New Video Tech Creates 180-Degree Pannable Movies For iPad

Forget 3-D. Give me a scene that I can tilt and pan.

When we think video technologies, we tend to think higher resolution, or more recently, 3-D. But none of these tools fundamentally rethinks the experience of watching video in a more interactive way.

Condition One is a startup backed by investors like Mark Cuban (who’s dropped $500,000 into the company) that began as an experiment in war reporting. Their technology allows full motion video to be explored—panned and tilted—through simple interactions, like finger swipes. The effect is a lot like exploring a large photo, but in a continuous stream of animation the effect is infinitely richer.

"Traditionally watching TV or a video has been a ‘lean back’ experience, which means people passively view a TV show or movie," Condition One COO Andrew Chang tells Co.Design. "Video is becoming a ‘lean forward’ experience. … We’re pushing forward that concept by allowing viewers to change their perspective of what they’re seeing, not just passively accepting the viewpoint of the director."

The effect isn’t just that of directing your own movie; it’s deeper and more satisfying, probably because this simple "looking around" gesture mimics what we do in our lives every day. In this sense, the experience is still curated by a director, but offers an elasticity to scratch our curious itches as they come.

But from a media acquisition side, how does the system work? How does someone actually make these movies?

"Our technology is software," explains Chang. "We’re allowing people to use existing cameras and lenses on the market to shoot 180 degrees in front of them. … Our software maps that to a 3-D hemisphere of data, which users can then explore through the touching or using the accelerometers and gyroscopes of the iPad/iPhone."

For whatever reason, Condition One wouldn’t share anything more specific than that. Their player is an embeddable API that apps can build around (Popular Science has incorporated the tech into their latest issue), and even though it’s young, a lot of improvements are on the way. Condition One teased the ability to support HD video and live streaming.

But while Condition One believes the technology is "a natural fit for anyone trying to tell a story," I’m not so certain. The existing theater and television market—a whole infrastructure without gyroscopes or touch screens, created for multiple viewers—will thwart its mass adoption by Hollywood. Then again, maybe this is just the sort of technology amateur filmmakers need to create an entirely new movie experience on tablets.

Try it here (App Store).

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4 Comments

  • Robert Dajer

    This technology is fairly interesting. HBO did something similar with an experimental film called 
    http://theinspirationroom.com/....  Where viewers move around the cube, they watch the story unfold from different perspectives, forming different perceptions, and often mis-perceptions, of the characters and plot. Only by watching the story unfold from multiple sides of the cube can we begin to see the bigger picture.
    Too bad HBO pulled the plug on the project. But it was a dabbling in interactive television where the user controls and can discover new plots and  changing plots and different points of view.  Instead of Passively watching TV your Interacting with it.

  • affinityseattle

    Mark, you are forgetting that Apple iTVs are just around the corner with the rumor that the iPad and iPhone will be input devices (sans gyro). This means that the viewer can sit back and use their finger to move the viewpoint while watching the large screen. I'd think that the larger issue would be how to keep a film crew out of the shot!

    But, honestly, how interesting would it be to watch a movie where you could discover new things each time you watch it? Where did the bad guy come from? However, I could see a big issue with taking focus away from where the director is intending the audience to be and people becoming lost as the story progresses. Also, can you imagine how much more complex special effects would have to become?