Mark Cuban-backed Condition One Zooms in on New Angles in Video

7/19/12Follow @jpruth

As much as the camera-loving public enjoys capturing the moment in video, the proverbial “big picture” often gets lost. Sure, there’s a focal point in every scene, but the context of the surroundings may be cut off when played back. Condition One, a graduate of this spring’s TechStars NYC class, developed a platform that can help viewers see more of the visual field captured by cameras.

Danfung Dennis, CEO of Condition One, says his work as a war photographer in Iraq and Afghanistan made him want to change the way the images are viewed. So Condition One (or C1 for short) developed a media player that lets users change their viewpoints within any scene. Details that may have been missed from one angle can be discovered from other angles in a near-panoramic experience. “We’re trying to give the perspective of being there,” he says.

Condition One is backed by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was introduced to the company through the TechStars NYC accelerator program and invested $500,000 in the seed round. Dennis says Cuban is developing the AXS TV network—which was rebranded this month from HDNet—for live music, sports, and entertainment news. Condition One’s platform offers a way to bring immersive content to the network, Dennis says.

Dennis says about thirty million cameras on the market are enabled to shoot Condition One–style video. “We’re using commonly available hardware and we’re capturing 180 degrees of video,” he says. That video footage is mapped onto a three-dimensional model. The platform, he says, leverages technology in mobile devices to let viewers change the perspective of videos as they are playing. “Once you have this 3D representation, we can tie that to the gyroscope or accelerometer of an iPad or iPhone,” he says.

There is an opportunity, Dennis says, for media companies that use his platform to include more details in movies, television shows, and ads. The technology can create in-depth videos that include the action taking place in the margins of the screen. “We’re starting at the higher end of the market with [producers] who already have existing audiences,” he says.

Condition One licenses its platform to content creators and is providing the technology’s specifications to large media companies to equip their cameras to shoot video in the new format. “We want to establish immersive video in news, sports, travel, fashion, and advertising,” Dennis says. The company is working with some NBA teams to help them capture the courtside experience during games. The technology can also be used, according to Dennis, to offer a front-row experience at concerts.

Live streaming of such immersive footage is also under development, he says, and may be ready by year’s end. He believes that by showing the world what professionals can do with his technology, it will drive demand among consumers who take their video shoots seriously. “We still have to develop some new technology to allow an efficient workflow for the consumer to be able to do this,” he says.

Just a few weeks after demoing his technology at TechStars, Dennis is now busy establishing a west coast office for Condition One in Palo Alto. The company is looking to hire 3D graphics engineers and other technical staff in California but will maintain its east coast operations. “Most of our business development, sales, and partners are in New York,” Dennis says.

He will have the chance to show off Condition One’s technology in an even bigger arena the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. Dennis pitched his company’s technology last month at the NY Tech Start-Up Classic competition during CE Week in New York and won exhibit space at the huge consumer electronics conference, which is held every year in Las Vegas.

Some business owners speak allegorically about being in the trenches as they fight to build their companies. Dennis, a combat photographer and videographer, has seen the grim reality of war firsthand. He shot the film Hell and Back Again, nominated for the 2012 Academy Award for best documentary, while embedded with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. The film won the grand jury prize and the cinematography prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. His photos of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq have also appeared in Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

Dennis says the idea for Condition One emerged while he shot footage that would be used in Hell and Back Again. Wanting to capture the experience of Marines who go to war and then face challenges after they return home, he was frustrated by the limits of traditional technology and platforms. Though photos can convey strong messages, Dennis says he thought something was being lost. “After having my images published for some time, I felt they were losing their impact,” he says. In fall 2010, he assembled engineers and designers to develop Condition One.

As more mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are used to play back video, Dennis says, he sees a growing opportunity to bring a new perspective to the medium. “We’re really not pushing the capabilities yet,” he says. “We’re just scratching the surface of what video and communication will become.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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