innovative lighting system by oblio is coming to a screen near you
all images courtesy of jonathan hooker







initially started as a personal project conceptualized as a way to re-light still images,  jonathan hooker founder of oblio, designed a rig that is based on ‘normal map’ 3D technology that can shine light in any direction after the photograph has been taken. the platform uses color to show which direction any pixel in the image is facing, together with complex 3D algorithms it can use that information to add illuminates post production. 

video courtesy of oblio





he first started with a basic apparatus using just a flashlight and a DSLR camera, but the process  needed a contraption that would automate and speed up the operation. about a month later, he built a rig that involved four small LED panels driven by an arduino – an adaptable pre assembled computer board, and a wired DSLR camera so that the entire process was automated by the micro controller. the successful setup needed some more tweaking, where he utilizing red, blue and green backdrop lighting which only required two frames to achieve a single processed video frame, that resulted in 30 fps footage. the project lead to creating oblio digital production company, and a lighting tool that can be used across various platforms such as movies, video games and music videos. designboom got a chance to talk to inventor jonathan hooker about his entrepreneurship, influences and the future of oblio’s light rig.  

results from the first version of the light rig





designboom: what originally made you want to create the light rig?

jonathan hooker: i wanted to photograph still portraits that i could animate lights spinning around to accompany a live music performance. i had a working prototype pretty early on in the process, but i built the light rig to automate the process. once it was working i realized i could shoot at high frame rates and be able to relight video.


DB: what particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design of the light rig?

JH: i’m not good at being a casual observer. when i see something i like i instantly want to do that thing. so i was a musician, then i went to art school, then i started coding, then i learned animation, then photography, then 3D, then i built guitar pedals, etc… the light rig ended up being a fusion of everything i had learned up till then.

the LED lights surround the subject 





DB: who / what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?

JH: i don’t think i’ve had a single influencer that i can point to directly but i’ve always admired designers who have kept their output artistic, controlling the path of their careers to build their own brand and style that they are known for. some early role models were joshua davis, hyrdro74, and erik natzke. lately i’ve been keeping an eye on gmunk and ash thorp. 


DB: overall, what would you say is your practice’s strongest asset and how have you developed that skill over time?

JH: i think oblio’s strongest asset is our team’s ability to learn and try new things. all of our best projects were done when working with a technology for the very first time. over the past few years i’ve built a team of people that enjoy learning as much as i do. the ethos of the company is to continually grow our collective and individual skillsets and to put good work first. we’re much more concerned with creating great work than with making money. so far the money has worked itself out.

the light rig can be paired with a green screen





DB: how – and to what extent – do other creative fields influence your work?

JH: influence just happens organically. i collect inspiration from all fields and it naturally finds it’s way back into my work. for that reason i try to avoid things that aren’t in line with the direction i’m trying to go. the output reflects the input.


DB: what are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into the light rig technology?

JH: up till now the light rig has been strongly influenced by movie sfx and video game technologies. i’m starting to get interested in computer vision and think that could bring about some interesting next steps to the project.

the detailed LED lights




DB: which directors, film specialists or designers working today do you most admire?

JH: i mentioned designers above, so i’ll branch out into other areas. for motion, i really love danny yount’s work. olly moss is a great illustrator as well as pretty much all of the guys who work with mondo. if we’re talking film directors, i’d have to say wes anderson. i can’t imagine creating the things he does with every little perfect detail. i’ve been fortunate enough to work on some christopher nolan films who i think is amazing.


DB: can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on that you are especially excited about?

JH: we recently launched a site for sony’s thriller, ‘insidious: chapter 3‘ that i’m really happy with. as far as internal projects, i’d really like to shoot a music video with the light rig. something that lets me create shamelessly beautiful imagery without the need to fit into a pre-existing box. i have a lot of ideas for that, but i’m in the process of finding the right label / band to partner with. 

founder jonathan hooker and his 3D light mapping technology