i3D - Head coupled perspective

i3D is an iPhone and iPad app that demonstrates how a face tracking system can be used to create animated perspective views that adjust as you view the screen from different angles, creating a realistic illusion of 3D depth.

The system creates a monocular view, using the front facing camera of the phone or tablet for facetracking. It does not rely on the accelerometer or gyroscope. There is potential for the system to be developed in conjunction with stereoscopic technology to create more sophisticated interactive perspective images.

i3D has been developed by Jeremie Francone and Laurence Nigay at the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction (EHCI) Research Group of the Grenoble Infomatics Laboratory (LIG), University Joseph Fourier in Switzerland.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store here.

Videos and further information about the project can be found on the EHCI website.

New pinhole room by Stenopes

Stenopes have created a new pinhole room...

Further images can be found on their website.

There is also a video...

"Stenop.es is an experimental visual project using a primitive technique: The Camera Obscura. Applied to an original scale, the project is based on projection from the outside to the inside. Two layers are merging while the landscapes takes place in the interior’s intimacy."

For more work by Stenopes (Romain Alary and Antione Levi), see my previous post on their pinhole camera projects in Paris and Ghat.

(Image and video © stenop.es)


Fast/Slow was an installation by Rob Lee at Prism 11, which took place in Sheffield in March 2012.

"Rob Lee's wall paintings exploit the specificity of perspective. Cohesively viewed from only one location, elsewhere his words appear as distended and distorted shapes. Fast/Slow reacts to changing temporalities; as the world moves to a pace in which action, reaction and information seem to be processed almost instantly, the act of viewing these words requires work adjustment and articulation."

(description taken from the exhibition leaflet)

(photos © copyright Russell Light)

For more details see:

Rob Lee's website

Prism 11 page and Prism website

How to use a camera lucida

The camera lucida is generally considered to have been invented by the English chemist W. H. Wollaston in 1806-07, although there is some speculation that it is a reinvention of a device described by Kepler some 200 years earlier. The term camera lucida means 'light room' and it indicates that the device didn't require the darkened space that had been necessary for the earlier camera obscura. There is no projected image and it is based on very different optical principles. A camera lucida consists of a simple prism and lens that allow an artist to see the scene that they depicting superimposed over the paper that they are drawing on, so that they can simply trace around the image. The rest of the device comprises of a clamp and extendable arm, with which it can be securely fixed in position to one side of the artist's drawing board or sketch pad with the prism set at a convenient height.

A French camera lucida or 'Chambre Claire Universelle', made by Breveté S.G.D.G., with a set of 12 numbered lenses.

Detail of the prism (set within the black holder) and lens.

Looking downwards through the very edge of the prism, the subject is seen the correct way up on the drawing surface, as shown in the above photos.

As the superimposed images tend to be quite faint, white paper can be too bright for the image to appear clearly. Drawing in chalk on black paper can be used to achieve better results.

These instructions for the 'Chambre Claire Universelle' explain which of the different numbered lenses is to be used in various circumstances, dependant on the height of the prism above the paper and the distance of the subject being drawn. Increasing the height of the prism above the drawing surface creates a larger image.

A 19th century engraving by C. Varley made using a camera lucida, depicting G. Dollond who is also drawing with the device. George Dollond (1774-1852), who was a noted maker of telescopes and other optical instruments, helped popularise the camera lucida in England.

It was after using a camera lucida in 1833 that the the pioneer of photography William Fox Talbot began his attempts to fix images chemically.

David Hockney has speculated on how great artists have used the camera lucida in his book 'Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters'. (for a very brief summary of some of these ideas, see his article in RA Magazine from Summer 1999).

A two-part BBC documentary based on Hockney's book is available on YouTube (Pt1, Pt2).

Further information on how to use a camera lucida can be found at Gilai Collectibles.

For an updated take of the same principle, an iPhone and iPad app called Camera Lucida is available which allows photographs taken with the camera to be traced onto paper, as demonstrated here.

(all photos © copyright Russell Light)

Inverted worlds of camera obscuras

Stenop.es is a project by Romain Alary and Antione Levi, creating videos from time-lapse images taken within a camera obscura.

"An apartment is completely darkened. A hole is made in a window, letting lights from outside coming in. Projections are taking place everywhere inside.‬"

Literally translated, the Italian term 'camera obscura' means a dark room. Early camera obscura were used by artists as a means to create accurate perspective images. More portable devices became known as pinhole cameras and share the same optical principles as modern cameras.

stenop.es on Vimeo.

Ghat on Vimeo.

(Image and videos © stenop.es)

Romain and Antione are currently looking for other locations for movies. Make suggestions here.

3D street art

The world's largest 3D painting is unveiled at Canary Wharf. Joe Hill's anamorphic pavement painting covers 1,160 square metres.

Part 2 can be found here.

Photo gallery of 3D street art on the Guardian website.

More of Joe Hill's pavement art can be seen on his website.

See also my other blog entries on anamorphic art by the Brothers QuayErik JohanssonRoss McBride and Yoichi Yamamoto

Vermeer: beyond the perspective frame

The current Vermeer exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge has reopened the debate about the significance of perspective in the construction of paintings.

The Music Lesson, 1662 (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The role of perspective and more specifically the use of a camera obscura in the work of Johannes Vermeer has been explored in recent years by a number of authors. Dubery and Willats (1983) demonstrated that the accurate perspective constructions that underlay Vermeer's paintings made it possible to work backwards from the finished painting and reconstruct the architectural space in three dimensions, using Leonardo's distant point method.

In 2001, David Hockney and Philip Steadman both proposed convincing arguments that indicated that this accuracy was based not on a geometrically constructed perspectival space, but was instead derived from the use of a camera obscura. The camera obscura (literally a 'dark room') is based on the optical principles of lenses and forms the starting point for modern photography. Its use by artists can be identified through the way that highlights and shadows are painted and from the characteristic distortions of simple lenses.

Sixteenth century diagram of a camera obscura

Writing in the Guardian, Jonathan Jones reminds us that whilst a consistent and convincing perspective construction is fundamental to painting of this period, it cannot alone create great art.

'Does this precocious photographic technique explain the power of Vermeer's paintings? Not really.'

'What grips us in his art is a silence full of feeling. The voiceless, unfinished dramas he depicts hold the heart and linger in the imagination.'

However, as Timothy Brook (2011) points out, one should also remember that the tensions and desires that are implicit in these paintings are totally enmeshed in the perspectival gaze of the viewer.  Perspective has a significant role in the construction of the allegory, as well as the geometric space.

The Allegory of Painting, c.1666 (source: Wikimedia Commons)

'Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence' is showing at the Fitzwilliam Gallery in Cambridge from 5. October 2011 - 15. January 2012. Admission free.


T Brook (2011) - 'Worldly Desires', in 'Art Quarterly', Autumn 2011, pp36-40

F Dubery & J Willats (1983) - 'Perspective and Other Drawing Systems', Herbert Press, London. Amazon link

D Hockney (2001) - 'Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters', Thames and Hudson. Amazon link

J Jones (2011) - 'Johannes Vermeer goes beyond photography into emotion capture', in 'The Guardian', 27. Sept. 2011

P Steadman (2001) - 'Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces', Oxford. Amazon link