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Lytro: Story of Idiots
  • A little over a year ago at Lytro, it became clear to me that we needed to drastically change the direction of our company. We’d already built two generations of consumer Light Field cameras and were deep into development on our third and fourth generation models. But I was increasingly filled with doubt about our product strategy and direction. Were consumer cameras really our biggest and best opportunity? If not, what should we be focused on instead? Could we pivot dramatically with so much invested in our current direction?

    I’d joined Lytro in early 2013 with the conviction that Light Field technology had the potential to be even more transformative to imaging than the transition from film to digital 15 years earlier. Lytro initially gained attention for the ability to refocus pictures after the fact but the implications of Light Field technology run far deeper.

    We had a regularly scheduled board meeting on January 29th, 2015 and I knew I needed to make a decision and recommendation about our direction. Weighing heavily on my mind were the impact to our team and the fact that we had recently raised capital with a plan based on our consumer strategy. I was about to present a dramatically different perspective. In the meeting, I laid out the range of options to our board including my recommendation that we dramatically cut staff to reduce costs, exit the consumer business and change direction. The silence that followed my presentation felt like it lasted days.

    Over the course of the next several months, we worked to wind down our manufacturing operations and supply chain in Asia and sell through our remaining inventory of consumer cameras. The bulk of the team began experimenting with different approaches to real world Virtual Reality which culminated with our announcement of Lytro Immerge in November. We’re still in the early days with Lytro Immerge but the product-market-fit of Light Field technology and VR has exceeded even our highest expectations.

    Read this in whole and slowly.

    This is perfect example of horrible managers with lack of technical education.

    Heard something about VR, and woops.. we are now VR company, scraping everything already done.

  • 24 Replies sorted by
  • Horrible idiot.

  • So Lytro did finally realize that light field photography is no more than a party gimmick for ordinary consumers? Good for them.

    And while they were proud to have been in development of their "third generation" of light field cameras, Raytrix sold 8 different light field cameras into the market - focused on industrial use cases, where this technology is way more useful.

  • So Lytro did finally realize that light field photography is no more than a party gimmick for ordinary consumers?

    It is not gimmick.

    But they improved rather slowly, cameras are not really outstanding and their introduction prices had been quite high.

    Now imagine camera like Pentax K1 that can shoot full res photos at 30fps and each one can be later refocused as you like.

  • Heck, imagine a light field video camera where you can set depth of field and focus point in post for perfect focus pulls every time. I'd love that.

  • This is just stupid managers.

  • And they are already selling the leftovers for cheap (Stack Social).

  • So are they idiots? Looks very interesting if they have a real product.

  • Looks very interesting if they have a real product.

    As I understand it is still demos and prototypes stage.

  • PR

    Lytro Brings Revolutionary Light Field Technology to Film and TV Production with Lytro Cinema

    • World’s First Light Field Solution for Cinema Allows Breakthrough Creative Capabilities and Unparalleled Flexibility on Set and in Post-Production
    • First Short Produced with Academy Award Winners Robert Stromberg, DGA and David Stump, ASC in Association with The Virtual Reality Company (VRC) Will Premiere at NAB on April 19

    Lytro unlocks a new level of creative freedom and flexibility for filmmakers with the introduction of Lytro Cinema, the world’s first Light Field solution for film and television. The breakthrough capture system enables the complete virtualization of the live action camera -- transforming creative camera controls from fixed on set decisions to computational post-production processes -- and allows for historically impossible shots.

    “We are in the early innings of a generational shift from a legacy 2D video world to a 3D volumetric Light Field world,” said Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Lytro. “Lytro Cinema represents an important step in that evolution. We are excited to help usher in a new era of cinema technology that allows for a broader creative palette than has ever existed before.”

    Designed for cutting edge visual effects (VFX), Lytro Cinema represents a complete paradigm shift in the integration of live action footage and computer generated (CG) visual effects. The rich dataset captured by the system produces a Light Field master that can be rendered in any format in post-production and enables a whole range of creative possibilities that have never before existed.

    “Lytro Cinema defies traditional physics of on-set capture allowing filmmakers to capture shots that have been impossible up until now,” said Jon Karafin, Head of Light Field Video at Lytro. “Because of the rich data set and depth information, we’re able to virtualize creative camera controls, meaning that decisions that have traditionally been made on set, like focus position and depth of field, can now be made computationally. We’re on the cutting edge of what’s possible in film production.”

    With Lytro Cinema, every frame of a live action scene becomes a 3D model: every pixel has color and directional and depth properties bringing the control and creative flexibility of computer generated VFX to real world capture. The system opens up new creative avenues for the integration of live action footage and visual effects with capabilities like Light Field Camera Tracking and Lytro Depth Screen -- the ability to accurately key green screens for every object and space in the scene without the need for a green screen.

    “Lytro has always been a company thinking about what the future of imaging will be,” said Ted Schilowitz, Futurist at FOX Studios. “There are a lot of companies that have been applying new technologies and finding better ways to create cinematic content, and they are all looking for better ways and better tools to achieve live action highly immersive content. Lytro is focusing on getting a much bigger, better and more sophisticated cinematography-level dataset that can then flow through the VFX pipeline and modernize that world.”

    Lytro Cinema represents a step function increase in terms of raw data capture and optical performance:

    • The highest resolution video sensor ever designed, 755 RAW megapixels at up to 300 FPS
    • Up to 16 stops of dynamic range and wide color gamut
    • Integrated high resolution active scanning

    By capturing the entire high resolution Light Field, Lytro Cinema is the first system able to produce a Light Field Master. The richest dataset in the history of the medium, the Light Field Master enables creators to render content in multiple formats -- including IMAX®, RealD® and traditional cinema and broadcast at variable frame rates and shutter angles.

    Lytro Cinema comprises a camera, server array for storage and processing, which can also be done in the cloud, and software to edit Light Field data. The entire system integrates into existing production and post-production workflows, working in tandem with popular industry standard tools. Watch a video about Lytro Cinema at

    “Life” the first short produced with Lytro Cinema in association with The Virtual Reality Company (VRC) will premiere at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference on Tuesday, April 19 at 4 p.m. PT at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Room S222. “Life” was directed by Academy Award winner Robert Stromberg, Chief Creative Officer at VRC and shot by David Stump, Chief Imaging Scientist at VRC.

    Learn more about Lytro Cinema activities during the 2016 NAB Show and get a behind-the-scenes look on the set of “Life” at

    Lytro Cinema will be available for production in Q3 2016 to exclusive partners on a subscription basis. For more information on Lytro Cinema, visit

  • "Server array for storage and processing" seems about right for 755 megapixels at 300 fps. Also, I'd assume it would require an SSD array for writing out data as the camera captures it...

  • "Server array for storage and processing" seems about right for 755 megapixels at 300 fps. Also, I'd assume it would require an SSD array for writing out data as the camera captures it...

    Hardware is always cheaper than people. I also think that some effective compression is possible.

  • By my back-of-envelope calculations, even at 4:1 compression, with 16-bit color, 755 megapixels at 300fps would still be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 gigabytes per second.

  • It is not megapixels, but megarays, I think compression will be like 20:1 without much issue and with normal fps. With 300fps interframe compression becomes astonishingly effective also being in the range of 50:1 to 100:1 .

  • We are talking a bit wildly while we might not have the right perspective.

    For instance, what does 755MP mean? As resolution, it's definitely overkill.

    Is it roughly something like 7.5MP (~4K) at 100 different depths? What's being coded there?

  • The Ilium is advertised as having 40 megarays and the processed images are about 4 megapixels. The original Lytro field camera was 11 megarays and processed images were about 1.2 megapixels so assuming that the scaling holds constant, 755 megarays should be about 75 megapixels after processing.

  • 755 megarays should be about 75 megapixels after processing.

    I think it will be even less.

  • Probably. I was only extrapolating from 11 = ~1.2 and 40 = ~4. Pretty close to 10:1 in both cases.

  • When I grow up I want to be a Futurist!

  • Ouch, 20 minutes of marketing talk without a showing an actual camera.

    So Lytro says that distance-information assisted green-screening is so valuable that directors will trade in the great image quality of existing digital cameras for the questionable Lytro image quality? I doubt that.

    And changing shutter-angle ex-post is pretty well doable on conventional videos, too.

    I'm still convinced the whole Lytro operation is about skimming money from gullible investors rather than building actually useful cameras.

  • Initially every new tech looks weird and not very useful.

    They are just ahead of their time.

  • And it is the end

    At Lytro, we believe that Light Field will continue to shape the course of Virtual and Augmented Reality, and we’re incredibly proud of the role we’ve been able to play in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We’ve uncovered challenges we never dreamed of and made breakthroughs at a seemingly impossible pace. We’ve had some spectacular successes, and built entire systems that no one thought possible. More importantly, we built a team that was singularly unified in its focus and unrivaled in its dedication. It has been an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the cinema and Virtual Reality communities, but starting today we will not be taking on new productions or providing professional services as we prepare to wind down the company. We’re excited to see what new opportunities the future brings for the Lytro team as we go our separate ways. We would like to thank the various communities that have supported us and hope that our paths will cross in the future.