Lytro Cinema Camera: Refocus and Determine Depth of Field after Capture


Admit it: when you heard about the Lytro Light Field and Illum cameras, you wanted there to be a Lytro Cinema Camera. The ability to refocus and determine your image’s depth of field after the time of capture would be invaluable to nearly any production. Today, Lytro announces just that—the Lytro Cinema. Not just a camera, Lytro Cinema is a system that involves a camera that captures an immense amount of visual information, servers to store and process that information in the cloud, and other software and hardware tools to harness that information and use it in part of your production.

The camera itself is a gargantuan beast, boasting 755-megapixel raw video capturing at up to 300 frames per second with up to 16 stops of dynamic range. Those are impressive figures by any standard. But, while specs on paper are of some importance, the ways that the images captured by the camera can be manipulated is far more impressive. To describe the sheer capabilities of Lytro Cinema precisely is difficult, because there is currently nothing available that can match the experience this system promises to bring. Because of the vast amounts of information captured by the system, aesthetic and practical decisions that are normally locked in by the DP in the heat of a production schedule are no longer fixed. Focus pulls will be spot-on and impossibly smooth, shutter angle for motion blur can be determined based on the scene’s content, shots can be sped up and slowed down as if they were filmed like that in the first place. All of these factors, and more, can be determined straight from the comfort of an editing suite—after the principal photography is wrapped up.

While it’s easy to ponder the applications of such a system in mainstream cinematography, VFX is really where Lytro Cinema can truly shine. The wealth of information recorded by Lytro Cinema creates a 3D environment that can be easily combined with a 3D composition. Keying out subjects from a frame becomes seamless—and doesn’t require a chroma green or blue screen—as parts of the scene can be isolated in 3D space and then incorporated into a computer-generated universe.

Packed with bleeding-edge technology, Lytro Cinema is sure to be a game changer when it makes its way to the industry. With NAB around the corner, more details on Lytro Cinema will be revealed. Be sure to check back on the B&H Explora blog for more announcements on new and exciting gear from NAB.

Check back for pricing and availability.


"Because of the vast amounts of information captured by the system, aesthetic and practical decisions that are normally locked in by the DP in the heat of a production schedule are no longer fixed."

And there's why it will fail to be anything more then a niche product for special effects, and maybe government surveilance.

What Cinematographer is going to want to have their creative input passed over to the Editor?

Both have specific tasks that mesh with a Directors vision and an actors performance, to create a film, and none are going to want to be passing off thier creative inputs to other specialities.

Hi Stewart, thanks for reading.

You make an excellent point here. This camera became quite the discussion point here for my colleagues and I after we first got wind of it. I agree with your general argument, and I am of the opinion that most feature film DPs will not take advantage of the "conveniences" of the Lytro Cinema system, at least in the very near future, for  anything other than VFX or VR-related material. I can sooner see this being used on high-end commercials, where tight production schedules and enormous budgets reign supreme. That said, it's fun to speculate about the future of this camera, where, if the Light Field technology becomes commonplace, it could potentially bring about the creation of a new position that involves both DP and editing duties. And regardless of all that, one of the most important aspects of the DP will still be essential to any production, and that is lighting. Fancy cameras can't obviate lighting as a storytelling tool, regardless of their sensitivity to natural light. The Zacuto camera shootouts proved that years ago. All I can say, is that we should use the tools that best serve the stories we tell, and that are available to us. Happy shooting!

All the best,