Drop whatever you're doing and watch this. A few days ago, NASA released the full-resolution video of the Curiosity rover touching down on the surface of Mars. It's absolutely beautiful, but the images were only captured at about four frames per second, resulting in clear but choppy footage. That's where this video comes in.
Update: We got in touch with Dominic Muller, who created the video, to talk about his plans for a followup video. See what he had to say below, along with a new clip comparing his video to Curiosity's original descent footage.
Using an editing technique known as interpolation, redittor Godd2 (aka Dominic Muller) has artificially boosted the framerate of Curiosity's descent footage from four frames per second to twenty five frames per second. Also known as "tweening" (short for Inbetweening), interpolation involves rendering missing frames artificially, to give the appearance of smooth transitions between actual frames. It's still playing in real-time, it just appears much, much smoother.
As you can see from the video up top, the end result is fantastic to behold. It should really go without saying, but this video definitely warrants full screen, HD, headphones — the works. The choice of music is a nice touch, as well. I've watched it several times now, and it still gives me chills.
For those curious, Muller gives a brief summary of the editing process in the comments section of his reddit post. He claims he worked for four days straight to assemble the footage:
I downloaded the 1648x1200px pictures [that comprise Curiosity's descent footage] from here and imported them into After Effects as an image sequence. Then I stretched the image sequence to run at 25 fps which resulted in a legit frame being copied 4 times until the next real frame came. At this point, I went to the original image sequence and started oding manual motion tracking, watching a crater here or there. I made sure I always had at least two data points at any given time so that I could reposition and rotate for fluid motion.
Well, this wasn't quite enough because I needed the difference in movement between frames, not motion overall, so I coded for position and rotation with After Effect Expressions...
You can check out the rest of Muller's comment for details on the code he used for position and rotation expression.
Just for fun, here's Muller's video in a side-by-side comparison with the rover's original descent footage. The difference is huge.
To be clear: this is not purely original footage; it is the original footage of Curiosity's descent — as captured by the rover's Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera — enhanced to make it appear as though it was shot at 25 frames per second. And we think it's damn impressive.
UPDATE: Muller says he plans on putting together a detailed how-to video on how he went about interpolating NASA's MARDI cam images, and that it should be up within the week. We'll be keeping an eye on his YouTube channel and twitter feed for updates.
To give us a sense of how much work went into this video, he also included the screenshot featured here (click to enlarge), which he says shows every motion tracking data point all at once.
[Spotted on reddit]