New HDR video camera: AMP HDR

There's a new playa in town, or rather put, in the field of HDR cameras: Contrast Optical.

Check out this hip trailer for the hipsters:
[ AMP Digital Video from Mike Tocci on Vimeo ]

All the funky music and toning choices aside, this is video actually shows a seriously powerful device. It's based on a beamsplitter, means semi-transparent mirrors redirect the light from the lens to 3 sensors. A little bit like the 3-chip CCD cameras we used to have in the nineties, except it has 3 CMOS chips with roughly 3.5 EVs between each other.

The clips they show would be tough to do with most other HDR video systems.
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For example, HDRx on the RED Epic struggles with fast motion, just like any other short+long shutter speed method. But since AMP HDR splits the light optically, all 3 sensors all have the same exposure time, the same motion blur, in perfect sync. The other method, repurposing a stereoscopic 3D-rig as beamsplitter (like this or this or many others), makes it a real challenge to shoot a focus-pull or push-in shot. As cool it may be to shoot two exposures with two Canon 5D's, keeping them synchronized gets tricky in such real life situations. Putting the beamsplitter behind the lens makes much more sense.

Bottom line: So far this is really the closest contender to the Spheron HDRv I've seen... See more examples on the official AMP HDR website.

It is, however, still a bit of a prototype with no real connectivity for cine-standards. That would be the next prototype. Personally, I'd raise my hand for direct EXR frames pushed down a P2 RAID, but internal tone-mapping to an HDMI stream was also in the talks. Hopefully that would be at least HDMI 1.3 with DeepColor. Guess, technically there would even be room for a Mac mini in that box. Or let me pop an iPhone in as programmable controller, like the fancy new CLAUSS Rodeon panohead. Anyway, it would be interesting to see that AMP tech show up in a real product. Contrast Optical have no ambition to become camera manufacturers for things you could pick up at Best Buy, so let's hope they find some big partners/licensees.

Mike Tocci, the inventor of the AMP camera, has a great Siggraph paper on his method. Totally recommended read! You'll learn that each sensor is aligned with sub-pixel accuracy, which gives him a chance to merge the pure RAWs to HDR, even before demosaicing. Which turns out much much better, because saturated pixels in individual color channels are discarded before they even get a chance to mush up the colors of their neighbors. This really sounds like the right way to go from RAW to HDR.

Update: Here is the serious version of the video. Without the tekkno music, instead with more explanations of the camera and the technology.
[ AMP HDR - SIGGRAPH 2011 from Mike Tocci on Vimeo. ]

If you go to Siggraph in Vancouver, don't miss Mike's Paper Session. Maybe you can elbow your way through the crowd and get some hands-on time!
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