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World's first full HDR video system sees like the human eye


January 18, 2011

Researchers have developed the world's first full High Dynamic Range video system, which allows for videos that are exposed in a fashion similar to that of the human visual perception system (Photo: goHDR)

Researchers have developed the world's first full High Dynamic Range video system, which allows for videos that are exposed in a fashion similar to that of the human visual perception system (Photo: goHDR)

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Anyone who regularly uses a video camera will know that the devices do not see the world the way we do. The human visual system can perceive a scene that contains both bright highlights and dark shadows, yet is able to process that information in such a way that it can simultaneously expose for both lighting extremes – up to a point, at least. Video cameras, however, have just one f-stop to work with at any one time, and so must make compromises. Now, however, researchers from the UK’s University of Warwick claim to have the solution to such problems, in the form of the world’s first full High Dynamic Range (HDR) video system.

HDR has been in development for some time – Sunnybrook Technologies unveiled a High Dynamic Range display system back in 2004, and just last year BenQ joined a list of several manufacturers to have released HDR still cameras. Even HDR video has been shot before, albeit on a limited, experimental basis. What the researchers at Warwick claim to have developed is the world’s first full-motion HDR video system, that covers everything from image capture through to display.

“HDR imagery offers a more representative description of real world lighting by storing data with a higher bit-depth per pixel than more conventional images,” explained Prof. Alan Chalmers, of Warwick’s WMG Digital Laboratory. “Although HDR imagery for static images has been around for 15 years, it has not been possible to capture HDR video until now. However, such HDR images are typically painstakingly created in computer graphics or generated from a number of static images, often merging only 4 exposures at different stops to build an HDR image.”

The new system, by contrast, captures 20 f-stops per frame of 1080p high-def video, at the NTSC standard 30 frames-per-second. In post-production, the optimum exposures can then be selected and/or combined for each shot, via a “tone-mapping” procedure. A process called Image-Based Lighting can also be utilized, in which computer-created objects can be added to real-world footage, where they will appear to actually be lit by the light given off by that footage – in one example, the light of real-world explosions is reflected on the sides of a computer-generated car.

Of course, all of that extra data takes up some space – each frame is 24MB in size, which works out to 42GB per minute. To address that rather large quandary, the researchers are collaborating with HDR tech firm goHDR to develop software that will compress the HDR footage by at least 100-fold. This should allow for existing editing systems to be able to handle the video files.

The final step in the process is the HDR monitor. It consists of an LED panel which projects through an LCD panel placed in front of it. The combination of the two screens is necessary to provide all of the lighting information.

The Warwick team believe that the technology would be useful for applications such as televised sports coverage (in which a football moves in and out of sunlight and shadows, for instance), conducting or recording surgery, or for security systems. It could also find use in feature film-making, as the researchers state that it could be used to create 3D images that don’t require viewers to wear special glasses.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

i take alot of videos of my wife and i traveling throughout the world this video setup would make for some very interesting memorable destinations

George Kat

World's first? Really?

What is described above is a working prototype system. There is a world of difference between a working prototype system, and a production system available to a buyer.

Red Digital Cinema released sample footage demonstrating their version of High Dynamic Range capture, "HDRx" in September 2010. The footage was taken with a prototype Epic camera. The production version of Epic was shipped in December 2010. A version of Red's editing program, REDCINE-X that can recognize HDRx data and transcode to other editing formats was released in December 2010.

The Red system is capable of ~18 stops of dynamic range capturing 5K (4 x the amount of data as 1080p) at 48fps (60fps at 2.35:1).


Perhaps if this were miniaturized (with specialied technogology that we may or may not have now, but in the future) it would serve as an implantable or wearable \"optic\" nerve for a visually handicapped person.

Azar Attura
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