06 January 2007

The Tyranny of The Frame

I have been thinking about Greenaway's "Tyranny of the Frame". It is pefectly acceptable to me that we should have a frame, whatever the format of the rectangle. I also have nothing against those artists who like to project on round things or whose fetish it is to go beyond our peripheral vision in 360° panorama.

The real tyranny of the frame of celluloid cinema is that it is in two dimensions. Above is an animated projection of a rotating tesseract. Why should the video frame be flat?

The camera of the last 100+ years of cinematic history is essentially a glorified eyeball with sophisticated spectacles.

The Quantum Camera will attach these free-floating, bespectacled eyeballs to brains. Brains capable of perceiving reality more like the way our nervous system works. When I was at University of Maryland I had a class about visual communication where the professor had us read a book about visual perception. Humans have depth perception. We can tell the foreground from the background without any trouble, and if something that was moving ceases to move, we can still distinguish it as a separate entity. We have had multi-track audio recording equipment for years. We need multi-depth video cameras. Cameras that record the background and the foreground to separate layers of video. Goodbye keying and matting, hello alpha channels!

But it needs to go further than just what keying can accomplish. Layers are still a 2D concept. Containers (I admit I borrow the word from conversations I have had with Philipp) are a much more appropriate model. Here is a film still from Lost In Translation:

The quantum camera would ideally see (at least) these containers:
(Restaurant (Charlotte) (Table (Food) ) (Steam) (Bob) )

Of course our eyes can discriminate an incredible level of detail:
(Bob (Costume (Sweater (Shirt) ) (Wristwatch) (Pants) )

And we can even infer things which we cannot see, such as socks, underwear and shoes.

It may also be necessary to "teach" the quantum camera in order to get it to learn to recognize these containers and their IDs. With the above example, I can imagine that it would work that first you would show the camera the empty table and benches and ID it Restaurant. Then you could put the food on the table and ID it Food. Then a threshold knob would be adjusted to catch the steam and ID it Steam. Lastly Bob and Charlotte would each be added to the composition and IDed respectively. Or perhaps you could use a combination of RFIDs and threshold settings for brightness, depth and movement on the camera.

When I was at Bard I attended a screening of Let's Get Lost by Bruce Weber (see this site for video clips). The screening was presented by Bard alumni Jeff Preiss, an accomplished cinematographer. With a successful career in commercial advertising, Jeff knew some secrets of the image industry. He mentioned that he had heard of major corporations developing cameras that photograph all surfaces of physical reality in the hope of creating photographic 3D space.

What are they waiting for?

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