Advanced Labs Forge 3-D Future

Today's nifty gadgets or software toys were born years ago in a lab somewhere, and for many of them, that somewhere is Europe. Two of the labs doing advanced research on tomorrow's must-have tech belong to the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Germany and France's media giant Thomson -- the parent of Hollywood stalwart Technicolor. They're among the companies pushing d-cinema, 3-D and content management to levels that would have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago.

"We're developing tools for 3-D content distribution in the home, which will create a wider distribution opportunity for both major studios and independent filmmakers," says Ahmad Ouri, Technicolor's head of strategy, technology and marketing. "We are focusing on providing tools that would help clients create the content quickly in a 3-D format on Blu-Ray Disc."

Further out on the development horizon are automated tools for 3-D subtitling that would work for both d-cinema and Blu-Ray.

"The challenge of subtitling is magnified in 3-D because of the dimensionality," Ouri explained. "The challenges are mainly depth and in some cases placement as well."

TCR's tools would automate this process, analyzing the movie on a scene-by-scene basis and "recommend" where the subtitles would be placed and at what depth, Ouri explained.

The Fraunhofer Institute is also working on d-cinema and stereo 3-D. Fraunhofer's digital cinema group, headed by Dr. Siegfried Foessel, is working on 3-D camera and recording systems, as well as new algorithms for pre-processing and coding to make working with data more efficient. Some of the results could hit the market in mid-2010.

The organization is also a member of Prime -- a consortium of related businesses including postproduction equipment manufacturer DVS and projector-maker Kinoton -- which are developing technologies and workflows for the capture, processing and compression of 3-D content for distribution in theaters and homes.

Fraunhofer recently completed and made available easyDCP, which is a tool used to create a Digital Cinema Package (a.k.a. a "digital print") for theatrical distribution. EasyDCP runs on a standard PC or Mac and with a new upgrade, can create 3-D DCPs.

The Institute also developed what it calls easyDCPplayer, a JPEG 2000 decoding system that lets companies view a finished DCP on a desktop computer. "In the past, it was only possible to display a DCP in the theater. Now it will be possible on a PC," said Foessel. This is a boon for quality-control checkers who sometimes spent many hours watching a movie over and over in a theater to check DCPs before they were sent out.

By Carolyn Giardina, Variety