In 2018, scientists and engineers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) began researching upgrades to their high-definition camera systems on the 1,800-meter ROV Ventana and the 4,000-meter ROV Doc Ricketts. This search was inspired by the rapid adoption of 4K imaging and MBARI’s experience with leaps in image resolution increasing the quality of scientific observations, driving new insights and the pace of species discovery.
The imagery from MBARI’s ROV systems are used by nearly all research groups at the institute and distributed to scientists and educators globally. Images and video form a unique data record of the deep ocean environment, and are used for research applications as diverse as identifying new organisms to recording the behavior of liquid carbon dioxide at depth. Often, the visual record is the most important data collected from phenomena of interest, and MBARI provides its underwater images and video for uses such as exhibitions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and video productions by the BBC Nature unit.
The last great advance in MBARI’s video imaging was more than 20 years ago, when MBARI transitioned to recording in high definition, resulting in an epochal improvement in MBARI’s use of video. With video imaging worldwide now transitioning to the 4K formats for acquisition and dissemination, MBARI saw an exciting opportunity to develop a camera system that takes full advantage of the higher resolution, color rendition, dynamic range, and frame rates that this format offers.
MBARI’s mission is to advance the state of the art in ocean research and technology and disseminate this knowledge to the community at large. Partnering with a well-established commercial vendor who can serve the broader community helps accomplish this so, in October 2019, MBARI partnered with DeepSea Power & Light to develop the new camera. DeepSea also brought in Fathom Imaging to contribute the optical design, critical to realizing the full capabilities of the 4K format.