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Media Technology

How One Photographer Is Hacking the Concept of Time 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the about-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hungarian photographer Adam Magyar doesn't work like most artists. He takes the world's most sophisticated photographic equipment, then hacks it with software he writes himself — all in order to twist our perception of time inside out. In this latest story from the digital publisher MATTER, Joshua Hammer discovers how Magyar's unique combination of technology and art challenges the way we understand the world. At one point, Magyar realized he needed a 'slit-scan' camera, 'the type used to determine photo finishes at racetracks and at Olympic sporting events by capturing a time sequence in one image. Such cameras were rare and cost many thousands of dollars, so Magyar set out to build one himself. He joined a medium-format camera lens to another sensor and wrote his own software for the new device. Total cost: $50. He inverted the traditional scanning method, where the sensor moves across a stationary object. This time, the sensor would remain still while the scanned objects were in motion, being photographed one consecutive pixel-wide strip at a time. (This is the basic principle of the photo-finish camera.) Magyar mounted the device on a tripod in a busy Shanghai neighborhood and scanned pedestrians as they passed in front of the sensor. He then digitally combined over 100,000 sequential strips into high-resolution photographs.' There are pictures and videos interspersed throughout the article."
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How One Photographer Is Hacking the Concept of Time

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:57PM (#45900775)

    >> wrote his own software for the new device. Total cost: $50.

    Sure, if the time to write the software was worth nothing.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:06PM (#45900847)
    Wrong. Some of his work is pretty wild, especially the vids. Really cool stuff, this.
  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:08PM (#45900859)

    As long as it doesn't take away from another activity, then the cost of time is nothing. If this were not the case, then it would never be cheaper to cook at home rather than go to a restaurant.

  • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:16PM (#45900927) Homepage

    Sure, if the time to write the software was worth nothing.

    Of course, if he enjoyed doing it or got some sense of satisfaction, hell it's cheaper than a movie. Total cost could have been less than $0.

  • by jockm (233372) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:23PM (#45901003) Homepage

    I suspect he is getting much higher resolution images out of his rig. According to TFA his prints are 8 feet wide. You can scale up an iPhone image that high, but you will see a difference.

    But still, many roads lead to Rome...

  • huh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MitchDev (2526834) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:23PM (#45901005)

    Not so much "Hacking the Concept of Time" as "Hacking camera software to change how it takes pictures"

  • by hydrofix (1253498) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:28PM (#45901041)
    The website where the story article is hosted is pretty terrible. It's apparently based entirely on some sort of JavaScript hacks. I can only zoom one photo before the JavaScript code crashes. Then, when I try to reload, it loses the position I was on the page. I also dislike those texts and images that change brightness and scroll in dis-syncronization with the rest of the page. Not to speak of those "Share" buttons jumping out from behind page elements when I move my mouse cursor around. This page, although apparently meant to be "artistic", is sadly just a staple of horrible and dysfunctional web design.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:33PM (#45901069)

    There's an free iPhone app [funnerlabs.com] to simulate a slit-scan camera. It doesn't take a "$50,000 camera".

    Sure, but the actual smartphone camera cannot really compare with a high-end digital SLR or $16,000 Optronis video camera that can capture up to 100,000 frames per second?

  • Re:huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:52PM (#45901277) Homepage

    Not so much "Hacking the Concept of Time" as "Hacking camera software to change how it takes pictures"

    Let me guess, you either didn't read the article, or didn't understand it:

    Magyar mounted the device on a tripod in a busy Shanghai neighborhood and scanned pedestrians as they passed in front of the sensor. He then digitally combined over 100,000 sequential strips into high-resolution photographs.

    He's not taking a single exposure. He's taking a very large amount of small slices over a span of time, and stitching them together into a single image.

    He hasn't so much taken a 'snapshot in time' like a traditional camera, he's made images out of snapshots which occurred across time.

    Which means he's taking objects going by at a pretty good clip, and combining a whole lot of them into something which looks like a single astounding image.

    Some of his images have a time lapse quality to them, because they show things which are both in motion and still, over a time sequence:

    Eerie distortions of objects in motion and at rest reminded viewers that they were looking at a pictorial representation of time, not space. Speeding buses were compressed into Smart cars. Individuals who paused at a bus stop were elongated like Metroliners. Slower walkers had billowing pants legs, or feet like skis, or Oscar Pistorius-style blades. And because of the peculiar nature of the scanning technology, everyone was moving in the same direction. "The horizontal axis is not about space, it's not about left and right, it's about earlier and later," he says. "If two people are crossing the pixel at the same moment, they will look like they are walking together."

    If you read the article, you'll find he's done much much more than "Hacking camera software to change how it takes pictures" -- the resulting images look like a still frame, but are composited from a time lapse, and are MUCH more sophisticated than you seem to realize.

    Why do people on Slashdot persist in dismissing things they don't really understand? What he's done is taken what look like still images, but are in fact a cross section in time.

    That you think all he's done is to hack camera software means you don't have the barest idea of what it is he's actually done.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @05:27PM (#45901587) Journal

    Actually, The is now an increase the market for his images, because I have seen them, and want one. Whether I can afford one or not, is besides the point. And having seen his 12 second clip, the thing that struck me the most was how three dimensional it was, and I could easily imagine adapting the technique to normal cinematography sequences or even real (improved) 3D sequencing.

    This value you do not perceive doesn't mean that there is "ZERO market" for his images, it simply means you do not see the value where others do. And to be honest, that is your view, and that is okay. I just don't share that view.

  • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @05:53PM (#45901789) Homepage

    Exactly - If you give it away for nothing and people want it, it has value so essentially you are paying them. If you feel good doing it, you're essentially being paid. There's just no hard currency involved.

  • Re:huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @06:04PM (#45901901) Homepage

    It certainly does present time in an unfamiliar way visually. Use your imagination a little and it becomes a lot cooler.

  • by dmatos (232892) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @06:28PM (#45902099)

    How tall are his prints, though? The only thing that the resolution of the camera contributes to is the height. The width of his prints is determined by the number of time-slices that he assembles together into a single image.

    He could make a 16 foot wide print by recording for twice as long.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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