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NAB: Fraunhofer Previewing 'Hybrid 2D/3D' Camera Co-Developed With Disney and ARRI

The company is demonstrating several innovative camera developments, including one that combines 3D cinematography with 2D-to-3D conversion and one aimed at eliminating the need for greenscreen.

Trifocal Camera - P 2013
Courtesy of Franhofer
Trifocal camera

LAS VEGAS -- Germany’s research organization Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute is presenting a series of innovative camera developments during the NAB show -- including a proof of concept trifocal camera system that the Institute is developing in association with Walt Disney Animation Studios Research and camera maker ARRI.

The  camera uses a "hybrid 2D/3D" approach to capturing 3D that effectively combines 3D cinematography with 2D-to-3D conversion.

Fraunhofer is planning to test the camera system with Disney, which will use it to make a short film with an eye toward feature production.

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The system uses a camera rig that holds three cameras: a main camera, the popular Arri Alexa; and two small IndieGS2K satellite cameras.

During post-production, depth maps are estimated from the recorded material, which enable the generation of stereo content.

“The idea is to simplify 3D production for cinema,” Peter Kauff, head of the immersive media & 3D video group at Fraunhofer, told The Hollywood Reporter. "Ideally shooting 3D should be as easy as shooting 2D.

“[The trifocal camera approach] is much more cost efficient than classic conversion because you capture information that helps to calculate depth,” he added. “Sometimes it will be fully automatic, or it will need some manual work [such as rotoscoping], but the manual work is reduced considerably and that reduces costs." With this approach, he said interocular distance can be adjusted in post-production.

Also at NAB, Fraunhofer is demonstrating a prototype camera array with eight compact cameras, each consisting of a three-megapixel sensor, which is aimed at visual effects work. "Our vision is you can use the camera array for shooting what, at the moment, you need a greenscreen [to capture]," explained Siegfried Foessel, head of Fraunhofer's moving picture technologies department. "With the camera array we can calculate the distance between a camera and an object without the need for a greenscreen."

Foessel believes this development offers various ways to help visual effects companies work faster and cheaper. "[With the information captured in the 8 cameras] you can also make a 3D model of a scene, and directly use it in visual effects software," he said.

The array enables the use of HDR, HFR and light-field capturing.

The camera array will be in development for roughly 6-12 more months before planned testing will commence.

Another part of Fraunhofer's display features a developing camera with a non-regular sampling method for HDR video, which the developers believe will be able to reach five more stops of dynamic range than today’s cameras.

In partnership with Carl Zeiss, KUK Film and P+S Technik, Fraunhofer additionally developed an "Automatic Stereo Production" camera system, a concept for a side-by-side camera system with automated pre- and post-processing for 3D stereo data -- with a goal of raising quality and lowering costs.

Additional Fraunhofer demos include H.265/MPEG-HEVC video compression technology with a real-time decoder, allowing the streaming of 4K to a television display and also to a mobile device with no delay.

At NAB, the company is introducing a plug-in for Adobe After Effects, for converting 3D for screening on glasses-free displays.

Additionally, Fraunhofer’s “easyDCP” software for creating digital cinema packages will be integrated in the upcoming version 10 of Blacmagic’s Da Vinci Resolve 10 color grading software, the companies reported.