Alexx Henry Reveals the Third Dimension
Professional photographers, those who shoot traditional 2D output, should know that they can apply their well-honed skills to help power the next phase of ultra-realistic immersive imagery, better known as 3D imaging.
“This new wave of photography builds upon traditional camera fundamentals. But the exciting thing is that it goes a step beyond to elevate the camera’s tried-and-true output, image files, to a whole new level.” shares Alexx Henry, who recently teamed with Nikon to develop a multi-camera imaging solution for the future.
Since 2008 this Los Angeles-based videographer/photographer has been creating his own 3D magic, fusing digital stills with motion, graphics and audio–pushing forward never before seen looks and immersive experiences for commercial and editorial clients. His resulting creations, personally coined “Living Art,” take root in photogrammetry.
Basis in Photogrammetry
The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) defines photogrammetry as, “The art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment, through processes of recording, measuring, and interpreting images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant energy and other phenomena.”
On the surface, photogrammetry is fairly straightforward reveals Henry. “Take several high quality photos of the same subject from different angles, then compare points on each of the images. Use those shared points to build a point cloud and depth map to solve the geometry. There are many readily available software suites you can use for 3D mapping,” he says. “Unfortunately, many of the current 3D systems fall short. Most methods, such as structured light or laser systems, often produce poor texture quality, if any at all.”
Undaunted by the tech challenges and limitations, Henry has taken up a personal call to define and refine what a photograph can look like if set in motion and rendered in 3D. His result—Living Art—came about in an assignment to create a movie poster for the Hallmark Channel. That assignment was followed shortly thereafter with another fusion first for Outside. For the publisher, Henry created a moving cover plus inside spread featuring a triathlete in motion paired aside text. That hit was then followed by a cover and spread for tablet devices for VIVmag—for which he received a prestigious Cannes Gold Lion.
“For VIV we experimented with motion and interactivity. The renders are beautiful—a 3D world that allows the viewer to move forward linearly and interact with feature articles in 2D. This work may seem like a bit of a jump, but it’s really a natural evolution that uses technology to better tell stories.”
xx Marks the Spot
Henry first became interested in photogrammetry when exposed to the work of Lee Perry Smith, a pioneer of infinite realities. “Smith’s work really paved the way.” Inspired to expand upon the innovator’s vision, plus build a more scalable photogrammetry system, Henry approached Nikon with a request to help him find a way to better capture 3D. As a result, Henry’s eye can now be seen in many locations—quite literally—courtesy of the Nikon-powered xxArray™.
With a theatre of 64 precisely placed Nikon cameras, the studio now has its next gen imaging solution capable of rendering meticulous 3D output. So precise is this solution that the slightest skin tone texture gradients can be measured, mapped and rendered—perfect input for powerful photogrammetry.
It took two years of research for Henry and his team to create their imaging solution. They assessed everything from choice of camera body and camera placement, to rigging, source file integrity, plus output and overall cost. Based on findings, the 24.1MP Nikon D5200 was deemed to be optimal. “On a cost per Megapixel basis, plus superior image quality and clarity, the Nikon camera exceeded all options,” shares Henry.
Art and Skin in the Game
One of Henry’s most impressive projects created using the Nikon-powered xxArray™ is the online edition for Art and Skin—the first-ever 3D digital tattoo magazine—plus its companion appazine. Collaborating with magazine staff and 12 models, Henry created a 3D body of work that showcases art produced by some of the most respected tattoo artists in the industry.
The 64 camera set-up, which covers roughly 15 x 15 feet of studio space, required a mix of stereo paired cameras placed to most efficiently master geometry and texture. Each camera was outfitted with a AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. Henry attached a wireless triggering system, the Nikon WR-R10, to each camera. Once he hit the WR-T10 remote transmitter, all 64 cameras were fired simultaneously. The xxArray™ system then automatically transferred image files (nearly 15.5 Gigapixels) to three separate computers, and finally to a 12 core for processing. Power to each of the cameras was piped through a Nikon EH-5b AC adapter with EP-5a connector.
“We shot in JPEG for Art and Skin, which resulted in a total ingestion time of between 10 to 15 seconds for the initial capture. The integrity of the photos is amazing, and the multiple camera set-up permits us to effectively see around corners on the human form,” he shares. “These high resolution files permit us to zoom-in on minute details. The xxArray™ gives an incredible way to capture and view the human form.”
Henry’s end presentation provides zoom, tilt, pan and scan over the body. Readers gain an entirely new immersive experience. “We’re very proud of the work produced using the Nikon-powered xxArray™. Continuing to innovate for the tablet magazine space by bringing a unique digital experience—that’s what we love doing.” Users can download the interactive app at www.artandskin.com.
But 64 cameras? Do you really need that many?
Henry points out that multiple cameras are required when photographing people, but not inanimate objects; the human form is geometrically complex and humans move. Compared to an object, such as a bench, the bench’s form will not change during the overall camera capture. “You’ve probably seen rigs where one or a few cameras rotate around the object,” he remarks. “That’s fine for something that will not move. A human will not remain stationary through several shutter releases.”
He explains that retailers and architects currently lead as significant consumers and producers of photo-real 3D assets. “The essential fuel is the high quality 3D asset, with object visualization being just one driver behind the need. Photographers should know that the need for this type of asset, as destined for consumer-facing applications, will only increase. “Trends predict that 3D imaging is becoming a major force—major retailers are looking at 3D as a central asset from which all imaging data points and sub assets will derive.”
Also driving 3D imagery is the prevalence of tablets and mobile devices. Henry asserts that these devices have truly changed the way people consume information and entertainment, and if done right, the content can really come alive.
“Ultra-rich assets are essential ingredients for today’s incredible immersive experiences. Nikon leads the way in empowering photographers, film producers and artists to create those rich assets—like the high resolution images we produced using the D5200,” adds Henry. “Photographers can hop on board the 3D train at any time by harnessing that same curious spirit that got them started with imaging in the first place.”