YellowBird: The Future of Video? Stills?

Posted in Photography, Video by Nathan Lee Bush on December 21, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Many believe that at some point, photographers will just record ultra-high-resolution video and grab stills from it to publish later. This is already happening on some high-end fashion shoots, as with the June 2009 Megan Fox Esquire cover shot with the RED ONE.

Now add 360 degree coverage to the equation. What if you could record an event and explore the moving video at any angle of your choosing? Enter YellowBird, which is pioneering panoramic video technology. The camera, a variation of that used on the Google street-view car, uses six lenses to simultaneously capture every viewing direction, and a surround sound microphone system records audio. The resulting video is streamed directly into a computer at 1200 Mbit per second and stitched together in post. You can scan up, down and all around the moving image using your mouse. The effect is a startlingly new immersive experience.

I watched a video using this technology last year and thought it was a fun gimmick, but watching it again recently I put two-and-two together. Sure, this technology is obviously in it’s infancy (the quality is relatively poor), but I can imagine a day when the New York Times sends a YellowBird-weilding “photographer” into the fray of a protest or a concert, beaming highres video back to an editor at the office, grabbing stills from the best angles.

This presents a problem for photographers. When the ‘decisive moment’ is gone, it could be argued, the role of the photographer is dead. At the point where photography becomes choosing stills from video, still image-making becomes a matter of secondary editing, rather than seeing what’s in front of your eyes and curating the moment for your audience.

Of course, a laundry list of technical issues will have to be worked out before this Brave New World is realized, including storage capacity, data transfer speed and better stitching algorithms. But if there’s one thing we learn watching digital developments unfold, it’s never a question of if, but when.

What do you think? Does this camera have implications for the future of photography? Will this way of watching video catch on?

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Nathan Lee Bush is a photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his blog and site, and on Vimeo. He’s also on Twitter.


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  1. […] new series highlighting our customers’ work, ARC Presents; and we looked at a stunning new video technology, which lets you interactively view every angle in 360 degrees, and pondered what it meant for the […]

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