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NAB: The people who own mathematics


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#1 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:12 PM

Most people will have come across the Fraunhofer Society because they invented the MP3 audio compression algorithm, and they're frequently credited on software splash screens for this and their other innovations. Fraunhofer is an organisation dedicated to the advancement specifically of applied science, as opposed to the pursuit of pure science research for its own sake, and can be essentially seen as science for hire - with 60 institutes in Germany and 18,000 staff (thanks, Wikipedia) it's a huge organisation with a lot of money flying around, and it's mainly self-funding.

This sort of thing is why Germany is currently ascendant, but I digress.

Fraunhofer's booth at NAB is disarmingly modest in comparison to the enormous reach of the organisation, presumably because only a fairly small proportion of what they do has direct application to subjects that are relevant to NAB attendees. They do have some disarmingly crazy contraptions, including one which uses six cameras and a segmented mirror rig to produce a composite 360-degree view, complete with software to zoom into areas of interest.

Most interestingly, though, they have some very good tools for 3D shooting. There's a tool which not only provides analysis of 3D content in terms of convergence errors and depth budget, but also allows for electronic correction - introduce a vertical offset into one eye, for instance, and the software will correct the image downward. It'll correct other errors, such as focal length and axial misalignment, too, all the while producing an error report in the user interface that allows the optical misalignment to be properly corrected.

What's cute about this is that it's done very gently - knock a lens out of alignment and the software doesn't rush to snap the image back to the correct geometry, it slides the correction in gently. Another nice feature that I haven't seen before is a depth histogram, which is something that's hard to explain but seems to me to be a particularly nice way to elucidate the required information.

I still don't think it really solves too many of the problems of 3D. You still have to decide where the red zone on the depth histogram is, based on knowledge of ultimately unknowable things like the eventual screen size. You still have to compose a shot to within that depth budget, and you still have to ensure that the user doesn't somehow look at the wrong area of the screen. If you're going to insist on shooting 3D, though, this isn't a bad stab at a toolset for it. It's just a piece of software which will run on various PCs, too, taking video input from something like a Blackmagic card.

Fraunhofer is a research institute, albeit one for hire, and they don't talk about money. It's therefore difficult to arrive at a considered opinion on their products because it isn't clear what the cost is. It's easy to make something excellent if it's extremely expensive, but in this case we simply can't tell.

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Opal

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FJS International, LLC

Abel Cine

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CineLab

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Ritter Battery

The Slider

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Technodolly

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Tai Audio

Willys Widgets