FuturePicture: The Large Light Field Camera Array, Part 1.

FuturePicture is about the future of photography. It is about cameras with capabilities that sound like science fiction, and look like a million bucks.

So you want to influence the future of photography? Well, you gotta build a camera, ’cause this future isn’t for sale, yet.

And that’s exactly what Matti and I did. Twice.

First Large Light Field Camera Array:

Second Large Light Field Camera Array:

Computational cameras have only come into being over the last two decades. Why just now? Well, cheap computation, plentiful sensors, and a hundred-fifty years of relative design stagnation explain some of it. Computational photography is a young field, still deciding what it is and what it is doing, exactly, but the undeniable common factor is that a powerful camera is involved. This “camera” could look perfectly ordinary or be completely unrecognizable, understandable only by analogy, from a fly’s eye to the photosensitive spots on nematodes. Computational photography seeks inspiration from disparate sources: biology, computer vision, optics, and statistics. The price of admission is math prowess, some computer programming power, and a camera. Or twelve.

Well, together we (Daniel Reetz and Matti Kariluoma), have that covered. We aim to take computational photography out of the lab, and into practical use. We want to make the hardware affordable and accessible, because outside the ivory towers of academia, there are creative people of all stripes who could use amd abuse this kind of photographic power.

So, what does this thing do? The primary function of this array is to capture the Light Field, a four-dimensional function that is capable of describing all rays in a scene. Surrounding you, now, and always, is a reverberating volume of light. Just as sound echoes around a room in complex ways, bouncing from every surface, so does light, creating a structured volume. Traditional, single-lens cameras project this three dimensional world of reflected light onto a two dimensional sensor, tossing out the 3D information in the process, and capturing only a faint, sheared sliver of the actual light field. By taking many captures at slightly shifted locations, it is possible to capture a crude representation of the light field. The number of slices determines the resolution of capture; our 12 captures at 7cm separation is a bare minimum. What can you do with a light field? The lowest hanging fruit is computational refocusing. By computational refocusing, we mean focusing the image AFTER it is captured.

The particular method of computational refocusing that we employ creates an enormous virtual aperture. The size of the virtual aperture determines a few things. One, the aize of the object you can “see through”. Two, the depth of the focal plane, which is currently extremely shallow, on the order of a few centimeters at most. In this image, we can see right through Poodus as he flies through the air.

Camera array construction and software will be the topic of another post; this post is just to introduce our work on the array and make public some of its output. A brief summary: we employ the latest modern rapid prototyping equipment — laser cutters, flatbed scanners, digital micrometers, and open source hardware and software — Arduino and StereoDataMaker. All the technology we develop will be released under open-source licenses to encourage, as much as possible, the development of similar camera arrays and to speed the hobbyist adoption of computational photography techniques.

A brief introduction: Daniel Reetz is an artist, camera hacker, and graduate student in the visual neurosciences. Matti Kariluoma is a CS/Math major with a focus on artificial intelligence. Together, we’re working on computational photography, and we’re going to bring our respective backgrounds to bear on it. Want to get in touch? Leave a comment here.

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12 Responses to FuturePicture: The Large Light Field Camera Array, Part 1.

  1. Jimmie says:

    Hola Hombre,

    Glad that I stopped by. This camera truly blows my mind. Will music videos ever be the same? The ideas warm my heart on this cold day. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Futurepicture, a homebrew light field camera | Something to share

  3. Pingback: Capturing that (light field) moment - Hack a Day

  4. Moburkhardt says:

    Awesome work guys, keep it up, I can imagine this even being used to create 3D wireframes in the future

  5. cyanoacry says:

    Have you guys heard about the work over at Stanford?:


    Seems like they’ve got a way to do it that’s even smaller and lighter. What prompted you guys to take your approach?

  6. VEC7OR says:

    I wonder why are cameras stacked as a linear array why not a XY fashion ? or computation for XY take more time ?

  7. admin says:

    You might have noticed that we mentioned that lf camera in the Instructables.

    Medium format digital cameras like that cost upwards of 10,000USD. Lens arrays to mount in them cost between 500 and 3,000 dollars, depending on where they are fabbed and how many you buy.

  8. Lucas says:

    Very interesting art… I wonder the possibilities if you are able to play with different camera settings at the same time…

    Very cool.

  9. sam says:

    Why don’t you try to curve the cameras a bit instead of a straight bar.

  10. william alschuler says:

    Dear researchers,
    You might find it interesting to know that at the 8th International Symposium on Display Holography last July in Shenzhen, China, which I attended last July. a talk and demo were given about a 36 video camera linear horizontal array. It fed images to a holographic screen that alligned all the streams appropriately to give a front-viewed 3D image in real time with good color, though poor resolution, fair image assembly and very narrow angle of view. Both it and your efforts carry on and extend a tradition started back in the 1890s by Muybridge and Marey, and this can be seen in some of your strikingly beautiful images as they sweep through their depths of field. Nice! And where are you located? I am in the SFBay Area.

  11. william alschuler says:

    Note that there are websites for the symposium, some include video of the talks. Google 8th ISDH Shenzhen…

  12. Miri Blum says:

    My name is Miri and I’m a commercial producer from Israel. I was hoping you can help me.

    I’m looking for a company anywhere in Europe what deals with stills digital multicam.

    Similar to this company in the US:

    I am looking for bringing the equipment and the crew for Israel for a production for one of my clients.

    Any information you can give me will be mostly appreciated.


    Miri Blum
    Rabel Films

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