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.