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Lunar Video Capture and Post-Production

It's true an IMAX camera is large and massive, and needs a large and massive amount of film. As a precision mechanical instrument, it will undoubtedly require field maintenance and repair. The sensitive, exposed film will probably have to be returned to Earth for developing.

There is an emerging standard in high-definition TV, and its quality is quite film-like, though not up to the requirements of IMAX or, especially, OMNIMAX. A video camcorder or camera-and-recorder combination has high-precision mechanical parts requiring field maintenance and repair.

The high cost and finicky nature of both these alternatives suggest a third approach which should be more reliable and cheaper than the above options.

Computing power continues to increase and prices to fall. Digital capabilities are high enough today to produce a first-run theater release acceptable as a full-size normal movie (as in Toy Story). It is not beyond the realm of possibility to develop an even higher digital resolution great enough for a huge OMNIMAX dome.

The essential element in video and film is the image and sound information. Information is nice because its storage weighs little and it travels at the speed of light. So here is an attractive alternative:

Develop a low-power, lightweight, ultra-high definition video camera (not camcorder). Add a microwave transmitter. If possible, power using solar energy, with battery and external power capability. For indoor shots, include a cable link to a surface transmitter.

Shoot the pictures at a low frame rate, perhaps 3 frames-per-second. The only reason we shoot at 30 frames/sec (video) or 24 frames/sec (film) is to present the illusion of continuous motion. There is a great deal of redundant information from frame to frame. (Each frame would be a millisecond "snapshot" to "freeze" moving objects or panned views.) Send the raw video signal (or a compressed representation), perhaps through a comsat, to the processing center on Earth. Use computing power to "tween" the 3 frames/sec to a standard 24 or 30 frames/sec and "print" to film or videotape. (Six frames/second would also factor into 24 and 30 frames/sec).

It may be the only moving part on the equipment taken to the Moon would be a zoom lens (easily replaceable, as well). Only information is transported from the Moon to Earth, and the most expensive, massive, and mechanically 'finicky' equipment is kept and maintained on Earth. Reducing the frame rate will fit higher definition into the available bandwidth. As a deterrent to piracy, the raw signal is not very useful to someone without a big computer for "tweening," and it could be encrypted.

Sound information with its relatively low bandwidth is easily piggybacked onto the video information or sent on its own (an exercise left to the engineers). Sound additions such as narration, music, even sound effects, can be added on Earth.

With such relatively small, low-mass, and solid-state cameras, a full-depth 3-D pair of images could be sent, or even a panoramic view suitable for creating a "virtual space" representation (this would again use Earth-based computers for processing).

These cameras would also be very useful for scientific and exploration purposes, further justifying and amortizing their cost.

Photographic Equipment

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