I don’t if anyone else noticed, but the camera is evolving.
It is morphing from a rectangle to a square. It is transforming from a mechanism to a computer. It is becoming less about the imprint of the eye and more about capturing elements in a 3D space. We’re moving from the age of the camera to the age of capture.
The dawn of new features of what might be deemed ‘capture contraptions’ are intriguing. The power to select focus after the footage has been shot, the ability to acquire a full spectrum of exposure in multiple streams, the ability to scan an environment and rebuild objects in post, are all part of this new wave of acquisition filmmaking.
“Modular” and “open-source” describe some of the characteristics that these new cameras are embracing. Camera manufacturers are battling for the lead, outputting new models so often it seems that the best option for users is to just wait one more week.
One of the most audacious examples of bending the realities of traditional photography may be James Cameron’s AVATAR, a virtual camera extravaganza. In this case all the elements were pre-made in a computer and then Cameron stepped inside the fabricated virtual world and ‘captured’ it with what looks like some kind of a nerf gun. They called this new device a ‘swing camera’.
“The swing camera has no lens at all, only an LCD screen and markers that record its position and orientation within the volume relative to the actors. That position information is then run through an effects switcher, which feeds back low-resolution CG versions of both the actors and the environment of Pandora to the swing cam’s screen in real time. This virtual camera allowed Cameron to shoot a scene simply by moving through the volume. Cameron could pick up the camera and shoot his actors photographically, as the performance occurred, or he could re-shoot any scene by walking through the empty soundstage with the device after the actors were gone, capturing different camera angles as the scene replayed.”
What does all this mean for storytellers? New ways to tell stories and new worlds waiting to be discovered. It is a good thing to explore new technology because it should result in new experiences. AVATAR was a new experience and worth the exploration of new technology. It wasn’t my favorite film, but the thrill of the adventure was real. Bravo to all storytellers who use new technology to tell stories in new ways. Here’s to the future of creation capture.