Digital Communities

Apertus Open Source Cinema

Price: Auszeichnung - Award of Distinction

The Apertus camera uses technology from Elphel Inc., a company that has provided camera technology to the Google Corporation for its 'Street View' car rigs, and Google Book Scan project. This camera allows us to record video at resolutions beyond Full HD in a raw format (only offered by a select few high end digital cinema cameras at present) for a very reasonable price of approximately 1,500 USD (Elphel353 + HDD + Battery Pack). Using this open technology, we have been granted full control over all camera parameters. This has made it possible to use the camera for a wide range of tasks outside the normal film-making requiremnts in the areas of high speed recording, time lapse cinematography, stereo 3D capture and HDR image gathering. We have created custom software that ensures the image read out and all other operating parameters are synchronised between the two cameras in our functioning stereo 3D rig. Another Apertus software module allows the operator to view the video stream from a stereo 3D rig in an anaglyph mode with 3d glasses. Our viewfinder software (named 'ElphelVision') has been designed from the ground up as interactive touch-screen application. It displays real time video from the camera's sensor module with custom overlays (markers, safe area, etc.). ElphelVision allows the camera operator to alter all camera parameters and can also be used to playback recorded clips off the tablet computer's hard drive/storage unit. Members of our community have developed software to handle video format conversion and there are plans for creating software to deal specifically with raw video colour grading and proxy clip creation. On the hardware side we plan to develop a wired/wireless camera remote control otherwise referred to as the 'Dictator Interface'. This device sports an Arduino micro-controller which can be freely programmed and will act as a physical interface to connect further electronics to the camera for more complex interactions.


Cyberarts 2012 - International Compendium Prix Ars Electronica 2012

The goal of the Apertus Open Source Cinema project is to create a modular camera system composed from several hardware and software modules. Free (FLOSS) software and open hardware are to be utilized to build a device sporting all the features required by professional filmmakers in both studio and outdoor environments. The Apertus project also sees itself as more than just a hardware/software initiative. It is a burgeoning platform for filmmakers, creative-industry professionals, artists and enthusiasts. Apertus is a community movement, a forum of knowledge, an ecosystem of people supporting each other also advocating freedom. We actively cultivate: free technology, free information, free education, free knowledge, free culture, free arts, etc. This requires that everything we create shall be released to the public and protected with licences that ensure freedom as defined by the FSF (GNU GPL, Creative Commons, etc.). 

Film production has long been consigned to the realm of a select few, high-end proprietary manufacturing corporations. Due to the expense involved in research, development and low-volume, high-tech manufacturing, their products were reserved for only the most well-funded clients. This represents the essence of a closed world. Only in recent years have revolutionary changes taken place, with smaller companies creating innovative cameras and other tools at lower prices. However, their technological secrets are protected at all costs, and manufacturers have blocked access to the internal design of their products in fear of losing market share. This has resulted in vague or missing documentation, threats to void warranty—to prevent attempts at reverse engineering–—and artificially crippled features. This leads to the paradoxical situation where the technology for filmmaking is now widely affordable at the expense of the loss of freedom to use these tools. 

We at Apertus believe in open development and rely on fulfilling the four essential freedoms: freedom to access, use and study all knowledge; freedom to modify and change anything; freedom to redistribute all original knowledge; freedom to redistribute all modified and changed knowledge. In the beginning Apertus was just about building an open camera. As of 2012, it has become a much broader initiative. It now represents: 

—A movement actively spreading the idea of sharing knowledge and working together collaboratively 

—A pool of filmmakers and creative-industry professionals collaborating on professional cinema and arts productions 

— A missionary, encouraging individuals to develop an active mind, question what has come before them and give back to their respective communities 

—A group that researches and publishes knowledge, gives talks, holds workshops and events 

—A pool of developers working on free software and open hardware for film- and post-production.