Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Virtual Camera and Trendy Commercials 46

Polaris sent us a link to an interesting article where you can read how they do that super trendy camera trick where the frame freezes, and the camera pans around. It's the ad industry's current 'morph' as best I can tell, but its still interesting to see the technology that goes into it. And the longer term applications for a user controllable camera.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Virtual Camera and Trendy Commercials

Comments Filter:
  • That credit card commercial with all the frozen-in-time crap is cool. Much more watchable than most of the other pathetic "ooh-lets-be-funny" excuses for commercials.
  • Posted by KyDex:

    That they want an email address and title of there visitor to view the information, but when I elected not to fill out the information netscapes back button wouldn't take me back to slashdot.
  • See Meat Beat Manifesto's 'Helter Skelter'.

    It's a great application of this technology - water frozen midair, etc.
  • Unlike some of the other frivilous patents, I think this one is pretty normal.

    Just what DO you think patents should be used for?
  • I've seen that video too. The effect was stunning. Done around 1986 or so, directed by that Russian or Polish guy who was very popular at the time. His videos were *always* interesting, no two the same. I seem to remember a chunky blond gut screeching very loudly into the camera(s)...
    Definitely prior art.
  • There are a lot of folks here saying that the technique was "obvious" to them after they saw the technique used for the first time. Well, sure. That's why they don't give you patents for figuring out how someone else did something. If, on the other hand, you manage to dream up something that no-one has ever seen before, and then make it happen... well, then you probably deserve a patent.

    Me, I thought it was fewer cameras, more computers. Nice to see a good analog solution once in a while.

  • I remember reading that AC article back in 1996 about this. Seemed like a really cool technology, but if you notice the commercials doing it now and compare it to the ones on the site, the ones using that system have the worst quality in terms of image stability while the "movement" is happening, color continuity, etc, etc, etc...

    That credit card commercial in particular I thought looked like crap. Any of the ones involving moves through a larger amount of space, because they seem to spread the units out too far and double or triple up on frames like older cartoons did. It makes for very choppy movement.

    The commercials where its done very clearly are typically shot from fewer vantage points and digitally morphed, like the Gap ad. (Which still tracks poorly, but looks a lot better anyway...)

    I'm more impressed with the CGI in those chrysler ads where the car peels away. Very slick, very clean. Anyone know which agency/effects house did those?
  • Gee, and I thought it was a CG trick the whole time. Silly me. Now it'd be really cool if I could get my hands on about 60 quickcams.... I guess that means I'm going to run out of parallel ports real quick.
  • This camera system took years to think up, and
    hundreds of hours of work to build and get working.
    Would you deny a patent for a new video camera?
    After all, it's pretty obvious that if you put a
    CCD behind a lense and add a video deck in the loop that it is a camera.
    There's a lot of little details that had to be
    worked out, like keeping the exposed film sealed
    and coordinating that many shutters, that this
    camera is, IMNSHO, worthy of a patent.
  • I don't know how anyone who makes commercials can be proud of what they do for a living. If it was one commercial, maybe I could forgive them, but their huge list of commercials just turns me off -- can't ad execs think of something creative to do rather than copying other ads?

    Yes, they've got a nice camera. I'm sure a lot of good things can be done with it. Prehaps I've just gotten cynical as I get older, but I can't have any respect for people that make beer commercials. They don't make me think about nubile girls in bikinis, but rather about the times the room was spinning around, when I had to clean up vomit, and the many times I've been punched by a drunk. When I see a Discover card commercial, I think about how they got in trouble with the FTC a few years ago for a slick series of ads that claimed that the Discover card didn't charge interest for cash advances -- that you'd get money extracted from your pocket if you used another card -- it didn't tell you that you had to pay a "service fee" which would have been more than the interest on most cards...

  • I told them I was Bill Gates!
  • Of course, there's no way to prove this, since I didn't actually get the idea notarized by an official JP, or even tell anyone. :-) But I thought up the same technique in 1996. June, I think.

    Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" is a particular favorite song of mine, and (never having seen the videoclip) I like to imagining what it would look like. I'm great at visualizing things...

    I was contemplating the line "She pictures the broken glass/pictures the steam" and imagined a smattering of shattered glass falling towards the concrete, frozen in flight. I wanted a scene change by having sunlight glint off the falling glass and whiteout the shot... then fade from white into the next.

    How would I do this, I thought, if I wanted to actually make the clip? CGI was my first idea, but seemed unsatisfying. It's hard to do right. I thought of whizzing a camera around really, really fast, but was concerned about the blur.

    Then I saw it.. an arc of cameras, All shooting at the same time.

    Two months later, I read about this 'amazing new camera technique' invented by this guy in new york, who was going to patent it. Scientific American, from memory. I can get the exact reference if anyone wants.

    The first time I saw it used in an ad, I was electrified. It's weird seeing something that up until that moment only existed in your head.

    Ideas. Memories. It's a strange world.

    ps. Listen to the song.
  • Discrett Logic's Flint has been able to go effects like this for years on the SGI with only one or two camera angles.
  • I'm sorry, but WHAT? Doesn't that "invention"
    fall into the patent denial category of "being obvious to anyone with half a brain"? So, you have lots of cameras all lined up. Blimey. That's incredible. Give the man a medal.

    Sorry for the sarcasm.
  • I'm sorry, but WHAT? Doesn't that "invention" fall into the patent denial category of "being obvious to anyone with half a brain"? So, you have lots of cameras all lined up. Blimey. That's incredible. Give the man a medal.

    Sorry for the sarcasm.
  • Considering that the same trick was used before movie cameras were invented, I think that it would be pretty easy to dispute the patent in court.
    Adding the moving parts to the film is new, (where something freezes and someone walks around it) but blue screen has been used for several decades too.

    I don't blame him for trying to patent it though, this camera trick is VERY popular right now and I'm sure there is a lot of money being made from it.
  • This was discussed on Roger Ebert's web page a while ago. Just in case anyone cares, it was brought up that the Gap ad with the swing dancers doing the lindy hop did not use virtual camera, that was jen-ewe-ine SGI effects.
  • The Garbage video for "Push It" did something very similar to this as well. In it, they had the image moving very fast, then it would freeze and they'd pan around it. I'm not sure if this was done with the same tech or not...

    John Riney III
  • What about this?

    Take a bunch of ordinary, motor-drive cameras.
    Rig them up in a circle around the subject.
    Use some hardware to command the cameras to fire en masse.
    Repeat until out of film.
    Put all the frames together sequentially(E.G. camera 1, frame 1 -> camera 2 frame 1 - ... - camera n frame 1 -> camera 1 frame 2 -> ... -> camera n frame m). Tada! You've got rotating slow motion.

    With different camera paths and firing sequences, you could do other wacky stuff.

    John Riney III
  • Um, yeah, I did read the web site. It appeared to me that what they did was shoot all 32-48-64 etc frames in one shot, one frame per camera, string them together and that's it. What I'm saying is to have every camera take multiple shots over time. Perhaps^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hprobably I misunderstood^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hscrewed up

    /me slinks back to his corner

    John Riney III
  • I remember the first time I saw this effect. I thought, "Gosh, they must have a whole bunch of cameras all lined up in a row."

    It was for a music video, and since they panned all the way around a scene, you could see the cameras on the other side.

    I think it was a Bone Thugs 'n' Harmony video. Can anybody think of the first public example of this technique?

    Wouldn't it be cool if we could come up with some previous art, and kill this stupid patent attempt?
  • Vincent Gallo's independent film with Christina Ricci - Buffalo '66

    Ending scene has Vincent Gallo shooting himself in the head... They freeze and pan around with his face all contorted. Very cool!!

    It was released in 1998... don't know if that helps with the patent.
  • Damn, is the technique overused or what?

    GAP, Subaru, etc. etc. etc.

    If I see it in 2 different commercials in the same evening you know it's already cliche.

    Kinda like those comical little 3d animated characters. Bud frogs, Listerine, Zip-Locks

    Boy, them ad exec types are reeeel creative!!!

  • I "make" commercials for a living and I'm proud.

    It is of course more true to say that I contribute a fractionally small element towards some or more commercials, broadcast graphics, simulator rides, movie films etc etc

    Ad execs (if that's who you wish to believe 'make' commercials) can prolly think of thousands of exciting new and original creative things to do - the problem being that no-one will pay you money to be original, creative and independant. Adverts aren't conjured out of thin air, they are bought and paid for by all the people who buy the products they advertise.

    On a recent visit to the states I was shocked to hear American commercials directors rubbishing the more "creative" adverts as a waste of airtime because advertising is a "science" and the "personal" vision of creative directors is irrelevant to the majority of viewers / consumers / lemmings.

    Timeslicing has been about for a year or two now, afaik there's one guy who invented it (Dayton Taylor / Timetracks) and a couple of poor imitators. Most all of the effective uses [of this technique] I have seen were done by him / his company. No-one else seems to get the sync quite right.

    The first time I saw timeslicing (in the UK) was an advert for Capitol Radio a long while ago - it doesn't appear to have been the overnight gimmick that morphing was. One minute PDI morphed michael jackson's video the next day practically everyone was morphing everything - morphing is still a valuable production tool it's just been relegated to the "invisible" effects dept. :)

    The problem with the flickering (light) is easy enough to correct ..umm.. hit the 'deflicker' button in flame or inferno, the fluttering (slight zooming in and out) is harder to fix but a lot of stabilisation will usually cure all but the most wildly misaligned cameras. What's practically impossible to fix however is badly synchronised shutters especially on faster moving subjects. Usually ropey frames can be morphed over but high complexity stuff like big splashes of water are too painful to try.

    Hitachi have released a plugin for Composer that allows you to "Tour Into Picture" (called Tipit) (http://www.aw.sgi.com/??? nofeature yet!? ) (http://www.iijnet.or.jp/JAM/AD/TIP/TIP_HomeE.html ) that maps existing still pictures onto roughly defined perspective shapes allowing you to "move" into the picture - it can get very close to the timeslicing effect as long as you don't have busy, complex scenes with lots of layers of parallax.


All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford