Light Field photography has been around for a while and no other company has been more associated with its development than Lytro. First on the market with a consumer camera, and then a pro version, it has paved the uncharted territory of the promising technology. Restrained by a proprietary image format, expensive gear and lack of competition, it didn’t connect with the marketplace. Unphased and convinced that light field is here to stay , Jason Rosenthal , CEO of Lytro is now aiming for the very high-end market with a state of the art light field VR camera that might take movie making into a new dimension. We spoke with Jason ahead of his presentation at the LDV Vision Summit to learn more :
– You’ve been with Lytro since 2013. Looking back, what stands out?
I recently wrote about the decision to change the direction of the company — a little over a year ago, we began focusing our efforts on VR and stopped producing consumer cameras. Nine months later we announced Lytro Immerge, the world’s first Light Field system for VR, and just last week launched Lytro Cinema, a Light Field capture system for film and TV. It has been incredible; watching our team work and create and push Light Field technology forward with a passion, and honestly at a pace, that I think is unrivaled.
– Light field technology is slow to be mass-adopted, why is that?
While consumer Light Field cameras offered a number of true technological breakthroughs, we had a number of disadvantages, and we were competing in an established industry where the product requirements had been firmly cemented in the minds of consumers by much larger more established companies. We also started to hear from VR companies and Hollywood studios looking for a Light Field powered solution to help them realize their creative vision for cinematic VR and next generation content, landing us where we are now — focused on professional content creators, studios, artists and agencies for Virtual Reality and film and TV. It’s an exciting time in those industries.
– Does that mean Light field for the masses is over?
Kind of the opposite, actually. People are finding more time to consume content — creating additional time via multiple devices. Light Field opens up incredible creative opportunities and capabilities for filmmakers and artists, and it’s going to impact the kind of content that’s being created for existing and emerging mediums — film, television, VR. So through the content created with Lytro Immerge and Lytro Cinema. Light Field for the masses is just getting started. We’re just coming at it from a different direction.
We’re on the cusp of a generational shift from a legacy 2D video world to a 3D volumetric Light Field world — we believe that it has the potential to be even more transformative to imaging than the transition from film to digital 15 or so years ago.
– Any plans for a Lytro powered camera in a cell phone?
We’re focused on professional systems for film and VR right now.
– Light field appeal is more about what can be done with an image in post processing than the camera itself. Are you seeing great development coming up?
It’s both. The camera has to be able to capture all of the data that then allows for all of the amazing creative capabilities in post-production. Both Lytro Immerge and Lytro Cinema are complete end-to-end solutions, everything from capture to processing to post-production, and both work with industry standard tools.
Plus as Light Field displays become available, such as what companies like Magic Leap are working on, the demand for holographic content will grow exponentially and the only real way to capture that is through Light Field.
We’re also really excited about our current collaboration with Google Cloud Platform for Lytro Cinema and can’t wait to see where that takes us in terms of storage and processing.
– Lytro just released a VR 360 high-end camera, the Lytro Immerge. What is its competitive edge?
It’s the first end-to-end Light Field solution designed to provide all the hardware, software, and services required to capture, process, edit and playback professional-grade cinematic content. The advantage of Light Field tech is that it captures enough data (a Light Field Volume) that allows for a breakthrough sense of presence and enables a six degrees of freedom (6DoF) live action VR experience, previously only possible in CG VR experiences.
– Is VR a more obvious environment for Light field?
As we were talking with our creative partners, we realized that everyone in the VR industry totally ‘got’ the concept of Light Field and believed it could be the key to creating truly immersive storytelling experiences. We’re still in the early days with Lytro Immerge but the product-market-fit of Light Field technology and VR has exceeded even our highest expectations. Light Field video was always kind of the dream, and I think both VR and film are the perfect applications for Light Field technology right now.
– When will consumers experience the first Lytro Immerge videos?
We’re in the throes of planning and creating with our partners. We’ll have more coming soon.
– LDV Vision Summit : what do you expect to get from it?
I’m excited to be included in such an incredible group of speakers and panelists and think LDV is a great fit for Lytro.
– Will you showcase the Lytro Immerge at the summit?
No, we’re not planning to showcasing Lytro Immerge at the summit; we’re working on some amazing projects with amazing partners and will continue to do that. Look for more soon.
As in previous years, Kaptur is a proud media sponsor of the LDV Vision Summit. On top of advance previews of speakers and panels, we offer our readers 25% discount pricing. Act fast, there are only 10 available.
Go to: www.ldv.co/visionsummit/2016/tickets , enter KAPTUR25
Author: Paul Melcher
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.