Contrast Optical to Present a Complete HDR Video System at SIGGRAPH 2011

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Contrast Optical Design & Engineering will be presenting their revolutionary new HDR video system at this year’s SIGGRAPH 2011 conference.

Sample image made using the AMP camera

Specialized optics in the AMP camera split the scene into bright, medium, and dark images. Custom software reassembles them into a single HDR image.

...the system is clearly capable of producing excellent HDR video data.

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True High Dynamic Range (HDR) video is here. Several years of research at Contrast Optical Design & Engineering have resulted in a working, commercially viable, HDR video system and the publication of a technical paper in the very prestigious SIGGRAPH 2011 conference.

What is HDRI?
High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) is a technique that photographers can use to extend the range of light intensity, or dynamic range, that can be captured in a single photograph. The camera is placed on a tripod, and a series of photographs (typically three of them) are snapped in quick succession. Each photograph is taken using a different exposure setting on the camera, providing a dark, medium, and bright picture of the scene. These three images are then combined in software to produce a single HDRI photograph.

The Problem with HDRI
One key problem exists with the current state-of-the-art in HDR images: nothing in the scene can move. Since the photos are taken sequentially, any movement causes the combined HDR image to be blurry.

The AMP™ Camera Solution
Contrast Optical's AMP camera technology solves this key problem by capturing truly simultaneous, pixel-for-pixel identical images. AMP is the first camera to use commercially-viable technology to deliver real-time, high dynamic range, high-definition imaging.

Contrast’s in-house developed AMP camera technology uses specialized optics to split the light from a single camera lens onto three camera sensors simultaneously. Image-splitting is performed optically, at the speed of light, guaranteeing perfect motion registration between images. A new image-combining algorithm was developed specifically for this AMP camera system to transform the data from the three camera sensors into a true HDR video stream in real time.

Contrast, being a custom optical design firm, approached the problem from a purely optical standpoint, avoiding electronic tricks such as alternating exposure frames (bright/dark) or double-mosaic pixel arrays (red/green/blue and light/medium/dark). Their background in high-end optical system design gave them a unique perspective from which to solve this problem, and the results look impressive.

Dr. Erik Reinhard, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol and principal author of High Dynamic Range Imaging, said that "the system is clearly capable of producing excellent HDR video data. I am intrigued by the fact that you have been able to space the three exposures so far apart and still get good HDR data out. This goes against conventional wisdom. Very interesting!"

Contrast engineers teamed together with the University of New Mexico to write a technical paper titled “A Versatile HDR Video Production System,” which was recently accepted for publication by ACM SIGGRAPH and results from the paper will be presented at the SIGGRAPH 2011 conference in Vancouver, Canada, on August 8, 2011.

Now, with the AMP camera, the HDR photographer is no longer constrained to taking sequential images of a static scene, using a camera on a tripod in an attempt to reduce motion blur between successive images. And the cinematographer can capture breathtaking scenes with moving subjects and sweeping camera shots even in harsh direct sunlight: the “Magic Hour” of outdoor cinematography is now available at any time of day.

Providing such a rich depth of HDR video information gives a tremendous amount of flexibility to the creative artists involved in movie and video making, from the director, to the cinematographer, to the lighting crew, to the editors in post-production.

"I really like the fact that your videos show HDR scenes that most other systems are not capable of," said Christain Bloch, author of The HDRI Handbook and president of HDR Labs. "For example HDRx on the RED Epic has problems with fast motion, and with re-purposed stereoscopic 3D-rigs it's hard to do focus pulls or push-in shots. Your optical design does all that with ease, and you show it."

This breakthrough in HDR imaging technology is poised to upend the digital imaging markets, including not just Photography and Cinematography, but also Electronic News Gathering (ENG), Sports, Mobile, Medical and Military imaging. Watch for the AMP camera technology to revolutionize the way films and digital images are created.

Contrast Optical Design & Engineering, Inc. (CODE, Inc.) is a high-tech company founded in New Mexico, U.S.A., in 2005. Their mission is designing and producing cutting-edge optical systems.


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