We’re making progress on the 3D printed camera + sensor mounts!
I still remember the very first time I saw the combining of filmic SLR lenses with the then-common miniDV tapes used in most midlevel camcorders, the short film was titled Marla, based on the character of the same name from Fight Club; snd I couldn’t stop reading everything I could get my hands on regarding, what was quickly becoming known as, mini35.
The rig was simple: a SD Canon GL2 strapped down to a small wooden board, with a gutted out Nikon SLR body positioned several inches ahead of the lens. To prevent light-leak the team covered the gap with a thick piece of black card-stock; then zooming in the GL2 until the focusing area of the Nikon SLR filled up the entire video frame and that was it! The crew could use any compatible Nikon SLR lens they wanted, and everything was captured on cheap miniDV tape thanks to the GL2. It was so simple - but the look was truly impossible to achieve at that time any other way, outside of using actual film cameras, of course.
It wasn’t long until SLR-adapter rigs started showing up for purchase; there was the SGblade, the Redrock, there were others… an entire industry came and went. Shortly thereafter, dSLR cameras began to record video, SD video at first, then 720 video, 1080p video, now the line is blurred between what is primarily a still camera and what is primarily a video camera; resolution is moving closer and closer to 2k, 3k, even 4k.
The above photos remind me of that same feeling - the feeling I had when I first watched Marla. When Marla was released, I could have probably counted the number of people making films with homemade mini35 rigs on one hand, and I think I could say the same for storytellers using dSLR cameras + Kinect rigs today; I don’t mean people doing experiments and short examples, but people actually producing short-to-long form documentaries with this combination of camera and depth sensor.
I do feel that this is the start of a new kind of storytelling - a new way to accomplish visuals that otherwise would require enormous manpower and budgets to accomplish.
I’m going to make a statement here - one that might come back to embarrase me 5 years from now, but I’ll make it all the same - 3D films as we understand them today will die-off, the kind of 3D that requires cheap plastic glasses is outdated and underwhelming in its approach of faking depth; side-by-side 2D images do not add up to 3D, they produce an illusion of depth; an unimpressive one, in my opinion.
The kind of 3D storytelling that will emerge in the next several years will involve true depth, depth that can be explored from any angle, depth that can be moved in and out of modeling programs and 3D printers. The iPhone I keep in my jeans-pocket will soon capture point cloud information in addition to any videos I record or still I take. First, more likely than not, depth sensors will be used in phones for touch-less interfacing, instead of swiping your finger across the surface of your screen, it will become only necessary to swipe just above the screen, keeping it smudge-free whenever possible; but inevitability, these depth sensors will become faster, extremely accurate, and easier to match up with stills and video captured with the phone’s built-in camera.
Many people reading this probably have very, very little interest or even experience in 3D anything; if I can help it, I always choose to see a film in 2D vs 3D, and I haven’t built anything in Maya since the 12th grade. I don’t hope that this is the future of filmmaking because of wishful thinking on a personal level; I don’t have much invested in this world. But, in the same way that I take for granted GPS and metadata information for any photo I take with my iPhone - in the same way that apps now take advantage of gyroscope-positioning for everything from photo-stitching to gameplay - peripheral point cloud data will become another important layer that can either be used or ignored.
But when a person does happen to use that available depth data, they’ll be able to share the most incredible and visually-unique stories.