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.


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Figure 1

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Figure 2

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.

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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.