History


Lets take a look back at what happened in the past.
apertus° has quite a history already.


Building a new camera prototype from scratch: AXIOM Alpha

AXIOM Alpha Protoype
AXIOM Alpha Prototype

As a proof of concept we created the AXIOM Alpha in 2013. This was an FPGA and CPU combination based on the Zedboard, and by using off the shelf components we interfaced the Super35 4K image sensor with an HDMI linked external recorder. The Alpha featured a Nikon F-Mount and was encapsulated in a transparent, laser-cut enclosure to offer the internal components some protection. It was mainly intended to prove that, in the simplest way possible, everything could be made to work, but the system worked so well in fact that it's still used by the community for workshops and shooting small projects today.


AXIOM Alpha at Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival
AXIOM Alpha at Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival

One such workshop took place at the 37th Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival where students and film makers got to explore and utilize the camera first hand.

Other projects involved attaching the AXIOM Alpha to a cable camera at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna or shooting Macro Shots of Insects. Essentially though, the AXIOM Alpha was used to gather feedback in typical shooting scenarios so that ideas could be incorporated into a future, more modular, kit version aimed at developers and early adopters – AXIOM Beta I,

but this prototype was the culmination of years of cooperation dating back to 2006.

Oscar Spierenburg at Ars Electronica - Every Day Rebellion Symposium
Oscar Spierenburg at Ars Electronica - Every Day Rebellion Symposium

The Path to Responsibility

F
or many years apertus° has been a community-only driven project. People contributed because of personal interest and the project evolved over time. But in the end it was anarchy to some degree, nobody had any responsibilities and while we had goals, we had no way to help guarantee that we'd ultimately achieve them. Parts of the project were stagnating because we couldn't find the right people with the required skills.

With AXIOM this will change for many reasons, one being that we established a non-profit association as new legal shelter for the community. In addition we created an apertus° company in order to facilitate some of the responsibilities that had been neglected up to that point. eg. signing contracts with electronic part/service providers, paying developers, paying for prototype manufacturing so that, in the future, providing professional support/warranty/sales/training to customers would be possible. But the company is dedicated to upholding the ideology we had previously committed ourselves to and is very tightly interconnected with the community. One thing is clear though: A company is a business, and as we have longer-term plans we'll need to make some profit in order to pay for further research and development. Our "hobby" has become quite serious now. It dictates a lot of what happens in our daily lives already but then, what could be more beautiful than having your dreams define your life?


What could be more beautiful than having your dreams define your life?


Sebastian Pichelhofer announcing AXIOM at Libre Software Meeting 2012, Geneva
Sebastian Pichelhofer announcing AXIOM at the Libre Software Meeting 2012, Geneva - Switzerland

The Path to AXIOM

The core apertus° team started working on a new camera concept in Summer 2011. In a vote Nathan Clark's idea to call the project "AXIOM" won by far. An idea became a proposal which was embraced by the core apertus° community and in no time it matured to be a concept with a plan.

Originally we wanted to use the Elphel 373 camera. This was proposed in 2009 to become the successor of the Elphel 353 camera, which hd been the standard at the time. Several blog posts documented the ongoing development and we were very excited about the new possibilities and performance increases as well as the proposed new sensor front ends (based on Kodak CCDs). But then suddenly it's development stopped and the project was frozen for 3 years. Elphel Inc. had shifted the company's core business focus: panoramic camera solution (just recently Elphel announced working on the successor camera Elphel 393) so we made the major decision to create AXIOM from scratch. This gave us the opportunity to design a system around the marketplace's requirements, but this time an open digital cinema camera - the first of its kind.


Sebastian Pichelhofer and Oscar Spierenburg before the Prix Ars Electronica Gala
Sebastian Pichelhofer and Oscar Spierenburg at the Prix Ars Electronica Gala

apertus°: an Award Winning Project

Pixar in 1987, Wikipedia in 1995, Wikileaks in 2009, and apertus° in 2012 - what all four have in common is being honored by Prix Ars Electronica. The Prix Ars Electronica is an international trend barometer, constantly on the lookout for what’s new & exciting, what’s radically different, or what’s making an impact right now. Innovation receives support; developments are showcased.

The Prix Ars Electronica has earned a reputation for measuring trends in the international media art scene. Juries composed of leading experts in their respective fields convene annually to select the most outstanding contemporary works awarding the “Oscars” of media art in their quest to spotlight the ideas of tomorrow. In 2012 apertus° won an Award of Distinction in the Digital Communities category. This is possibly the most prestigious international competition for Digital Culture, Computer Animation and Electronic Arts.


Sebastian Pichelhofer with Elphel engineer Oleg Dzhimiev during a trip to south Utah canyonlands
Sebastian Pichelhofer with Elphel engineer Oleg Dzhimiev during a trip to south Utah canyonlands

The Cooperation with Elphel

In 2008 Sebastian Pichelhofer discovered the DVInfo thread and the ongoing efforts by Oscar Spierenburg and was immediately hooked by the ideas and future plans. He promised Oscar Spierenburg to not stop working on the project unlike many other people who only contributed to the project for a short period and left again. Sebastians first project was to develop an Elphel camera internal hard-disk recorder user interface.

This project turned out so successful that Elphel offered him a job position. The following period of Sebastians work for Elphel was of great benefited for apertus° and kept the project going. In 2011 he quit his Elphel job to fully focus on apertus° development and became the apertus° project leader as Oscar Spierenburg had only little time to work on apertus° as he was shooting a big movie project at the time.


First Elphel Cinema Camera StillsFirst Elphel Cinema Camera Stills
Stills from one of the first videos captured with Elphel 333 in a cinema project

Handling Growth

As the months passed the project was growing and evolving as more people came on board. A constantly changing team - people were coming and going around the Elphel cinema camera efforts at the time. With 1000+ posts submitted on the original DVInfo thread by early 2009 it was starting to get difficult to obtain a clear overview of the project and confusing for new followers to understand the project's intentions.

Finding a Name

The community gathered to create an official website for the project so the search for a unique project name was started. Producer Minske van Wijk - the girlfriend of Oscar Spierenburg - suggested the name “Apertus” - the Latin predecessor to “open; free; public; frank, clear” - which was voted by the community in 2009 to be the project's new name from now on and lead to the registration of the domain and creation of the website apertus.org.


“Apertus”, Latin for “open; free; public; frank, clear”


Oscar Spierenburg DVInfo Elphel

The Birth of apertus°

The idea of creating a high-end cinema camera (based around an Elphel 333 camera) started via members of the digital video DVInfo.net forum.

With pioneers Oscar Spierenburg (who will later become the the project founder) and Forest Schultz leading the way who in March 2006 started a new thread called "High Definition with Elphel model 333 camera". This particular thread sparked great interest as the solution on offer here provided an affordable and highly potent means for capturing (what was at the time) truly unique and cinematic digital video footage.