Thursday, 10 June 2010

It's an HD/3D future for us all! (again)

It's funny how the recent crazes for HDR photography and even more recently anything and everything in 3D, are all essentially re-hashing technology that is (in some cases) well over a hundred years old.

Take for example 3D photography – The recent announcement by Sony that their new Alpha Compact cameras will have a processor that will allow them to capture side-by-side images for 3D viewing is not a new thing... OK admittedly being able to capture side-by-side images through a single lens is new (and pretty handy), but this is still a revival of what was a Victorian craze. And it was a craze that was big business with most photographs of the late Victorian period and early Edwardian being shot on stereoscopic cameras to be printed and placed in special viewers to be used at home.

See T3's Website

It's not just Sony that are getting in on it either: Fuji film have released a compact digital camera with two lenses for stereoscopic photography. The lo-fi, 120mm film fetishist's darling Holga, has also been joined by a stereoscopic sibling.

I only stumbled across stereoscopic photography due to the artwork on the tool album '10,000 Days'. The album featured Victorian style portraits of the band members, and artwork by Alex Grey printed in the fashion of the top picture of this blog, and attached to the digipack was a stereoscopic viewer. I was hooked.

But what about 3D at the movies? Well you can't honestly tell me you've forgotten about the humble anachrome glasses... those little cardboard specs with one eye covered by blue plastic, and the other covered by red? I have to admit the new “shades” you get at the cinema are a lot more comfortable and stylish to wear though.

3D cinema seems to have it's phases through the years, particularly in cult/B Movies in the 50's and cropping up every so often there after. I even remember certain TV programmes in my childhood being broadcast in 3D for things like Children in Need or Comic Relief. So again, it isn't new... But with films like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland using it to add an extra dimension to what are already visually stunning films, AND with Sky TV now adding 3D channels to accompany their HD ones, it seems as though the technology has caught up with the ideas.

HDR is another one. You might not be too familiar with this if you don't really have an interest in photography, but it stands for High Dynamic Range and it's the practice of creating super-realistic photographs from multiple exposures. Digital technology and software editing packages has turned what is a very time consuming process into something that anyone with a DSLR, Tripod, and a downloaded version of Photomatix can do.

The first to experiment and develop this method of combining multiple exposures into realistic photographs was Gustave Le Gray – A French photographer who made his first HDR prints in the 1850s! Gray would photograph seascapes using one exposure for the sky and one exposure for the sea and combine them. This allowed him to create sharp images when photography required long exposure times.

It's certainly food for thought at any rate.

For more on the history of stereoscopic photography I recommend visiting the website of The London Stereoscopic Company, run by Brian May... Yes THE Brian May.

Links to work by Gustav Le Gray can be found here: Artcyclopedia


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