Fovography means ‘field of view imaging’ and has been developed through a unique combination of artistic and scientific research. The traditional method of depicting the visual world, developed by artists in fifteenth century Italy, projects a linear model of 3D space onto a flat rectangular plane. It is still largely employed today in photography, cinema and computer graphics. Fovography, on the other hand, is modelled on the curved structure of the human eye and the way our perceptual systems process visual information.
Fovographs produce images with greater breadth and depth than normal photographs. They capture the entire visual field, not just the cropped rectangle seen in most paintings, photographs, and movies. They can simulate how the world appears from a first person point of view, offer a much greater sense of depth and immersion than normal photographs, and can make objects seem almost tangible – as if they are floating in space – without the need for special glasses or expensive screens.
Originally developed as a means of capturing visual experience through painting and drawing by researchers at Cardiff School of Art, Fovography has now been turned into a digital photographic process with many professional applications, including advertising, design, photography, entertainment, and communications.
The main features of fovography
Enhanced sense of breadth.Fovographs encompass the entire span of the human visual field, not just the cropped section that conventional cameras record. Other methods of capturing wide visual angles, such as panoramas and fish-eye lenses, produce images that are either extremely long in format or highly distorted. Fovography uses a unique, patent applied for, process that avoids extreme aspect ratios or distortions while presenting the full scope of the visual field in a naturalistic way. As a resultFovographs can accommodate much more visual space within a given picture area.
Enhanced sense of depth.Fovographs capture and present spatial information in much the same way we see it in real life. As a result the visual system is easily able to interpret the spatial cues and so more readily see depth where none really exists. Under the right conditions the effect can be quite startling, with objects appearing to float in space and in front of one an-other without the need for special glasses or expensive screens.
Realistic first-person perspective. Many people are surprised when it is pointed out how much of their own body is visible in the field of view. Our legs, hands, torsos, and even our noses, are a constant feature of everyday visual experience. Yet hardly ever they appear in representations of that experience. Fovographs are able to convincingly depict how the world appears from a first person point of view. This opens up new narrative possibilities, allowing images to be created with a compelling sense of first-person presence.
Directed attention. In natural vision our eyes are always fixated on some part of the world in front of us, even if only momentarily. Normally the object of fixation commands our attention and interest, and is often what we are most consciously aware of at that time. Because Fovographs emulate natural vision we are instinctively drawn to whatever object in the Fovograph is treated as the fixation point. This allows image-makers to direct viewers’ attention to specific areas within the picture far more quickly, and to hold their attention at that point for longer.
Evidence for the effectiveness of fovography
Researchers at Cardiff School of Art, Cardiff Metropolitan University, have conducted a number of studies on the effectiveness of Fovographs and the techniques used to create them. We have compared Fovographs with normal photographs to find out which have the greater sense of depth, or which attract attention to chosen parts of the image more quickly and hold it for longer. All the trials so far conducted have shown Fovographs to be highly effective in creating an enhanced sense of depth in a 2-dimensional image; they attract the viewer’s gaze to the target area much more quickly and hold their attention longer than normal pictures.
The sample data below shows the results of one such experiment, comparing test photo-graphs taken with a conventional 24mm lens to Fovographic images of the same scene. We used an eye tracking system to measure where and for how long the participants looked at the images and we asked them to compare how much depth each picture had.
As can be seen in the figures below, when the normal image (on the left) is compared with its Fovographic equivalent (on the right) we can see very different patterns of eye tracking behaviour. The coloured ‘heat maps’ superimposed on each image show the length and concentration of visual attention given to different parts of the image. The fact that the heat maps in the Fovographs (on the right) are larger and redder shows that participants were looking for longer at the central objects.
Figures 1 and 2: Sample data from Fovograph eye tracking studies. The images on the left are normal photographs taken with a 24mm lens, while the images on the right are Fovographs of the same scene. The superimposed ‘heat maps’ in each case show significant difference in the way people looked at the images and for how long, as measured by a Tobii eyetracker. This shows Fovographs are more effective at capturing and holding visual attention than normal photographs. Scientific data courtesy of Joe Baldwin.
We also found that people judged Fovographs to have much more sense of perceived depth compared to normal photographs of the same scene. The graphs in figure 3 show the results of an experiment in which participants were shown two images and asked to judge which had the greater sense of depth. People overwhelmingly chose the Fovographs over the normal photographs. The result was statistically very significant in each case.
Figure 3. Estimations of depth in images: Participants were shown normal photographs and Fovographs of the same scene and asked to decide in each case which image had the greater sense of depth. The larger bar on the right of each graph shows the number of people who chose the Fovographs compared to the normal photographs. For example, in the case of Figure 1, 31 out of 32 people judged the Fovograph to have a greater sense of depth. Scientific data courtesy of Joe Baldwin.
*Fovograph® is a registered trademark. Fovography is a patent applied for process.