Rhea Myers

LP - Elphel

The Elphel camera is an HD video camera running free software and with a free hardware design. Cameras may seem an unlikely subject for software freedom but digital still and video cameras are computers and by using them we use software. That software can be made proprietary which disempowers the camera’s users, as I found recently when trying to interface my SLR digital camera to my GNU/Linux laptop.

The Elphel camera runs GNU/Linux and an FGPA system to handle its image data. The lens and sensor chip can be of any kind that the motherboard can be reprogrammed to handle. For manufacturers an easily hackable motherboard and software changes their relationship with upstream suppliers, making their manufacturing and procurement processes more agile.

For camera users this is a completely hackable camera. Whether for film production, medical or forensic or scientific studies or for other uses, it can be modified to do precisely what its user wants. Imagine bullet time or stop-frame animation made with a camera that can be programmed and networked to handle the unique demands of a given film or even a given scene.

I was excited by the potential of the Elphel, and given my own past experiences of projects that have been frustrated by webcam, digital video and digital still cameras I hope that digital arts hackers in particular can find new ways of exploiting its capabilities.