How the Hell Do Digital Camera Sensors Actually Work?
Put on your learning caps. John Hess is about to drop some hardcore science knowledge on you.
If you're anything like me, you have a nagging sense of curiosity about how and why things work the way they do. For me, that manifests itself in learning about things that will likely never be useful in the context of filmmaking, like the science of coffee roasting and the process of building guitars (which is actually a lot like editing a film). More usefully, though, it also manifests itself in learning about how images are captured and stored digitally, which in my opinion, is an essential set of concepts for modern cinematographers to understand. Luckily, it's not too difficult to learn.
In his latest lesson at Filmmaker IQ, John P. Hess details the complex chemistry behind how digital sensors, both CCD and CMOS, actually work. Make sure you stick around to the last few minutes of the video, because Hess also has very compelling message about why all of this is so, so, so important, even if it seems like geeky tech nerd nonsense.
Check it out:
And here's another explainer from Linus at Techquickie, which is a great YouTube channel for learning about how all of the technology in our lives actually works:
Lastly, it's important to note that sensor technology is far from static. Whether it's companies like Sony and Canon who seemingly manage to pull crazy amounts of performance out of existing sensor technology (4 Million ISO cameras, for instance), or companies like InVisage who are trying to fundamentally change the way sensors work, the sensor landscape is constantly evolving. There are so many great concepts being crafted in research labs around the world — graphene sensors and curved sensors come to mind — that there are few reasons not to think that the sensor landscape will look completely different 10 years from now.
Here's a quick look at QuantamFilm, the cool technology that InVisage is working on, which could make its way into smartphone cameras in the near future.
What do you guys think about the importance of understanding the underlying technology in our cameras? Is it essential to the art of being a cinematographer or filmmaker in the digital world, or is it just minutiae compared to things like visual storytelling? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments!