Ever Wondered How a CCD Sensor Works?

Do you know how your sensor translates light into the data that later becomes your images?  How does the physical construction of your sensor affect how pixels get interpreted?  This little video is a great introduction into how CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors work in a digital camera, and gives a peek into the cool stuff happening under our noses at 24fps:

These days CMOS sensors are as popular as CCD sensors (Canon DSLRs, RED's cameras, and Sony cameras like the FS100 and FS700 use CMOS sensors), but there are plenty of interesting cameras coming out with CCD sensors (the upcoming Digital Bolex will have one, as will the in-development Kineraw cameras).  As filmmakers demand more access to the raw data flowing from sensors, it may become more and more important to understand just how that data is created and how it's being processed (or not) depending on the sensor technology and color filter array used.  Even with my limited exposure to the "under-the-hood" world of image processing, this video linked neatly with what I'd read about Bayer filters and understanding how color channel information is determined.

It's always interesting to hear older cinematographers discuss the physical components of film, and explain how the physical make up of the film would affect image qualities like grain, light sensitivity, etc.  I wonder if in the future we'll also have a similar appreciation of how different sensors created different images.

What do you think?

[via FilmmakerIQ]

Your Comment


Wake me up when we can synthesize an eye and implant it into an camera. Now that would be cool! Besides, (correct me if I am wrong) we didn't really have any "real" advances in optics or image capture technologies for a long time...

June 27, 2012 at 4:33AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Lytro and a camera that can see around walls...thats some cool advancement :D

June 27, 2012 at 2:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Here is a raw CinemaDNG frame from Kineraw S35 camera:

June 27, 2012 at 6:06AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I saw this video a few weeks back on another site and it blew my mind. I'm use to working with 3-CCD sensors for ENG work but didn't know how amazing the sensor science was until this video. Bitchin

June 27, 2012 at 8:19AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"These days CMOS sensors are as popular as CCD sensors"

Huh? These days EVERYTHING is CMOS. If its CCD, it's either a camera from 2009 or before, or one of those 2/3" over the shoulder beasts. I was under the impression that CCD was on the way out entirely - that CMOS was capable of better resolution, better low light, etc. Is that not true? Because I'd be all over a CCD dslr, for its global shutter capability.

June 27, 2012 at 11:21AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


CMOS is much cheaper to be produced on the production line compared to CCD. That is the only reason most cameras post 2009 are built with CMOS.

June 28, 2012 at 8:17PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


the next revolution will come when the system Foveon mature. CCD and CMOS only use 33% of your lens emits light, the result is an image with mud, with 66% of the information generated electronically. The world around us is more unpredictable and organic, and a filter Array is a poor vision. Enjoy the pictures from the cameras SIGMA, that beneath all defects and a discredited brand, pictures come out great, with a fine quality and rare color combination and "truth" ...

June 27, 2012 at 1:05PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I got to see Larry Thorpe in person giving a presentation about how the C300 sensor works. Very clever engineering

June 27, 2012 at 3:04PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

john jeffreys