You might think there is quite a bit of "magic" involved in the Magic Lantern firmware hack for Canon cameras, but have you ever wondered what's really going on? Back in May, Georg Hofstetter and Michael Zöller spoke at the Open Source 2013 LinuxTag event, explaining exactly how Magic Lantern works and what it's doing on your camera, some of the origins of the project, and how the team continues to innovate -- like bringing RAW video to cameras that had never had it before. Check out the full presentation below.
Here's the description on Vimeo:
Magic Lantern is a Free Software add-on for Canon EOS DSLR cameras, that offers increased functionality aimed mainly at DSLR enthusiasts and power users. It is very similar to CHDK for Canon compact cameras and it runs alongside Canon's own firmware, by hooking into the startup process.
This talk presents a live demonstration of Magic Lantern, showing some of its unique unctionalities and covers the hardware and software internals of Canon's camera operating system DryOS. It also shows that programming your DSLR is quite similar to programming any embedded ARM device in plain C. Finally, since Magic Lantern is not endorsed by Canon in any way, we also present some legal aspects that every firmware modder should be aware of.
What I find truly fascinating with Magic Lantern is that all of these amazing advancements and collaborations have happened in a team structure that is completely different from what you'd probably find at Canon (or most large companies for that matter). While most corporations are very top-down, Magic Lantern actually works horizontally, and there are no team leaders dictating how things should be done and what the developers should be focusing on. This is one of the reasons things have moved as fast as they have. While this can lead to disorganization, it also means that people are only working on what they are passionate about, which in any profession usually leads to better results.
I don't know if a structure like this can work on a much larger scale, but I have a feeling that with less middle managers and bosses and more autonomy with individual workers, you could do some amazing things at all of these camera companies. For example, at Google, employees are encouraged to work about 20% of the time on whatever they'd like, encouraging people to be creative and take risks to come up with new ideas. Could you imagine if a large camera company had a policy like this? I'm sure they would be blowing our minds right now with what's really possible.