SIGGRAPH: Motion Controlled High Res Photography

Posted By Damijan Saccio on July 28, 2010 12:00 am | Permalink
The most interesting thing I saw at the Emerging Technologies and Studio area was a project that a consortium of people have created to allow the masses to have easier access to create motion controlled high resolution still camera time lapses.  For some time it's been extremely expensive to attempt any sort of professional-level motion controlled timelapses.  However, there has been mounting interest in this subject in recent years. 

Addressing this problem, a group of individuals and companies formed an open source collective called OpenMoCo. Two companies that are members of this collective, Dynamic Perception and XRez are at SIGGRAPH showing the fruits of their labor. This is definitely something you will want to check out visually on their respective websites (above) to get a good idea of the exact rigs you can make and the kind of results you can get. However, essentially the idea is that they have sourced various open-source software and hardware solutions along with off-the-shelf pieces to allow any hobbyist or professional to be able to construct a good quality rig and controller for a motion controlled set up.  Dynamic Perception has even assembled a number of these components together and can offer a largely ready-made solution for you from their site at very reasonable prices. The basic MoCo set up involves a standard DSLR camera, an astronomic mount (made by companies like Meade, Orion, or Merlin), a track with motor, and a small piece of hardware called an Arduino controller that is programmed to allow for the communication between the DSLR camera and the motorized track.  See a couple examples below: 


(These images are property of Xrez)

The applications for these rigs are manifold, from strictly art pieces such as those well known works of Tom Lowe, to educational applications like sky domes in planetariums, to commercial applications like television commercials and music videos and the like.  Xrez has a great example of a 3D CGI camera move created by combining a still camera stationary time lapse with a 3D data set from NASA.  The company mapped the video imagery they got from a stationary time lapse session onto the 3D geometry (photogrammetry, but with video in this example) and then added the CGI camera move.  This creates a piece that would have been near impossible to achieve otherwise. See example below:

xRez Time-Lapse Studies from xRez Studio on Vimeo.

Being an amateur photographer myself and having a design and production studio, all of this really interests me and gives me a lot of creative ideas for possible future projects. I'm very excited at the OpenMoCo project's dedication to spreading the knowledge base for this interesting field.  his is obviously a complex topic and I would invite the reader to learn more by visiting and Xrez and Dynamic Perception.