HPA Tech Retreat: Simple Stereo

Though many attendees doubt the staying power of stereoscopic production, Wendy Aylsworth, Senior Vice President of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations, headed a panel on the topic for theatrical and home-theater release. Peter Wilson, principal of the UK company HDDC, promoted the use of simple rigs with digital processing as a more cost-effective way of acquiring stereoscopic imagery. “Mechanical rigs are works of art but very expensive,” he said. “Digital processing can adjust vertical disparity, adjust parallax and toe, correct for lens squirreling, facilitate line-up and be automated.” Wilson also showed sports scenes in which the 3D had been synthetically generated, reporting that the UK and EEC are engaged in 18 collaborative projects.

Converting legacy 2D content into 3D was the focus of In-Three President David Seigle, who spoke about his company’s “dimensionalization” approach to the challenge. TDVision Director of Product Marketing Evan Schur was bullish on 3D coming to the home. “At the most pessimistic forecast, there will be 18 million 3D-ready TV sets in homes by 2012,” he said. He also noted the long list of challenges for bringing stereoscopic content to TV sets. “The TV’s chip or external box interpolates the side-by-side image, but in this way, only 25 percent of the original pixels remain,” he said. “Not only is there a qualitative loss but, in 3D, you’re inventing pixels. And 2D compatibility is essential since the majority of the TV sets out there are 2D.”

Sony also threw its hat into the 3D arena with its 4K projector. Steve Banaszek described how Sony has “repurposed” its 4K digital cinema projector for 3D stereoscopic projection. “We have room for two 2K eyes,” he noted. “We had to align the two images. From the drawing board, the engineering team in Japan showed successful demos at CineExpo and at the 4K lab in Los Angeles.” The 3D projector can handle up to a 55-foot wide screen with 4.5 ftL of brightness. It’s currently in use at the Landmark Theatre in West Los Angeles and will be available elsewhere next month.

Also in the 3D stereoscopic space, Alioscopy showed its auto-stereoscopic monitors for use with 3D pre-visualization/layout and 3D trailers. “Alioscopy works on a sub-pixel level, with a special interleafing routine,” explained director of operations Pia Maffei. “The pros are that it’s a high-quality lenticular display without glasses, true 3D content, and a wide viewing angle covering 90 degrees, 8 degrees of parallax and interactive real-time 3D rendering capability.” The cons? “The effective resolution is one-third of the 1920 x 1080p resolution,” she said. “And there are specific sweet spots.”

Aylsworth summed up the discussion of 3D as being reminiscent of the long discussion of HD over the last decade or more. “This isn’t any different than the roll-out of HDTV,” she said. “This will take a number of years.” Pierce added that there’s a need for standards for home delivery of 3D for it to become a reality. “Where will this standard come from?” he asked. “Someone has to lead the way. SMPTE needs urgently to develop a standard for a master to support multi-view. Otherwise it has to come from the consumer electronics organizations.”

By Debra Kaufman, StudioDaily