Want Adjustable Depth of Field in Post? You Don't Need Lytro, Now You Can Use a DSLR

Light field cameras could be the next big thing in photography and/or video, but as of right now, there is only one company selling anything that can achieve the affect: Lytro. If you have been wondering if this effect could be recreated with the DSLR you already own, the answer, as it turns out, is yes. The Chaos Collective, a group of internet futurists, has created a way to achieve the exact same effect as the Lytro camera with any DSLR, and has even created a way to embed the adjustable photos online.

Check out some of the samples they were able to create:

All you really need is a couple seconds of video to make it happen. Here is a little bit about their process:

We ended up using a 20x20 grid, giving us 400 selectable regions to play with. Making the grid finer is simple, but we noticed that making it too small actually made it harder to calculate focal clarity. The reason: we're looking at the difference between rough and smooth transitions in the image. If the grid is too small, smooth surfaces become difficult to accurately detect. Tighter grids also produce large embed code, so we stuck with 20x20 as grid that dense-enough without introducing extra overhead.

Here are the step by step directions, taken from their website:

  1. Grab your camera (one that shoots video and has manual focus; we used a Canon T3i).
  2. Frame your shot. Find something that has both close and far elements.
  3. Get stable. A tripod is handy here, but not necessary.
  4. For the best effect, narrow your depth-of-field (use largest aperture possible).
  5. Turn the focus to one extreme. Start taking video.
  6. While the video is recording, slowly turn the focus to the other extreme (over 2-3 seconds).
  7. Stop the video. Now go copy it to your computer.

Once that's done, you can go right to their site and use the tool that they've created in order to turn your video into the DOF-adjustable kind. You also should keep in mind that even though the processing tool can handle files that are 1920 x 1080, those are going to be gigantic for loading all at once on a webpage, so it might make more sense to shrink them a bit before they are uploaded.

Here is another tip:

...since we're using the HTML5 video tag, you'll want to use video formats that work cross browser. Our camera shoots .mov files by default (not supported by all HTML browsers), so we opened them up in Quicktime and saved them as .m4v to make browsers happy.

While it's not quite the same thing as Lytro (since you are cheating a little), it is still giving you a pretty amazing effect, and even though the interface to adjust depth of field isn't quite as slick as the one that we've seen from Lytro themselves, it will still certainly do the job. We're definitely going to see a lot more in the way of light field effects and light field cameras, but until the technology really catches up, you can play around with the effect on the DSLR you already own.

Head on over to The Chaos Collective to learn more about the process and give it a try.

What do you think? Is this something you'd like to try out and play around with? (It doesn't cost anything, after all)

Link: Camera HACK: DOF-Changeable Photos with an SLR -- The Chaos Collective

[The Verge]

Your Comment


Pretty pointless.

December 17, 2012 at 9:30AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Fresno Bob


December 17, 2012 at 10:06AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


^^^^ lmao!!!!!

December 17, 2012 at 10:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Video doesn't give you much resolution. When using a Canon DSLR, consider using MagicLantern and the Focus bracketing function. It automatically focuses to a given number of distances and takes a photo at each.
But still think this entire Adjustable Depth thing doesn't make much sense..

December 17, 2012 at 10:11AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Pure crap

December 17, 2012 at 10:38AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


cool! but I have not yet found a way I would use the effect. I need some creative genius to inspire me ;)

December 17, 2012 at 10:48AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I could see this working for journalists, not so much filmmakers.

For journalists, it's kind of fun to allow viewers/readers/users to be able to choose where they'd like to put the focus inside a "picture".

For film, the only use for this technique I could see is if you have an actor using a screen (iPad with surveillance footage?) in a scene and he's is magically able to shift focus. Instead of doing it all in post, you can simply record the action in a single take.

One caveat - it seems to work primarily with non-moving objects, although it might be fun do a little test with a focus pull on a character that is moving towards or away from the camera. That way, users are able to reposition the person just by clicking the focal plane point. Add a soundboard to it and soon you'll be making a live focus mix.

December 17, 2012 at 2:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I mean, look at how "animated gifs" have recently seen a full resurrection in fashion photography. Presented as the latest & greatest, it really is technology from the early days of the Internet (1994ish).

December 17, 2012 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


that's true!

December 18, 2012 at 7:27AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Pictures don't exist embedded. Really what's the point?

December 17, 2012 at 1:18PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I think all the comments dismissing this as pointless are just considering as a standalone application rather than something that could lead to a greater thing. Sure, this thing might be pointless as it is, but what if the cameras include this technology on their firmware and allowed us to use this in post to correct focus? It would be great.

December 17, 2012 at 3:42PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


it would make for a lot of shitty film making, which there is already enough of

December 17, 2012 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yes, they are missing the point. Not as much with this; as someone has pointed out, it's not the same thing as Lytro/light field imagery. Comments like carlos's just make my eyes roll. Just because you are limiting your imagination doesn't mean all of us are. It's not just about fixing things in post (though that is a valid use). It's also adding a new depth of interaction for the viewer. Multiple stories can be told in a single frame, and the viewer, not the director, has the power to choose which one to pay attention to. That's big. That's a huge shift in the artform, particularly if this technology can one day be adopted for video purposes. It's like handing the focus pulling whip to the viewer, and they choose what is important.

And others have shared ideas for uses - journalism, product displays, and I really liked someone's thought about 3D abilities. There are a lot of possibilties.

So, no, carlos, I completely disagree. It wouldn't just make for a lot of shitty filmmaking. Would some use it that way? Of course. The same is true for stabilization in post ("I don't need a tripod! I have warp stabilizer!"), ISO abuse ("We don't need lights - it's a DSLR!"), depth-of-field overload ("We don't need to build a set - we'll blur the background out anyway"), etc., etc. Just because some will abuse it doesn't make it bad.

December 19, 2012 at 6:09AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

David S.

If this (one day when computers can handle it) can be used as video, then I think green screens will be a thing of the past. If, in post, you can differentiate between depths, then you should be able to make software that can erase information from a certain range back. Also, goodbye focus-pullers. And to a limited extent, it should be able to do 3D without all the duel cam set-up since it can do a slight parallax shift. Thats why this stuff is cool. :)

December 17, 2012 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Totally agree! I thought the same things when I heard about the Lytro.

December 20, 2012 at 1:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This has NOTHING to do with film-making!!! But it could be a way to MAKE MONEY with your VDSLR.

As an example. You have a room full of "product," it could be fashion or it could be furniture. The customer can shift focus from one dress to another, or from one chair to another. Is this a gimic?? Sure it is!! If it helps a company to sell their product, than you can MAKE MONEY by supplying this Magical SERVICE.

December 17, 2012 at 7:49PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Finally! Someone with a light bulb...

December 17, 2012 at 11:54PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I think that's very clever and cool.

However, Lytro still has one massive advantage (in addition to resolution): you can take a picture of someone or something in motion and change the focus. Recording 2-3 seconds of video to get the same effect only works on purely static images (even in the example above, the water changes a bit as you change focus).

December 18, 2012 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"Pretty pointless."
"But still think this entire Adjustable Depth thing doesn’t make much sense."
"Pure crap"

I'm glad to see there are a few people here - other than those I've quoted - that can think outside the box. I've got at least one use for it already. I'll probably pick up a Lytro at some point, but for now this video trick will work. Does anyone know why this wouldn't work with a standard video camera (Red or something like that)?

December 20, 2012 at 1:10PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It appears the only limitation is cross browser friendly file types, a requested 0.5 - 3 meg average file size and a 2-3 second steady video of a focus rack. In theory you could shoot one on your phone.

December 20, 2012 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great, thanks Jules!

December 20, 2012 at 6:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


What I'm seeing; Focal-Plane and adjusted NOT Depth of Field (big difference). Maybe just a typo.

December 21, 2012 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Good observation - you're absolutely right.

December 21, 2012 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This is one of the many methods I came up with as alternatives to lytro. I last talked about it over at reduser, where I ask if their single lens 3D firmware upgrade was one of a number of things. If you look at what you can do with this and Lytro, you can identify weaknesses.

Also, looking at the original pre lytro research news thread over at dvinfonet years ago, is informative, as I layout an even simpler alternative technique to lytro.

I am still considering wherever to design a commercial mass production low cost pro 3D camera platform using the best techniques I have identified. There is still strength and ability in individual effort compared to Red, BMC, Sony, Lytro and all etc big boys. All their effort is like figs in a tree ready to fall off.

December 24, 2012 at 10:49PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Wayne Morellini