lytro says its new camera allows for easy integration of computer effects and live footage. (Image credit: Lytro)
"Lytro Cinema defies traditional physics of on-set capture allowing filmmakers to capture shots that have been impossible up until now," said Lytro's head of light field video, Jon Karafin, in a press release. "Because of the rich data set and depth information, we’re able to virtualize creative camera controls, meaning that decisions that have traditionally been made on set, like focus position and depth of field, can now be made computationally."
The company's Lytro Cinema set-up includes editing software, servers for cloud storage and processing, and a new Lytro camera. Lytro says the camera has the highest resolution video sensor ever designed, capable of capturing 755 RAW megapixels at up to 300 frames-per-second, as well as offering 16 stops of dynamic range.
The news shows just how far Lytro's priorities have shifted since the company announced its "camera of the future," the Lytro Illum, back in 2014. Earlier this month, Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote a candid assessment of the company's fortunes on Backchannel, explaining the market forces that had prompted he and his team to move away from consumer cameras.
The Lytro Cinema camera retains the futuristic stylings of the company's consumer cameras. (Image credit: Lytro)
"The cold hard fact was that we were competing in an established industry where the product requirements had been firmly cemented in the minds of consumers by much larger more established companies," wrote Rosenthal. "This issue was compounded by the fact that the consumer camera market was declining by almost 35% per year driven by the surge in smartphone photography and changing consumer tastes."
But while there seems to be no space for Lytro's light field technology in the consumer sphere, there may be hope in the world of professional cinematographers. Last November, the company announced a virtual reality camera called the Immerge (it's still taking applications for access to prototypes), and the news of Lytro Cinema continues this shift. It still remains to be seen, though, whether or not the company can turn a profit from its technology.