Mainstream phone buyers may be obsessed with the iPhone 8 and Note 8 right now, but it’s RED’s Hydrogen that has enthusiasts fascinated. The modular Android smartphone may be $1,200 but, in RED terms, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to its film cameras that have become the darlings of professional movie-makers. What’s really intriguing, though, are RED’s plans for holographic video content, a vision in which the Hydrogen One is just one part.
Holographic video is one of the cornerstones of the Hydrogen phone, though it’s not a self-contained 4-View holography studio in its own right. For consuming such video, it’ll have a holographic display which RED has taken pains to differentiate from some of the earlier attempts at 3D screens on smartphones. “The Hydrogen display is NOT lenticular,” RED’s Jim Jannard has pointed out on several occasions, “which we deem “not good”.”
“Holography covers a lot of territory, from holograms on credit cards to Princess Leia,” he has explained, referring to the iconic scene in Star Wars where R2-D2 projects Leia’s three-dimensional distress call. “We have multi-view holography (4-View) with look-around.”
Actually capturing that 4-View video will be more complex than just a single Android smartphone, however. Although RED has not explained completely what it has in mind, Jannard has outlined several different routes to creating holographic content. These range from converting 2D video, through to dedicated hardware.
Simplest, it seems, will be converting standard 3D video to .h4v, the 4-View video format RED has developed. That should be “very easy” according to Jannard, using interpolation from the two camera footage through to 4-View. That’s as opposed to the “very hard” process of converting 2D to 3D, then on to .h4v format. RED, though, will also eventually offer its own 4-View rigs.
“You can generate .h4v (holographic 4-View) by shooting 4 cameras,” Jannard explains, going on to say that RED is “building solutions from consumer to professional.”
Exactly what those rigs might comprise remains to be seen. There are various ways that RED could capture the multiple simultaneous angles required, spanning everything from mounting two or more Hydrogen phones on a single bracket, through to complex lenses that would take advantage of the smartphone’s modular connector. In the latter case, for instance, different portions of a single, very high-resolution sensor could be used for the different angles of the final 4-View footage.
That approach might not satisfy professional film-makers, of course. Jannard says he’s already wowed director JJ Abrams with Hydrogen, who apparently described it as “ground-breaking, barrier-smashing, bar-raising and badass.” For true cinematic purposes, a rig with several of RED’s high-end bodies seems likely.
If it weren’t for the company’s vocal and enthusiastic following, and the fact that such a high percentage of that following have roles with great sway in the film industry, you could doubt 4-View’s potential for disruption. Given RED’s reputation, though, holographic video looks like it’ll be more than just a gimmick for the Hydrogen phone.