Danfung Dennis, a war photographer and videographer who turned his experiences in Afghanistan into an Academy Award-nominated documentary, would like people to get a look through his eyes. But instead of referring people to his pictures or documentary, he’s got a more ambitious plan to build a new video standard that let’s people encounter moving imagery in a much more visceral and interactive way.
Dennis’ company Condition One, which is set to graduate from TechStars’ New York class Thursday, has created a video technology that lets people with cameras film video that can capture 180 degrees of view. The video, which can be manipulated through swipes or an accelerometer, can be viewed through iPad or iPhone apps. The goal is to help consumers, big brands and publishers create videos that allow people to live inside a moment, letting them act as if they are in a given place, experiencing it firsthand.
The company is announcing today that it has raised $500,000 from Mark Cuban and is embarking on a pilot program with Mercedes, Discovery Communications, XL Recordings, The Guardian and Popular Science. Popular Science, for example, has created an iPad app with Condition One technology that takes people on a tour of the ATLAS Large Hedron Collider. The new money will help the company improve its technology and build its team. One key hire is CTO Julian Gomez, a 3D graphics engineer pioneer, who has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Google, Macromedia, Sun Microsystems and Apple, where he helped develop QuickDraw 3D, which led to 3D development standard OpenGL.
In addition to the Popular Science app, Condition One has its own showcase app (by the same name) that lets people see examples of the video experience. There’s a simple one of New York’s High Line Park that let’s people see a full field of vision as people walk by, kind of like a live version of Google Street View. Dennis believes this video can be used in a number of settings, from live music and sporting events to more traditional documentaries. He said creating video with Condition One results in a much more transparent portrayal of an event or story because it doesn’t involve traditional editing and framing techniques.
“There is less control and less ability to filter and it’s harder to construct a narrative,” Dennis said. “We’re taking the power of a still image and the narrative of film and marrying it with virtual reality to make a new experience that’s highly interactive.”
Dennis said that with the proliferation of mobile devices, it’s time we moved beyond traditional, flat video to a more immersive form of video. Condition One, however, will not work with basic point and shoot cameras, as it requires devices with more advanced sensors. Still, Dennis said there are 30 million Condition One-compatible cameras on the market. Condition One allows creators to transform their video into interactive stories using existing tools, such as Final Cut and Avid, and the company is working on its own editing software. It’s also looking letting other developers embed Condition One videos into their existing apps using an API.
I like what Condition One is doing and am tempted to get a more advanced camera just to create some of these videos. It’s great that users don’t have to buy special hardware but can use cameras already on the market. We’ve seen a lot of hype around 3-D but there’s been very little payoff, especially among consumers making their own 3-D video. But I’d like to see more uses of Condition One that help people experience moments such as, perhaps, the Olympics or other major events. I think documentaries could be really interesting, too, though it will definitely require a more open-ended approach to video (kind of like how video game designers allow for a broad set of actions inside a game). Or it could lead to some kind of choose-your-own-adventure type of video that lets people control the narrative.
It’s too bad that regular cameras and smartphones can’t capture this video. That would make it really interesting for many more people. But I still think this could become a big deal as bigger publishers and brands embrace the possibilities.