Apertus Open Source Cinema

Apertus Open Source Cinema

Here's something interesting I recently stumbled on - a public project to create an open source software and hardware camera system based on an Elphel 353 High Definition Closed Circuit Network Camera. That's right, a surveillance camera. Turns out it makes pretty nice pictures so a few guys got the idea to find a new application for it.

From the Apertus site:

"Our goal is to create a powerful free and open cinema camera that we as filmmakers love to use. The idea of using an Elphel camera for this particular purpose was born in 2006, found many followers over the years and ultimately resulted in this community driven project entitled "Apertus" and this website."

This is the camera:

and here are the specs - cliff notes style (from their site):


The camera uses an Aptina CMOS bayer-pattern sensor with an optical format of 1/2.5" (5.70mm x 4.28mm) and a native resolution of 2592x1944 (5 Megapixels). It features a 12 bit ADC and supports: region of interest, on-chip binning and decimation. Aptina claims that the chip has 70db of dynamic range at full resolution and 76db when using 2x2 binning.

Lens Mount:

The camera has a standard C-mount but ships with an adapter ring that allows to mount CS-lenses as well. More adapters are in planning stage.


The recording resolution can be freely adjusted to anything starting from 16x16 to 2592x1944 in 16 pixel steps. This includes Apertus AMAX (2224x1251), Apertus CIMAX (2592x1120), 2K (2048 × 1536), Full HD (1920x1080), HD (1280x720) and of course all lower resolution SD formats like DV PAL, DV NTSC, etc.

The lower the resolution the higher the maximal possible framerate. At the full sensor size (5 million pixels or 5 Megapixels) the maximal frame rate is 10 fps in normal color mode and 15 fps in JP4 RAW mode. JP4 achieves higher framerates in general as some camera internal calculations are skipped and need to be applied later in postproduction (like debayering/demosaicing).

Because this project is essentially a public effort, it's a little difficult to ascertain what stage of development it's in and even how involved the Elphel company is. It's a great idea and I love the DIY spirit. The main Apertus site doesn't disclose much so if you're interested learning more, there are a number of sites to read:

Apertus Open Source Cinema Page

Elphel 353 in a nutshell Wiki

Elphel 353 HD Cinema Camera Development FAQ

Elphel, Inc

Elphel Wiki