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Drone Holograms!

Drone Holograms!

A couple days ago, a video on facebook caught my eye. It was a vacation highlight reel by videographer Tomasz Walczak.

The video was shot wonderfully, with a wide range of techniques, but it was the first three seconds that caught my eye.

This shot of the Church of St. George in Lykavitos, Athens was particularly interesting because it was filmed on a drone going pretty much in a straight line, looking out to the side as it went. It’s interesting because it captures many different perspectives of the church as the drone flies, and that lets me reconstruct a lightfield of the church. The drone video is perfectly stabilized, so there are no bumps or jostles — all the frames in this shot are just moving from left to right along a straight line.

drone source image by Lars Nissen on Pixabay license

This caught my eye because on holographic displays and cameras at Looking Glass Factory, and this drone camera is behaving a lot like a holographic camera — we typically use a virtual camera to capture a large number of views of a virtual scene, moving the camera along a straight line. The display sends out each of those views to a different angle in the real-world. Our eyes see different views, and we perceive stereo information about the scene, and as we move our heads around the scene, we cross between views and perceive parallax information. These views present us with the illusion that we’re looking at a real, three-dimensional scene.

45 views coming from the Looking Glass into the real world

The great thing about this drone footage is that it’s the perfect partner to how the Looking Glass display works — as the drone camera moves around the church, it captures the church from those different angles, and we just take the images that the drone captured and send them right back out of the display. A lightfield capture for a lightfield display.

Lightfields require more information than a still image, so even though I’m starting with a 2D video, I just get a still lightfield image out of the process. In an ideal world, the drone would move so quickly that it captures the whole scene before anything can change. In the real world, the drone took several seconds to traverse the scene, and while the church doesn’t move at all, some stuff like people and the flag on the flagpole are moving during the shot. This is the lightfield equivalent of motion blur — if you zoom in on the people, you can see them changing as I move the camera around. I don’t think this is a bad thing, necessarily — seeing it in the Looking Glass, it feels halfway between a 3D scene and an animation.

I’m really stoked about how well this worked. I’m going to be taking some drone shots and putting up my own imagery in the coming weeks. For anyone who wants to try this out on their own, there’s a video rundown below showing all the steps to get your footage into a Looking Glass. Thanks to Tomasz for taking this great imagery and letting me use his footage for this experiment. See you in the future!

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