Where the City Can't See: the first movie shot with laser scanners

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/02/where-the-city-cant-see-the.html

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The effect is stunning. But those jobs on the production line making the cars? I think that might be the biggest fantasy of all…


Where the City Can’t See: the first movie shot with laser scanners

Thought that was “shot with laser canons”.

PS. I've been drinking, at the office, again.


This concept would make a cool basis for a VR experience. Like if you stand at the scanner’s position things look fairly clear, then start to break down as you go off-axis, but you want to go off-axis because important plot stuff is happening just at the edge of the scanner’s view.
When a character turns away from the scanner you can go round and watch what they’re doing, but you can’t see their face until they turn back. When someone walks in front of the person you’re watching, that person gets big gaps in their body as the scanner loses sight of them.


It would be cool to have a movie from the driverless car’s point of view. From being trained in the trolley problem through to the clinical HAL-like running down of the mission team.


What’s a laser scanner? The only one I know of is like a laser printer, set to “input.” Neat visual effects, but they really aren’t very good cameras.

Also, can you imagine ninety minutes of that music?

What’s a laser scanner?

Often called “lidar”. Basically a laser version of RADAR. (Note that whether or not “lidar” should be considered to be an acronym is kind of contentious; its acronym definition came after the term came into common usage, unlike RADAR) Basically, you fire a laser and detect where it hit a solid object. And then repeat hundreds of thousands of times, firing the laser in different directions each time. This is why images produced from lidar appear as clouds of individual points; you’re seeing all the positions where the individual laser firings hit an object.

More details on Wikipedia.

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Oh yea. I’ve heard of that. It’s an acronym within an acronym, gives linguists the dry heaves. Didn’t they have a flying one in Prometheus?

Possibly! I seem to have blocked most of Promethius from my brain, but it sounds like something they might have done there. But there’s no need to go to science fiction; we have flying ones in real life! For years they’ve been the most efficient way to do land surveys, and now they’re even being fitted to drones, as an alternative to photogrammetry.

(I have this weird thing where disturbing imagery doesn’t seem to imprint on my brain. Watching Game of Thrones with my flatmate was an amusing experience, as I’d hear him having gross-out reactions to things that I simply couldn’t see; somebody having their eyes graphically gouged out or whatever. Based solely upon its critical reception, it’s entirely possible that Promethius fell victim to the same problem. I did see it in the theaters, but have basically no memory of it. :wink: )

Odds are yes, along with most movies.
Really anything with buildings or complex terrain has probably been scanned in by lidar. What you’re seeing here is just an unprocessed Point cloud once properly rendered it just looks like a normal city, until you do some cool Inception effects on it.
Doesn’t work in snow though, it just looks like a thousand needles.

Anyone who has seen a blockbuster film in the past decade has seen a movie which was shot with laser scanners. LIDAR is one of the building blocks of visual effects production. This film has an interesting look and there are a lot of creative possibilities in using the technology this way. It would be more precise to say, though, that it is the first film which uses raw point cloud data for aesthetic effect.


Radiohead made a video using this technique many years ago:

I remember you could even download the data and an application that let you manipulate it while the video progressed.

I think it was the mood of these visuals that turned House of Cards into my favorite Radiohead song.


The other day I happened upon a self driving car from Uber on the streets of my town. It had a birdlike quality of movement with lots of small quick sharp turns rather than the smooth steering that a human would do.

Noticing how reality seems to jump around like a rift in the matrix in these lidar videos, I wonder if the future is going to be really jerky.

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I was going to post that too, but looking at it again now I guess the Radiohead city section was actually a ‘still’ that was navigated through rather than done in real time, mind you I’m not convinced that this movie is actually rendered in real-time either and might be closer to the Radiohead vid that I first thought (and with less cool music)

It’s the sudden trips in the vertical axis which bother me the most. The negative ones are a real bummer.

Funny, how I have this tab open: Point Cloud Animation Film, all Photogrammetry Sets + Live Action

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Why yes, yes I can. The imagery was cool, but I clicked over to this comments section just to see if someone mentions who made that beautiful, haunting music.

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All them dots reminds me of heavily dithered computer gfx of yore! And then people show up and it looks like an updated 90s techno music video. Atavism or retro?

Stop liking things I don’t like!

Escape from New York. Reflective tape on model.