The camera pans slowly across inanimate objects with a rolling point of focus that matches the accompanying song's ocean sounds. This is how the new video, "Ocean Picture" from the duo, Big Noble, begins. It's an uneventful start, unless you realize the trickery that's staring you in the face.
The rolling movement isn't the slow pan of a video camera across the curtains, carpet, or a wall, it's all still images being brought to life by a Lytro Illum and the light-field camera's ability to refocus on any depth after the picture has already been taken. As the video shows more and the scene unfolds, it's this haunting slow motion effect blended with the music, which ultimately creates a killer experience—pun, of course, intended.
Big Noble is Interpol's Daniel Kessler and sound designer Joseph Fraioli's unique collaboration around sound. The duo's new album, First Light, is deeply layered and beautiful, but is unconventional in a lot of ways. A perfect sonic background for experimenting visually as well.
"It was quite a lengthy process as I don't think the camera was really designed for video implementation," explains "Ocean Picture" director Daniel Ryan. "But when stretched to its limits we were able to execute the idea of slowly revealing a moment frozen in time."
The inspiration for the video came from Swiss artist Felix Vallotton, who's woodcut titled "L'Assassinat" dabbles in the dark theme of murder. Matching the music to a subject matter wasn't the difficult part, however, the real challenge of the shoot was figuring out the Lytro camera's strengths and weaknesses.
"After the shoot, I had to import and process every one of the 400+ images we had taken," says Ryan. "I had three computers running simultaneously for double digit hours to keep things moving. Once I narrowed down the images I wanted to use it took days of experimenting, one by one, to get the look and timing right for every image."
Lytro's new method for capturing all the data present and then allowing a user to manipulate it after the fact has been a wild concept since it debuted in 2011. Instead of photographer having to decide on a subject ahead of time, they can instead alter the perspective later on. It sounds amazing, but both the first generation Lytro camera and the newer Illum haven't quite figured out how to harness their power into quick and easy to use software for the consumer market—something Ryan experienced firsthand during the shoot.
There's been plenty of other people using Lytro's cameras, in everything from football photography to NASA using the company's light-field technology. So while shooting music videos might not be Lytro's intended use case, in the context of Big Noble's "Ocean Picture," the slow shifts in focus perfect match the song and both aspects collide perfectly to intensify the video's finale.