In perspective

Being skilled in the art of drawing a convincing scene in linear perspective is no guarantee anymore for a successful career. For roughly four centuries this was a pretty good tool to have in your kit as a visual artist – from the moment that Filippo Brunelleschi gave his demonstration of a perspective rendering of the Baptistery in Florence in 1425, right up until Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph of a view from a window in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes in 1826.

Photography took the fun out of drawing. The new method resulted in representations of 3D scenes on a flat surface in perfect perspective. There was no need any longer to understand vanishing points and orthogonals and visual ray constructions. Both technologies were “game changers” and it just so happened that photography made perspective drawing superfluous.

Today we have digital photo cameras that are cheap and readily available. And digital video cameras are also becoming a commodity really rapidly. With computer graphics techniques we can create virtual scenes and render them from every conceivable angle without any knowledge of optical projections. We get the “correct” perspective for free.

But we have a novel challenge. It is similar to the one faced by the pioneers of perspective geometry. How can we create three dimensions out of two? They started with a blank 2D canvas and created convincing 3D scenes. We start a increasing number of digital cameras that create an enormous amount of photos and videos. Now we want to teach our computers how to interpret all these images in 3D. We better start brushing up on our perspective skills.

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