HDR video done tastefully

You might have seen the Soviet Montage clip that was recently making waves on the internet. While impressive to be shot with two Canon 5Ds simultaneously, it was tonemapped with a sledge hammer for no apparent artistic reason. "Because we can" doesn't count in my book.

In the meantime new HDRx footage from the Red EPIC surfaced. This is just a flat transfer with no visual enhancements whatsoever, but impressive for being shot all in-camera on a single sensor. The HDRx mode is now confirmed to come to the Red Scarlet, although that goes along with an unexpected increase in price.

By far the most creative use of HDR video is in this short movie by Patryk Kizny. Although shot with "traditional" HDR timelapse bracketing, it's treated with much care and tonemapped tastefully. A clear demonstration how HDR video in the hands of a skilled artist can turn it into pure gold.

Autumn. A short timelapse film from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

By the way, the crazy cool robot dolly in that video is a pre-production unit of the DriveCam Slider. Patryk seems to be the maker, ramping up for business. Check out some of the other movies on Patryk Kizny's website, especially don't miss the snaillapse.

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New sIBL collections: Dutch Skies 360 Vol.3 + 3DTotal

Bob Groothuis did it again.

Time after time Bob went out on that mole in Scheveningen, Netherlands to capture the most spectacular skies for you. Completely unobscured skies they are, horizon to horizon nothing but clouds and sky. Just what you need to wrap around any arbitrary 3D scene you like.

If Volume 1 and 2 were awesome, Dutch Skies Volume 3 turns out to be Killer! To give you a taste of it, Bob is giving away one complete sky package as sIBL-of-the-month. It's a whopping 225 MB download, and now imagine 39 of these delivered on 2 dual-layer DVDs. That's what you'll get in the new DS360 Vol. 3:

[ Download the DS360 Vol.3 Catalog - 22 MB ]

You can actually win this collection when you enter Bob's render contest. And while you're there, check out his Interview with Gerardo Estrada.

... but wait, there's more:

3DTotal releases Medieval City Collection

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CG Vespa by Torsten Pflug.
Lighting setup completely automatic with Smart IBL, using a sIBL set from 3DTotal's new Medieval City Collection, rendered in Maya using Mental Ray.

I'm completely thrilled to announce that UK's Number One CG artist community joins the Smart IBL revolution.

3DTotal is known for providing high quality textures, that you can really use. I used them a lot in the past, actually, because they are always clean, artist-approved, and high resolution. Their first sIBL-DVD is no exception: it's a Medieval City Collection, ready to become the backdrop for your ZBrush'ed orcs, elves, or hobbits. Or, if your name is Torsten Pflug, your photoreal CG Vespa.

Make sure to watch the demo movie on the bottom of the shop page, it's probably the sweetest quick introduction to Smart IBL I've ever seen.

As it has become a tradition for new sIBL vendors, 3DTotal donated some free sample sIBLs for our archive. How awesome, thank you!

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Girocam: New 360 camera system spotted at Photokina

What looks like James Bond's coffee mug, or a Matryoshka doll from the future, is in fact a new compact panorama camera called Girocam.

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The Girocam Prototype, spotted on the Photokina show floor by Dieter Bethke. It's unclear if this is one is even operational, it's missing all the shooting mode indicators that you can see on the Girocam website.

3 fisheye lenses apparently share one imaging sensor, everything hard-mounted into one device, so you'd have zero alignment issues.

It can shoot panoramic video and take 7000x3000 (= 21 MP) panoramas with HDR bracketing. There's also a standard tripod thread mount on the bottom and a remote control. Although the maker doesn't seem so clear about the specs yet, calling it 30 MP panorama capture. The Girocam website doesn't look finished either, repeating the same (rather unconvincing) renderings of the device over and over again. Not a single photo or sample panorama. And for some reason it appears to come bundled with a ... rubber duck?

The Girocam is made by Giroptic, a french company that formerly specialized in mirror-on-a-stick capture devices. So this fisheye setup is definitely a step up in quality for them, no matter how awful and small these fisheye lenses really are. Certainly the quality won't compete with a real DSLR+Fisheye setup, but if you're a VFX on-set or real-estate photographer shooting 50+ HDR panos a day, this puppy might become your best friend. I want one anyway, and if it's just for the rubber ducky.

Tipped by Dieter Bethke.

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RED defines EasyHDR™ and HDRx™ in relation to Epic

RED's leader Jim Jannard has just posted an update on Reduser.net forum linking test footage which was taken in Las Vegas showing off Epic's HDR mode. He defines EasyHDR and HDRx as:

EasyHDR™- done in camera with "Magic Motion".

HDRx™- done in post with either "Magic Motion" or "MNMB" (More Normal Motion Blur).

If you've shot video at night with neon lights blinking like this scene you will instantly be amazed at the dynamic range that is being compressed. Best to check out the forum post and read the pages and pages of responses to get the gist of what's coming :)

UPDATE: September 23rd 2010
Amazingly detailed breakdown of Epic HDRx information posted on Pro Video Coalition by Adam Wilt. He spent 3 hours with Jim Jannard, Jarred Land and Deanan DaSilva (all Red.com staff) getting detailed information about Epic HDRx.
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Olympus E-5 extends AEB up to 7 frames


Great news for HDR shooters coming from Olympus today (with one little asterisk next to great).

Olympus announced an upgrade to its flagship DSLR line today, the E-5. Of particular note to HDR shooters is the expanded automatic bracketing which allows for 2, 3, 5 or 7 frames. The E-3 only shot 3 aeb so this new expansion in the E-5 model is a welcomed addition.

Here comes the asterisk... the 7 aeb maximum step between shots is only 2/3rds of a step, but the other options of 2, 3, or 5 aeb can step a full 1EV between frames. Why camera manufacturers can not figure out how to expand their firmware appropriately for high dynamic range scenes is mind blowing to HDR shooters. 7aeb with 1EV steps would have been perfect for many high dynamic range landscape scenes. If only Olympus would have programmed the firmware of the E-5 to have done full 1EV steps between frames! So close Olympus, but a tad shy of perfect. Here's the E-5 bracketing options below:

Bracketing options for 2, 3, 5 or 7 frames

2F - 0.3step ·2F-0.5step ·2F-0.7step ·2F-1.0step

3F - 0.3Step · 3F-0.5Step · 3F-0.7Step · 3F-1.0Step

5F - 0.3Step ·5F-0.5Step · 5F-0.7Step · 5F-1.0Step

7F - 0.3step ·7F-0.5step ·7F-0.7step

Noteworthy mentions:
  • Up to 1/8000th of a second
  • Level Gauge for alignment
  • 5 frames per second
  • Flip out LCD
  • 720p Video
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September News Mixer: 32 Float, Nik, Canon and Apple

Another month went by with some interesting HDR gossip. Some of them we talked about before, some are still up in the clouds, some are rather surprising.


32 Float is shipping

Unified Color's new 32 Float is awesome, it will add more HDR features to your Photoshop CS3/4 than an update to CS5 will ever do. It's exactly the same interface and workflow like HDR Expose, just running as plugin inside Photoshop. The advantages are:

  • tighter workflow integration
  • mix different styles by tonemapping layers
  • use Photoshop's HDR Merge function

Download the 30-day demo to see for yourself.


Nik Software is getting serious

In the meantime Nik Software is blowing the hype whistle for their own Photoshop plugin called HDR Efex Pro. The new website shows a promo video with pretty high production value, and you can sign up for a demo webinar. Nik HDR efex is still two months away from release, it will have a preset system and really cool targeted adjustments with Nik's infamous Control Points. Here is a recording of an earlier webcast, if you really want to know.


Canon announces 8 - 15 mm Fisheye Zoom L-Lens


Big news for panoramic photographers who want to keep their camera bag lean and their setup versatile. Canon's new Fisheye Zoom Lens will allow circular shooting for a quick 3-way pano shoot as well as fullframe shooting for higher resolution 6-way panoramas. Plus all the in-betweens. Currently only the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye is the only lens that comes close, expectations are high that Canon's L-glass will deliver better optical performance.

The Canon 8-15mm Fisheye is announced for the first quarter of 2011 and the rumored price is $1500.

Further reference: Official Canon Product Page, some full-res example shots by Joergen Geerds, a zoom movie showing the FOV range by Canon Europe, and a vivid discussion in the Panorama Community.


Canon G12 gets point-n-shoot HDR mode

The rumormill has spit out a feature sheet of the upcoming Canon G12, mentioning fully automatic HDR generation via 3-frame bracketing. Mind you, that this won't result in an HDR image you can tonemap al gusto, but rather in an JPEG where the camera has done all the creative work for you. Just like the Fuji EXR models and several other pocket cameras do it. Useful? Maybe. Real HDR? Hardly.

See, the problem with these dumbed-down HDR modes is that they give HDR a bad reputation. If I have to read on Wired.com a witty statement like this, the damage is already done.

Other “highlights” include in-camera HDR for making hideous, over-colored tone-mapped photos by combining three images.


Apple iDevices will also have an HDR shooting mode

There's no better indication of mainstream compatibility than having a topic featured in a keynote from Steve Jobs. Around 7:00 minutes into the recording, Jobs reveals that the Camera App in iOS 4.1 will have an HDR mode out of the box. That affects iPhones and iPods, but more so several 3rd party app developers that have previously published dedicated HDR apps.

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We'll have to see how this turns out, Mr. Jobs already mentioned automatic 3-frame bracketing and instant processing. Highly unlikely that you will get access to a 32-bit file, in fact I suspect a frame blending algorithm ala Enfuse behind. Jobs drops a hint that at least the center exposure is saved separately from the merged result, but it's unclear if the full bracketing sequence will be accessible for re-processing.

Well, it is what it is. I would rather see Apple and Canon concentrate on features for the power HDR users who made HDR so popular in the first place, than catering to the mob. Where is the firmware update that enables extra-wide bracketing on Canon SLRs? When can we get the CoreImage bug fixed that cripples EXR support in Snow Leopard? Your toys are neat, but we demand power tools.

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