Planet Earth II’s 360-degree videos are a great escape

Not a lot of people know this but the BBC is one of the leading researchers in areas related to broadcasting and other technology. They invented Nicam stereo, teletext and much more besides. The microphones they developed in the 1930s are still the basis of many of those we use today. One area they’ve been particularly active in is VR, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and how it might be useful.

Here’s one example of research that tests the waters of what’s possible, via The Verge:

360-degree video is still a format without much of a purpose. Consumers and filmmakers alike are trying to figure out how to film in it but also what makes a good 360-degree video in the first place. BBC’s take on it seems pretty close to the ideal — relatively short in length, good quality, and engaging — and they’ll be releasing more as Planet Earth II airs. It’s still not the kind of immersive content promised by virtual reality, but at this point in time, it’s plenty worth escaping into.

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The Return of Deep Focus? (AKA Shallow Depth Of Field is not the only way…)

Spellbound composite

Filmmakers push technology in certain directions, but technology pushes back at us, too. A breakthrough in one area can hold us back in another; a technology that makes one style of filmmaking easier can impede another. And sometimes, what was seen as a breakthrough with hindsight looks merely like a shift in convention.

In the heyday of movies in the 1940s, a cinematographic breakthrough was proclaimed: deep focus. Most famously pioneered by cinematographer Greg Toland in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, deep focus meant everything on the film set could be in focus at once. No longer did the filmmaker have to decide what was in focus and what was not. Everything was clear and sharp for the eye to discover. Some critics saw this as liberating the audience; rather than being controlled and directed, the viewer was free to make his or her own connections.

Deep focus (or deep depth of field, as we would call it today) was dependent on innovations in technology. Faster filmstock and powerful carbon arc lamps enabled Toland to shoot between f8 and f16 using (mostly) wide-angle lenses. A couple of years earlier none of this would have been possible.

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