11 Reasons to NOT to make an IMAX art film in your basement: #6: “Space Cams are too small”

Great acts are made up of small deeds.
Lao Tzu

#6: “Space Cams are too small”

So, this one does not sound nearly as dramatic as “It’s impossible!”. But actually, it’s a bigger deal. It seems like a great idea on paper to use the images from space missions to animate in a film – if the film were a web-cam film. The Cassini spacecraft has a very nice camera for a spacecraft. But by earth camera standards it’s not great. Your cellphone camera is probably much higher resolution and takes color photos.

Cassini's camera sensor

Yep, the Cassini camera is less than a megapixel in an age of 18 Megapixel DSLRs for under $1000. And to make a color image since it’s black and white only, you have to take 3 pictures – one in the red color wavelength, one green and one blue (RGB) for a full color image. And since the camera is really more a science instrument than a creative tool, it’s not optimized for artful photos, dynamic range etc.  There are artifacts in the images caused by all sorts of problems created taking images hundreds of millions of miles from earth.

It’s a webcam in space on a modem-slow connection. Not exactly an IMAX camera. And the cameras on other spacecraft are mostly the same or worse. The only decent photos from space are the ones where astronauts have taken cameras themselves. Those pictures can be very good but astronauts have barely gone anywhere.

So if you want real pictures from space that even as good as a $150 digicam, well, they don’t exist. Or do they?

Great acts are made up of small deeds.
Lao Tzu
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