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Input Devices Mars NASA Space Science Build

James Cameron To Develop 3-D Camera For Mars Rover 143

Hugh Pickens writes "Computerworld reports that movie director James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, is working with Malin Space Science Systems Inc. to build an updated 3-D camera that will be installed on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity if completed in time, to be the machine's 'science-imaging workhorse,' says Michael Malin, who is working on the camera team. Malin delivered two cameras to be installed on the rover's main mast; however NASA has provided Malin with funding to work with Cameron to build alternatives to these two cameras. 'The fixed focal length [cameras] we just delivered will do almost all of the science we originally proposed. But they cannot provide a wide field of view with comparable eye stereo,' he says. 'With the zoom [cameras], we'll be able to take cinematic video sequences in 3-D on the surface of Mars.'"
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James Cameron To Develop 3-D Camera For Mars Rover

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  • Negative (Score:5, Informative)

    by Silvrmane ( 773720 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:50AM (#32053800) Homepage
    The negative comments on Slashdot are really getting depressing to read. From Cameron's biography at IMDB:
    James Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, on August 16, 1954. He moved to the USA in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University.
    So yeah, I think he can do trigonometry. He might actually be smarter than you. Give the guy a break.
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:46AM (#32054120)

    Actually, Cameron did indeed study physics, and did a lot of engineering. As others have mentioned, he's most likely one of the best-connected people to the community of optical engineers who work on 3D images. He's already proven that he can co-design a pretty effective 3D camera.

    And it's not like NASA is putting him in charge of anything. He's being brought in as an adviser, probably on a pretty high level, and as far as I can tell, pro bono. I think that's pretty cool. I have no doubt that he will contribute two or three useful ideas based on his extensive experience. This also serves to promote the narrative of Cameron the technical wizard: Gear he helped design even went to Mars! It makes a great feel-good talking point for him when he's doing the interview circuit for his next movie.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:32AM (#32054284)

    I think if the Slashdot crowd really wanted technical examples, they'd ask questions instead of making statements. ;)

    Photography is a strong blend of art and science. The expert photographer would understand that he is capturing a two dimensional image of a three dimensional object. He'd make sure the lighting is such that it gives proper cues to the brain about what its three dimensional form is. He'd attempt to capture the subject at the right angle that its silohuette reads, even making choices about what's behind it. He'd also compose the shot to land your eye onto the right part of the image. He'd also do things like make sure there isn't a bright light-source behind the subject preventing the camera from exposing them properly. This is only a small portion of what a professional photographer would do.

    Stereo photography is all that and then it's compounded by having a second camera in the mix. On Avatar a number of things had to be taken into consideration. Take an environment like the Ops Center. You've got a lot of shiny hard edged things, many right up near the camera, and a good deal of overlap. Shiny, in particular, is a problem. With the seperation between the cameras the specularity or reflectivity of the metal can cause one eye to see something drastically different from the other. Sometimes that's fixed by a guy on the set, sometimes it's fixed by re-composing the shot. How far apart should the cameras be? That depends on what you want to show the audience. It's not as simple as "Make it the width of a human!" because our eyes don't zoom. When you zoom in the seperation is exaggerated so you have to adjust the width. When you're transitioning from one shot to another you have to be mindful of how much you're asking the audience to change their focus. Etc etc etc.

    What it all boils down to is that there is no simple set of rules to shoot streographically. This worries me as I imagine the whole reason they'd do this is to make the stereo functions on the machine as automatic as possible. They only way they're going to make something usable a suitable percent of the time is to have a good idea of the sort of scenarios it would encounter and how it could best deal with them. That's where having somebody who's been behind the lens of a stereo camera for many many hours comes in handy. And that is why somebody like Jim would be ideal to have on hand.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:33AM (#32054474) Journal
    Actually he probably does.

    He is extremely well read on physics. He did develop a lot of the technology himself.
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @07:31AM (#32055198)

    You simply weren't paying attention. Quite a lot of the displays seen in the command center, and in the linking lab, were in 3D. You could see parallax shift in the contents of the display as the camera panned past them. I also liked the way the tech was able to "swipe" gesture the contents of his display onto a portable "pad" display, the contents of which were also in 3D. It was pretty neat. Why all the hate for what was a very well executed science fiction film? Was it because it was successful? Can geeks only love sci-fi if it is obscure and inaccessible, or quirky and jargon-laden? Personally, I thought Avatar was amazing.

  • Re:Halo effect (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @07:49AM (#32055242)

    The camera lenses aren't polished by his hands, but by his ass, as he squeezes the glass between his large hairy buns while shouting "I am the king of the world!"

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @09:31AM (#32055654) Homepage

    How much actual technical help was he? No idea

    Well, if you actually read the Wikipedia article you link to - you'll find he was originally trained as an electrical engineer. So I'd say he may have contributed quite a bit.

The absent ones are always at fault.