With the recent success of live 3-D sports test transmissions, two key industry standards bodies are now looking into ways to practically get the bandwidth-hungry signals to the home. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and the Advanced Television Systems Committee are both investigating the standardization required for the carriage of 3-D content on cable networks and over the air via digital stations’ terrestrial transmissions.
The SCTE’s Engineering Committee has approved a project called “3-D over Cable” that will identify necessary or desirable changes to existing SCTE standards — including transport protocols — to facilitate the provision of 3-D content by cable operators. The SCTE has 160 cable operators, vendors and allied organizations among its members who help evaluate new technologies.
Coincidently, at the recent Hollywood Post Alliance gathering in California, a representative from the ATSC discussed new interest in transmitting 3-D content as part of a next-generation digital transmission standard, unofficially named ATSC 2.0. The proposed standard includes a suite of 26 features that address sending such new formats as 1080p/60, 3-D and two-way interactivity.
The SCTE’s 3-D project has been assigned to the association’s Digital Video Subcommittee, which will make recommendations on standards and protocols based on the needs of the cable industry.
Heretofore, experiments in 3-D television, including sports broadcasts hosted by the NBA and NFL, have been conducted whereby signals were sent to specially equipped theaters across the United States. However, establishing a practical infrastructure for the widespread adoption of 3-D broadcasting has been problematic (and costly) due to a lack of consistent standards.
Charlie Kennamer, the SCTE Engineering Committee chairman, said that while some 3-D content is available today over cable, the long-term delivery of next-generation 3-D content will be strengthened by the adoption of “uniform engineering and technical criteria.” He said the SCTE will look at the latest compression algorithms associated with current 3-D TV technology to develop standards that can be used by the cable industry to deliver a more immersive TV experience.
Likewise, the ATSC’s Graham Jones said that in order for 3-D to the home to be successful, consumer electronics manufacturers must develop and market new (and affordable) TV sets capable of displaying 3-D content, and broadcasters have to help move the initiative along.
Ultimately, the groups must work together to make 3-D a real success. To this end, the SCTE said it will consider not only cable industry activities but also standards work being conducted by other organizations such as the ATSC, SMPTE and the Consumer Electronics Association. The SCTE subcommittee will discuss the project at its annual meeting in March.
With the recent success of live 3-D sports test transmissions, two key industry standards bodies are now looking into ways to practically get the bandwidth-hungry signals to the home. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and the Advanced Television Systems Committee are both investigating the standardization required for the carriage of 3-D content on cable networks and over the air via digital stations’ terrestrial transmissions.
A documentary I was shooting called Healed By the Earth required substantial visual support in the form of nature scene footage. I knew that I could manage at least one good HD video in the Colorado Rockies, but that's not the game I was hunting. I went there to capture Stereoscopic 3D landscapes.
It was up there, in the isolation, that nature provided a breathtakingly pleasant surprise. A waterfall hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park called Alberta Falls offered a spectacular opportunity to recreate what we naturally see, as 3D imagery. Fortunately for the production, that high altitude shoot at 10,000 feet forced me to stop every five minutes for air. Asthma concerns, combined with the steep grade of the hike, gave me opportunities to film about forty varied shots of beautiful, cascading waterfalls.
Only the rushing water could be heard, but I was sure that the 3D images would reveal more than words.
New tools for stereoscopic 3D production have started a grassroots revolution. Even in HD, stereoscopic 3D is quite affordable. Any kind of video camera can be used, and although I'm using Final Cut Pro for editing and Nuke for compositing, specialized software can be found for under $100.
In some ways, 3D movie technology has changed little since the 1950s. Two cameras record the same scene. The relative angles of the cameras during shooting, as well as the separation between the images as they are combined in post, show depth when viewed through cyan and amber glasses easily and inexpensively available online.
[Ed. note: The stereoscopic images in this article will properly display depth when viewed with these glasses.]
Using 3D glasses with no electronic elements is known as "passive" stereoscopic display. "Active" systems often found in theaters show depth by synchronizing LCDs and shutters built into both the glasses and the projector.
I used twin Canon HV-30 HDV cameras for my shoot. The HV-30 manual states that there may be problems with cam function at high altitude, including lens haze. I opted for .5 Canon WD wide-angle lenses, polarized filters, and UV lens caps.
I had filmed with one of these cams time before, but the setup for shooting in 3D was quite different. There were numerous checks to be made prior to each shot. The cameras are first mounted on a slide bar, something like a tripod plate that holds 2 cameras at adjustable distances from each other. The minimum I tested on my shoot was on 72mm centers, just wider than the 65mm typical of adult human ocular spread. For long vista shots I tested the maximum slide bar width, 104mm. Identical camera settings needed to be checked and set, over and over. Zoom off.
My concern prior to a shoot is that both cameras attached to the slide bar are squared and not slightly skewed. This is one way to avoid disparity errors such as double images and misalignments. Making sure my camera lenses are squared off also results in more comfortable viewing, and a natural 3D depth, just like looking through a window.
After I manually start each camera (the HV-30 lacks remote LANC triggers), I use a simple thumb cricket clicker, which I will later use as a guide to help sync the two tracks during the edit in FCP.
I expected to fill 20 hours of mini DV tapes in the mountains of Colorado, 10 hours total for each mono side of the stereo files. I hoped to see positive results, but as of this writing, I have not found a monitor or software that I can use to display stereoscopic shooting in the field. There was no way to know how this would turn out until I got back to Ohio.
The process after shooting is simple. I align and trim each corresponding stereo video channel, and, after the edit, each is separately rendered as a .mov file. (I'm still testing, but am presently using H.264.)
The Foundry's Nuke is a compositing application that imports and joins the files, then renders them as a stereo "anaglyph," a movie with two color layers whose offset creates the effect of depth...if all goes well.
I wear my 3D glasses when joining the files in Nuke, and again when editing the composited anaglyph file back in FCP. I wind up putting the glasses on and taking them off a lot.
Editing an anaglyph works just as it does for any other video file, except for some specific attention to 3D stereoscopic motion and correct orientation between cuts. Scenes on either side of an edit must balance in such a way that the audience is not pulled out of the 3D illusion. The resulting attention erroneously becomes placed on "3D effects," rather than "3D story."
This is why telling the perfect 3D story requires "Depth Grading" to manage the internal depth of the scene.
One aspect of this is "depth matching," so that the viewer's eyes are not forced to change their focal plane from shot to shot. You might have experienced this difficult transition while driving, by looking back and forth from your dashboard to the horizon. It takes time for the eye to settle, which is why edits that require rapid visual re-convergence are unpleasant for an audience to watch.
"Scene ramping" is another aspect of depth grading: changing an object's or shot's stereo distance gradually, so that the viewer's visual convergence on one shot picks up where changes to the previous shot have left off.
Nuke is an excellent compositing program, which I use to join stereoscopic files, correct for lens barrel distortions in the wide angle lenses, and adjust speed as much as -50%, among other things. However, the depth grading features are what make Nuke such a great choice for working with stereoscopic images.
A new set of Nuke plug-ins called Ocula has become available to work even more specifically with stereoscopic 3D.
For example, vertical disparities will sometimes present themselves. Those stereo images will have severe ghosting and will not focus into one clear image when combined into a stereo anaglyph image. Ocula can address this, not just with a simple Y-position shift, but by rebuilding frames to compensate for keystoning and other errors.
I'm especially interested in the 3D paint and roto features in Ocula that allow treatments for one eye to be automatically mapped to the other. I've had wonderful results using Synthetik Studio Artist to roto/paint HD frames in 2D so far, but the video tracks for each eye must be treated separately.
Ocula presents a small problem for some 3D stereographers: it is priced at $10,000. I'm primarily a writer/ director, now beginning as a producer. I've learned the compositing programs well enough to know when it's time for me to contract with specialists to help with vertical disparity issues in particular – which I've now done.
I still sometimes shoot landscapes, but I'm now curious about dramatic performance in 3D. That search has taken me to a little village on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, with small retail shops, restaurants and one Method Acting school, run by owner-teacher Jessica Houde. I'm now filming young actors in 3D as they train and develop. These 20–30 year old students convey tons of emotion for me to capture.
Filming 3D dramatic action has a whole set of considerations not found in stereoscopic landscape filming. I initially filmed the actors in HDV at 1420x1080/30, which had worked well for stationary nature scenes. But motion artifacts in filming the actors became a considerable problem, often confusing to diagnose
After hearing that James Cameron has found doubling his normal frame rate to 48fps to his liking in the production of his epic, Avatar, I'm presently testing 780x420 @60p, and am pleased so far.
(Even though we are nearly a year away from the scheduled release of Avatar, it is already having a profound effect on 3D filmmakers at every level.)
Whereas in 2D productions, strong control of visual depth of field directs the audience into the action or characters on screen, I prefer not to do this in 3D. Allowing the audience to choose their personal focus opens the field of vision to more natural 3D experiences in a scripted story. My work so far has led me to write scene structure so that the entire scene is in focus, writing for and encouraging multiple minor actions as supporting stories within the scene.
An option that may work better for guiding audiences watching stereoscopic scenes is "audio depth of field" adjustments, panning from in-focus reference points within the scene, rather than forcing visual depth of field corrections.
Trial and error also shows me that all action needs to remain inside the frame to avoid the risk of actors appearing to float off the screen. Smooth transitions of their movements in 3D space across cuts require careful choreography. Early tests show that lighting plays an even bigger role in developing the impression of depth in stereoscopic shooting than it does normally.
As these elements come under control, they open up numerous screenwriting, performance and presentation possibilities.
Toward 3D Perfection
So how did my Colorado footage turn out? The HDV footage itself is impossibly beautiful. Viewable as 3D, but flawed. The stereo shots from stationary points often come close to the state known as "3D Perfect," but as I work more with them, I can see small issues that require some divergence corrections.
Although I recorded to mini-DV tape in Colorado, and so far continue to do so back in Ohio, I don't recommend it. Tape systems drift if takes are longer than a couple of minutes, so most of my shots have been intentionally brief, at 30-second bursts. I understood the value of tapeless shooting before I left for Colorado, but solid state capacities were too small. I couldn't capture the 20 hours I planned without data transfer options, which weren't practical for these extended excursions. Tape has worked well enough so far, but a camera upgrade is definitely on the list of things to do.
Stereoscopic production obviously brings in a dramatically wider range of troubleshooting questions. Were problems caused by camera misalignment? Uneven adjustments of camera settings? Can these problems be addressed in post? Or are they being caused by post?
Stereoscopic 3D is magic when it's working, but truly confounding when it's not. So why bother with HD stereoscopic 3D at this point in its development for independent producers? For me, I like the serious challenge. I like the filmmaking and storytelling options it opens up. I also like the possibly fantastic outcome I see taking shape. The ability to create stereoscopic 3D at this level of production has the potential to once again reshape the industry from the grassroots up!
The ongoing editing of my stereoscopic mountain scenes continues to guide this story to its end. But as a first experience, my 3D spirit was awakened by my baptism in Colorado's "God's Country."
Painesville, Ohio USA
Chris's career has included working with special needs kids and adults, organic farming, and acting. He is developing the pilot for a stereoscopic 3D TV series as he works at the farm shared by his wife, son, a stable full of horses, some chickens, cats and a dog. You can find him posting in COW forums including HD-High End, Final Cut Pro, and Nuke.
By Christopher Werronen, Creative COW Magazine
Friday, February 27, 2009
“I’ve been saying this for a while, but I really do think this is a big year for this transition,” declares John Fithian, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). “It’s going to be huge and will dominate everything.”
Given the recent announcement from Paramount Pictures about directly contributing to exhibitors’ d-cinema installations, it is safe to assume that a stop on the Melrose Avenue was included. “We are looking for as many digital-cinema options for our members as there are viable,” Fithian explains. “For many of our exhibitors, self-financing is very viable. Some cinema operators have very good relationships with their local banks and can explain why the digital-cinema transition is good for their business. They can get support at a time when some of the bigger market banks and investors have frozen credit policies. And due to their established long-term relationships, smaller, regional operators like to work with their local banks anyway. A lot of our exhibitors are excited and want to go out to do this.”
“Going back four or five years,” Fithian reviews, “we suggested this idea of self-financing. We had members who were interested from the beginning. It’s not alone about the current credit freeze, but the fact that some cinema operators want to own their equipment and don’t want to have to go through an integrator company. They wish to keep control themselves and got the financial resources and/or backing to do so. The studios all said ‘No’ to begin with, but now that we are seeing a particularly large slate of 3D films lining up, and the economic climate is not facilitating a transition quickly enough, the situation is changing a bit.”
Furthermore, he points out, “Fox has always been sympathetic to self-financing. Paramount’s now out with that very public proposal. And we’re strongly encouraging other studios to support that option as well: not as an exclusive play, but as a serious option for a lot of exhibitors in North America and around the world. It is not the panacea for all, but for some of our members, self-financing is a very good option.”
Looking at the deals already lined up as part of the third-party integrator models, “we have literally 25,000 to 30,000 screens pretty much ready to go.” Fithian refers to existing virtual-print-fee (VPF) agreements for Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP), Cinedigm Phase 2 and, with overlap into the former, the theatres in the Cinema Buying Group (CBG).
“Really, this was all teed up and ready to go last fall. The original timing of the d-cinema transition was to get all these VPF and integration agreements sorted out by October of 2008. But, what did happen then? The markets crashed and the credit markets froze. And so...” he sighs, “we’re all waiting for that situation to loosen up again. If the current market thaws in a couple of months — and we are already seeing encouraging signs of that — the rollout will accelerate rapidly and you’ll have lots of digital and 3D screens being installed during the rest of the year.”
Asked about that very economic situation, Fithian elaborates on the theme of “recession-resilient” versus “recession-proof.” “The exhibition business tends to do fairly well during hard economic times,” he observes. “The cinema is a relatively inexpensive way to be entertained. If people don’t have money to go on a big vacation, they take a mini-holiday at their local movie theatre. So the environment of challenging times is generally good for us, but that doesn’t mean it always works. You need to have good movies. People are not going to escape the burdens of the day by going to see a bad film.”
The industry’s billion-dollar box office in the first month of 2009 certainly seems to prove Fithian’s point. “In January, we also had very good movies,” he reminds, “and diverse movies that were appealing to different genres and demographics. October and November too were just huge. December was pretty strong and January was indeed the best we have had in forever.”
Overall for 2008, at $9.79 billion “the largest ever,” box office was up, he reiterates. “We were down a couple of points on admissions, close to 2.5%, with the difference coming from an increase in average ticket price to $7.18. Nonetheless, those results in this kind of economy are pretty strong. As long as the movies are good, we have a great chance of continuing to roll.”
With some 13 titles lined up at interview time in a “pretty exciting 3D film slate,” Fithian looks at “the first significant uptick in our business models this year due to 3D. The faster we can get through the credit market crunch or make additional self-financing deals, the more beneficial that slate will be.”
By Andreas Fuchs, Film Journal International
MainConcept GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DivX Inc., announced today the release of its Decoder Pack for Windows. This new set of software decoders is available for both the professional broadcast industry and individual consumers and provides high-quality professional playback for a variety of file formats and media streams.
Using the popular MainConcept DirectShow filters, customers can view different media formats ranging from XDCAM HD, Sony PSP and Apple iPod to Blu-ray, AVCHD, AVC-Intra, and JPEG2000 MXF, among others. MainConcept's Decoder Pack offers a cutting-edge solution for any broadcast professional working with popular formats such as H.264/AVC, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2/ H.263 and DVCPRO HD. In addition, users benefit from playback of any file through a single media player supporting DirectShow, such as Windows Media Player, or MainConcept Show Case, the company's proprietary player solution that uses the MainConcept filters exclusively. The Decoder Pack also includes MeritMe!, a new MainConcept software tool that helps users decide what filter to use in decoding their favourite media streams.
Various MainConcept Decoder Packs are available now:
- H.264/AVC Decoder Pack including DXVA 2.0 support on Windows Vista
- H.264/AVC Broadcast Decoder Pack including AVC-Intra support
- MPEG-1/2 Decoder Pack including DXVA as well as Sony XDCAM HD support
- MPEG-4 Part 2/ H.263 Decoder Pack including support for Apple iPod and Sony PSP
- DVCPRO HD Decoder Pack including Panasonic P2 support
- JPEG2000 Decoder Pack including MXF support
Friday, February 27, 2009
Labels: IT Broadcast
Sony Electronics and RealD are working together to provide exhibitors with 3D digital cinema systems that combine a single Sony 4K projector and its new 3D dual lens adapter with RealD technology, including a specially designed optical filter tuned for the projector, resulting in the ability to deliver crisp 3D images to screens up to 55 feet in width.
Sony and RealD have also entered into a separate agreement that gives RealD the exclusive right to purchase and distribute Sony’s 3D lens technology for use with polarized filter systems in Sony digital cinema projection system 3D deployments in the United States, Canada and Europe. In addition to the Sony 3D adapter, RealD will provide hardware and software, including its Cinema System and 3D EQ “Ghostbuster” technology, for 3D playback on Sony 4K digital cinema systems worldwide.
“The relationship between Sony and RealD will make it easy to install a 2D Sony projection system that then can be easily upgraded to 3D, with RealD’s award-winning technology,” said Gary Johns, vice president of Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Systems Division. “By working with RealD, we’ll be able to provide both a practical and an elegant 3D solution.”
The Sony 3D lens adapter maximizes the exclusive technology of the 4K SXRD imaging device, which displays four times as many pixels as conventional 2K projectors for digital cinema. This allows full 2K resolution for the left and right eye simultaneously, resulting in a high-luminance, full-resolution stereoscopic cinema presentation and is designed to enable more faithful reproduction of motion in 3D.
The 3D capability is provided through hardware on a lens mount that attaches onto the projector and is compatible with all current Sony 4K digital cinema projectors. Installation is seamless and can be done within minutes. It is designed to meet DCI specifications for 3D digital projection.
RealD’s 3D EQ technology enhances the separation of the left and right eye images. In the past, this process was incorporated into the master by the studios; RealD’s new approach incorporates the technology into the digital cinema server and therefore simplifies the distribution process without sacrificing the optimal 3D visual experience.
The Sony and RealD solution, which includes the Sony 3D dual lens adapter, will be competitively priced in the marketplace and is expected to be available in March.
This past December, Vic Love was headed to Jamaica to shoot footage for a documentary about the history of reggae music. With him traveled a tech-averse producer and an assistant who was to function as both the camera assistant and the primary audio engineer. In Jamaica, the team would hire a driver and another all-purpose assistant.
For most run-and-gun documentary projects, this would be a customary (if not always sufficient) crew. Perhaps a typical project of this nature would also have another camera operator and a second camera. No second operator for Love's production, but he did bring a second camera — it was rigged to the first. Upon completion, this documentary will be viewed in 3D.
Love, a stereographer based in Los Angeles, was to function as the director of photography, the digital imaging technician (DIT), and the director of 3D photography. In Jamaica, he'd be composing shots, maneuvering the two-camera rig, and manipulating the interocular distance between the two cameras — all more or less on the fly. The latter task requires the stereographer to adjust the distance between the two cameras using the electronics of the rig, thereby emulating the separation of our eyes. Typically about 2.5in., that space between our eyes is what gives depth to our visual perception; a similar distance between stereo cameras creates the illusion of depth when we don 3D glasses.
According to Love, manipulating interocular distance is akin to pulling focus — instead, you're pulling stereo. “You know how to ride it,” he says. Even most smaller HD cameras — the Sony PMW-EX3, for instance — are too bulky to achieve that 2.5in. interocular distance between the centers of the lenses.
Love uses a rig with two Iconix Video HD-RF1 cameras side by side. These 1920×1080 3CCD box cameras capture images to a Sony SRW-1 HDCAM SR tape deck — which, with its dual-link HD-SDI connection, can record the stereo 4:2:2 streams. Measuring at 1.32"×1.50"×1.92" and weighng 2.5oz. each, the cameras are tiny enough to sit side by side in a rig and achieve the correct interocular distance, which obviates the need for a beam-splitter rig. (In that configuration, one camera points down at a mirror that reflects roughly the same image that is captured by the forward-pointing camera.) Of course, Love's setup includes more than just two cameras. There's also the Iconix camera-control units, which he straps to his side for handheld shots, and the portable SRW-1 deck, which is on his back.
In Jamaica, Love also used a prototype Stereo Image Processor from 3ality Digital, which alerts the stereographer to any color, iris, or zoom mismatches between the two cameras. “The name of the game is to get two cameras to behave like one,” Love says. He says it takes 15 minutes to align the images properly, which poses a challenge for an unscripted production such as a music documentary.
Still, Love maintains that shooting in stereo is not the black art it might resemble from a distance. He says that over the course of the production, he was able to show the ropes of his niche to the camera assistant/audio engineer, Clifford Cruz. “He took to it pretty well,” Love says. “It's not rocket science. If you have a background in video and film production, it's not counterintuitive.”
Love is undertaking this project in partnership with Stereoscope, a Burbank, Calif.-based postproduction company that's affiliated with the S3D Studio. The outlet for this Jamaica production is not exactly clear — the cineplexes that typically run independent documentaries don't have 3D-enabled theaters outfitted with RealD projector systems. (RealD currently holds 97 percent of the domestic digital 3D market, according to the company, with more than 800 screens in the United States.) The home market is nowhere near ready to adopt stereoscopic 3D (S3D) technology. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, one of the big live-action 3D success stories of the past year, used '50s-style red-and-blue anaglyph technology in its DVD release. The 3D Super Bowl commercial for DreamWorks' Monsters vs. Aliens, and the accompanying 125 million giveaway glasses (using Intel InTru 3D and ColorCode 3-D technologies, not anaglyph), should make progress toward making the mainstream viewing public comfortable with the idea of watching 3D in the home. The 2009 CES show proved that 3D-ready HD sets are there for the offing, but that's but one piece of the puzzle. The technology is here, but outside of a few notable examples, there exists neither a supply of content nor the demand for it.
So for Love, the fact that he's working on an independent stereoscopic documentary puts him way past the cutting edge — almost into a three-dimensional free-fall. Luckily, he enjoys it. “I love the pioneering aspect of it,” he says. “I felt like an Army Ranger dropped into the middle of a war zone.”
And it's not the first time he's been there, Iconix rig in tow. In May 2007 in Hawaii, he executed a similar production that produced about 7 hours of airborne footage. Love and his pilot attached a rig to the front of an ultralight plane to shoot Hawaiian beaches and other terrain. They also attached it to the wing to shoot the tiny cockpit, throwing the ultralight into heavy 3D relief against the ever-changing vista. (3ality has used this high-flying, immersive footage in its demo reel, which has played at events such as the Bowl Championship Series [BCS] football game's broadcast to theaters in January.)
But for now, most of the action — for Love as a freelance stereographer and for the industry in general — is at the high end. Starting next March with Monsters vs. Aliens, all of DreamWorks' animated features will be relased in theaters in 3D. James Cameron and Fox have begun production on a $220 million project that's expected to serve as a watershed for this current stereoscopic renaissance: Avatar, a live-action/animation hybrid that relies on motion capture. (This production is using Burbank-based Pace's Fusion 3D camera, which was developed by Vince Pace and his company's team in collaboration with Cameron himself.)
“Certainly there's been great excitement around the 3D releases so far, and we've seen an uptick in the 3D business with every movie,” says Bruce Long, president of S3D Studio. “But there's such anticipation [with Avatar] because it seems every time Jim Cameron makes a movie, it moves the bar.”
Long, who was CEO of Iconix until December 2008, has participated in the current S3D resurgence as a manufacturer and as a content producer. Recently, S3D has shot several stereo productions that aren't aimed at the cineplex, including a commercial for eMotion studios for the CES floor and a proof-of-concept demo involving three stereo Iconix rigs and two grappling mixed martial artists. “We're committed to working in 3D, but we're not naive enough to think that 3D will carry the day over the next 18 months,” Long says. “We believe it's going to take a little longer to deploy than we thought a year ago.”
For that reason, he says, S3D Studio and its associated but independent postproduction company Stereoscope are diversifying their business models to incorporate 2D productions as well, as the companies develop ways to make stereo productions easier and cheaper to do. The ultimate goal, according to Long, is to get 3D budgets in line with those of traditional 2D productions. “Then and only then will the financial support for distribution be able to make it over the hump,” he says.
A sporting chance
Whether or not Avatar starts a stereoscopic craze in the realm of dramatic films, there's likely to be another area that sees a surge in viewer interest and production: live sports. The NBA All-Star Game in February 2008 was the first live sporting event to be transmitted in S3D, though its reach was limited to a 500-capacity theater at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. To shoot the event, Pace employed five Fusion 3D HD cameras, based on stereoscopic pairs of Sony HDC-F950s.
Pace's main crosstown competitors also use Sony cameras. 3ality is perhaps best known for its production of U2 3D, a concert film that's considered a triumph of stereoscopic technology. That project required months of painstaking postproduction in order to correct minute deviations in camera sync and to adjust the depth of frames across cuts.
Shooting live, of course, there are no such second chances for adjustments. And recently, 3ality has dived headlong into live stereoscopic sports production. Luckily, the company, founded in 2000, has been perfecting on-the-fly camera calibration all along. 3ality founder and CEO Steve Schklair says that on the production end, the most expensive aspect of shooting live stereo 3D is the years of R&D that have gone into the software that enables live cuts from camera to camera. “It's really easy when you're shooting 3D to change depths,” Schklair says. “You've got a director in an [outside broadcast] truck cutting from camera to camera, and you're not sure which camera they're going to go to. If the depth is different on each of those cameras, it'll tear people's eyes out making those changes.”
That's the depth problem, and its solution required eight stereographers when 3ality shot the Dec. 4, 2008, NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders for a live broadcast to movie theaters in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. 3ality used eight dual-Sony HDC-1500 beam-splitter rigs in a split-block configuration, which means the optical block is extracted from the body and wired back to it in order to make the rigs smaller. Those eight stereographers were each assigned a single stereo camera rig, and the directive was to pull convergence match the camera's depth to that of the program camera, so as to minimize viewer headaches.
Such a labor cost is probably not sustainable for a broadcast industry that's ruled by quarterly profits. Love, who worked this game as a stereographer, sat in the truck with seven other convergence operators and manipulated sliders to control the convergence angle of the camera to which he was assigned. 3ality has made quick progress in its foray into live sports. Even at the December NFL game, 3ality was plotting behind the scenes how to cut down on the unwieldy manpower costs. As a proof of concept, a rackmounted SIP2900 unit in the truck was doing the job of the eight convergence pullers. “It's now handling automated depth balancing so that we're using image processing to read the depth of every shot, and all the cameras are slave to the program camera depth,” Schklair says. “So no matter what the director cuts to, there won't be a jump in depth.”
The next live football event in 3D was the BCS game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida Gators on Jan. 8 in Miami. 3ality was ready to roll with only one convergence puller with an assistant. The SIP2900 was ready for primetime. For live 3D sports to have a viable future, these budget-cutting measures will have to continue. “The more we do it, the less expensive it becomes,” says Jerry Steinberg of Fox Sports, which broadcast the BCS game. “And the less expensive it becomes, the more we can do.”
On the evening of Jan. 8, I sat in a mostly full theater in Brooklyn with about 100 college football fans and other technologically curious viewers wearing RealD's bulky, polarizing glasses. (The polarization effectively blocks the right eye's view from the left eye and vice versa — if you close your right eye and look at yourself in a mirror, the left lens will appear transparent and the right will be almost opaque. In the theater, the projector alternates left and right eye frames at a very high rate; the liquid-crystal screen in front of the single projector's lens polarizes the image circularly: clockwise for the right eye, and counterclockwise for the left.) Like most of the folks in Sooners caps and Gators jerseys, I'd paid my $24 and was eager for a head trip to enhance some superior football.
For the most part, 3ality succeeded on this count; the audience did audibly protest at several brain-bending moments. But watching the game in 3D opened up much more than just a visual dimension — it helped a non-football fan understand the nuances of the game a lot better. Viewing players in 3D on a theater screen, I started to appreciate better the various body types of football players and their roles on the field. (Seeing the massive yet agile left tackles in three dimensions, for instance, brought home the reason these rare specimens make almost as much money as quarterbacks.) The lower-to-the-ground coverage by the Sony rigs enhanced the stereo effects as running backs leapt out of the screen. Hits were more brutal.
As with HD, many expect live sports to be a killer app for the home adoption of S3D. If the unparalleled popularity of pro football doesn't trigger a surge in adoption of stereo 3D in the home, there are still videogames and the DVD releases of the upcoming theatrical S3D releases. At this point, the technology is still developing, but quite viable today. The content is piling up slowly but surely. The demand is slowly emerging — in January, My Bloody Valentine 3D did more business in 3D than in 2D. Outside of the 800-or-so 3D-equipped theaters, however, the distribution channels are unclear. But that's not stopping independent content producers such as Love from suiting up with heavy yet sensitive gear and dropping into foreign locales, pulling stereo, and troubleshooting as they try to frame their shots.
If the demand for stereoscopic 3D content is to continue its growth, skeptics are going to have to be won over. It's not HD — naysayers can't be convinced of a new format's superiority the first time they walk by a football game playing on a new television at Best Buy. For the most part, they're going to need glasses.
How are theater chains going to convince their customers to pony up the premium to view a 3D title for the first time? A company called Alioscopy thinks it has the solution.
Glasses-free autostereoscopic 3D is the holy grail of stereoscopic display, and as such, it's an expensive, bleeding-edge proposition in 2009. Still, for certain public display environments, no expense is too much — witness the success of Panasonic's 103in. plasma. Alioscopy is targeting movie-theater lobbies as one environment that's worth the price of glasses-free display. And the company's current offering is a technological leap forward. It's not stereo, technically — by assigning a tiny lens to each sub-pixel (thereby sacrificing a little resolution, but not much), Alioscopy displays are able to display eight camera views. A viewer standing in one of the screen's many sweet spots can pan left and right slightly and see around an object to a degree that's impossible for traditional stereoscopic display systems.
It's not just theater lobbies where Alioscopy wants to play, of course. There's also medical and aerospace firms that would benefit from a hyper-3D screen in order to view complex models. “We're in the process of moving into two research and engineering agreements with two medical firms,” says Pia Maffei, director of operations for Alioscopy.
But on the content side, who's producing eight camera views at this point? Alioscopy is playing in that space as well. The flagship product from the company is a modified NEC 40in. LCD display with a lenticular cover, but there's also a 24in. display that Alioscopy offers production companies creating autostereoscopic content. To facilitate this new production paradigm, the company also offers content creators the necessary scripts and plug-ins to achieve eight-camera-view rendering in Softimage|XSI and Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, as well as e-training.
There's competition for Alioscopy in the autostereoscopic display space; for several years, Philips has offered glasses-free 3D flatscreens covered by lenticular sheets, but these actually display a single-camera view with Z-depth information transmitted via grayscale percentages. Of course, Philips' new 52in. LCD, the QFHD 3D display, blows its previous 42in. and 52in. 3D models' specs out of the water. A new rendering technique, combined with the quad-HD resolution of 3840×2160, enables up to 46 camera views. For its part, LG Electronics is pushing glasses-free True3D displays to the home market.
Will the home market be ready for 3D any time soon? The stereoscopic content producers I've spoken with sure hope so. A lot of pots are coming to a boil at once: The dropping prices of suitable HD cameras make lower-budget independent S3D productions possible; the preponderance of 3D-friendly post software means postproduction in stereo isn't such a black art anymore; CES 2009 saw another crop of consumer flatscreens that are 3D-ready; starting this year, every Pixar and DreamWorks animated release will get a 3D theatrical run — and those studios will undoubtedly want to repurpose the stereoscopic versions as home releases.
Early adopters might soon take the plunge — the first blockbuster videogame that's viewable in 3D is going to drive the purchases of 3D-ready television sets. (Avatar's companion videogame will be in 3D, according to Director James Cameron.) The technologically adventurous might even get used to the wireless liquid crystal shutter (LCS) glasses that go with the 3D sets from Samsung and Mistubishi.
But the big question now is how autostereoscopy will come to the home. Few observers believe that the glasses approach is viable for mainstream viewers. (Among other concerns, who's going to have a dozen sets of LCS glasses lying around for the Super Bowl party?) For now, the price premium for a lenticular overlay is simply too much for a technology with extremely little associated content. And 3D effects simply aren't as eye-popping in autostereo as they are when viewed with glasses. That's a technological problem without a clear solution.
The other big problem for home viewing in stereo is obvious. Where's the content? And where's the demand for 3D content if there are as yet no viewers? It's the classic chicken-and-egg impasse that's familiar to observers of HD's adoption process. Stereographer Vic Love says he thinks that simply having an outlet for home display of stereo 3D material will help solve the problem of nonexistent content. If cable providers build a venue, stereoscopic productions will come. “This year's going to be about content producers trying to monetize their content away from the traditional theater-distribution model,” he says. “As soon as you can monetize the content, there will be a lot more produced.” Your move, networks and cable providers.
By Trevor Boyer, Digital Content Producer
Not sure what Stereoscopic 3D is or how it works? Listen to John Rupkalvis, a Stereoscopic 3D consultant, as he breaks down for us exactly how the future of filmmaking works and how you can shoot 3D movies with a small budget!
Source: Pixel Heads Network
The world's first experiment in marketing three dimensional television is struggling, with only a few hundred television sets sold since their launch in Japan last April, the Financial Times has learnt. Hyundai of Korea became the world's first company to market a 3D television, but people involved in retailing the product say it has not sold because of a lack of 3D content.
At present, available content includes 3D dolphins, hula dancing and women's professional wrestling. The world's big TV manufacturers will be eager to learn lessons from Japan's experiment. Most are developing 3D products, which they see as the next big innovation in TVs, and a chance to sell every household in the world a new screen. Hyundai and BS11 Digital, the Japanese TV station that is the world's first to broadcast in 3D, say their goals are to differentiate their brands, gain experience of what works in 3D and position themselves for when the technology takes off.
US cinemas are converting to digital 3D, and Titanic director James Cameron is shooting his next film, Avatar, in 3D. TV companies hope to bring that experience into the home.
The system on sale in Japan, which has been adopted by British Sky Broadcasting in the UK, uses a liquid crystal display to show left and right images simultaneously. As in 3D cinemas, the viewer has to wear polarising glasses to see the 3D image.
At present, however, Hollywood content is not available in Japan and BS11 Digital only broadcasts in 3D for 30 minutes to an hour every day. "I often talk about the chicken and egg problem. You can talk about which comes first [TV sets or content], but someone has to go forward, which is why we have launched our service," said Natsumi Isobe, the team leader for 3D broadcasting at BS11 Digital.
As well as the issue of content, 3D is being hampered by the lack of broadcast or DVD technical standards. Panasonic says it wants to launch the displays in 2010 but is waiting for a standard to be agreed for encoding 3D on Blu-ray DVDs.
"I think the way that 3D is going to be deployed to the consumer is via Blu-ray," said Dr Peter Bocko, an expert in display technologies at glassmaker Corning.
There will also need to be changes to sell 3D in shops. At the flagship electronics store of Bic Camera in Tokyo's Yurakucho district, shoppers trying the 3D sets were giving up in confusion. In the store's narrow aisles they cannot stand far enough away from the screen to see the 3D effect. At another store in Shinjuku, the sales assistant advised against buying a 3D set, saying the technology "is not serious".
By Robin Harding, The Financial Times
Director Eric Brevig is picking up Yogi Bear's pic-a-nic basket. He will take the helm of the Warner Bros. feature adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon, which will be produced as a 3-D project.
Brevig, a longtime visual effects supervisor whose credits include The Day After Tomorrow and Men in Black, directed last year's Journey to the Center of the Earth, a 3-D feature that earned more than $230 million worldwide in the summer.
Ash Brannon, who directed Surf's Up, had been tapped to helm Yogi when it was a 2-D vehicle.
Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, who executive produced That '70s Show, are writing the screenplay for Yogi, which will offer a new take on the half-century-old title character and his sidekick Boo Boo, who get into a series of misadventures in Jellystone Park.
The movie is expected to combine live action and CG in the manner of Alvin and the Chipmunks, a hit for 20th Century Fox in 2007.
3-D has become a higher priority at many studios, with executives believing that the technology will compel more filmgoers to see movies in theaters. Disney's Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience opens Friday to high box-office expectations.
By Steven Zeitchik, Reuters
Hollywood is turning to 3-D movies more than at any time since the 1950s to boost ticket sales, but the recession has created a distribution logjam that has blurred the current box office outlook for 3-D. This Friday, Walt Disney will release its new Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience in theaters equipped for 3-D. But that means Focus Features' Coraline, which has been a 3-D hit, must cut its 3-D presence to some 300 screens, probably before it has played to all potential fans.
"It's a statement about how the industry is just so behind an opportunity to make more money, at a time that we've been told constantly the economy is bad. It's ridiculous," said Jack Foley, president of distribution for Focus, a division of General Electric's NBC Universal media wing.
The roll-out of expensive digital equipment needed to show 3-D movies began early this decade and picked up steam after Disney's 3-D version of 2005's Chicken Little became a hit. Hollywood sees 3-D movies as a way to lure audiences out of their home entertainment "cocoons," and the major studios will release more than a dozen movies in 3-D before the year is out, about twice as many as in 2007 and 2008 combined.
No movie studio has turned to 3-D as aggressively as DreamWorks Animation SKG, whose Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg has pledged to release all the company's movies in 3-D. But even Katzenberg has acknowledged the dampening effect of the recession on his push for 3-D.
"There's the practical world that you can't ignore, which is we've just had a complete and total meltdown of our financial markets, which has made the financing of this much more challenging and has slowed it down," Katzenberg said.
DreamWorks hopes its animated movie Monsters vs. Aliens can play on 2,200 3-D screens in the U.S. and Canada when it opens March 27, but right now that appears unlikely. The National Association of Theater Owners says only 1,700 3-D screens exist, up from less than 1,000 six months ago, said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for NATO. Converting the vast majority of the 38,900 screens in the U.S. will cost $2 billion, he said.
"It's a large capital investment and large capital investors are just not out there right now, so it's going to have to happen screen-by-screen, fairly piecemeal," he said.
The recession, however, has not seemed to dampen consumer interest in 3-D, which can cost from $2 to $5 more per ticket. Coraline opened No. 3 at U.S. and Canadian box offices earlier this month with $16.3 million, and nearly 75 percent of that total came from 3-D screens.
"No matter how you look at it, people are willing to pay more money to go see 3-D," Foley said.
Chuck Viane, president of domestic film distribution for Disney movies also acknowledged the credit crunch's squeeze on the 3-D conversion, but was hopeful it might soon pick up.
"Everybody anticipates that somewhere in the next few months that logjam may open up a bit," he said.
Major 3-D releases for 2009 include Up on May 29 from Disney-Pixar, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on July 1 from News Corp's 20th Century Fox, and director James Cameron's Avatar, also from Fox and in theaters on Dec. 18.
With 40 3-D movies set for the next three years, 3-D seems here to stay. "I'm the guy whose crazy enough to think that in a handful of years most movies will be 3-D," Katzenberg said.
By Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters
The CEA and the Entertainment and Technology Center (ETC) at the University of Southern California just finished a study on consumer attitudes towards 3D. Suffice it to say they conclude that 3D is a force that will only grow with exposure. The more 3D content consumers see, the more people want to continue watching 3D. Along with this is the corollary assertion that "today’s 3D technology is positioned to move into the home and is becoming a major purchasing factor of TV sets."
That assessment is based on the following findings:
- 16% and 14% of respondents wanted 3D films and video games (respectively) in the home.
- More than 26M households are interested in having a 3D content experience in their own home.
- 50% of U.S. adults said having to wear special glasses or hold their heads still while watching a 3D TV would have no impact on them purchasing a 3D set for their home.
- 15 % of consumers said they would spend roughly 25% more for a 3D TV.
- 30% of U.S. adults said having access to 3D content though cable, satellite, fiber-optics or over-the-air broadcasts would positively impact their decision to buy a 3D capable TV.
The point to this study may just be that 3D technology has transcended the novel / hobby stage and is on a true vector toward mainstream home adoption. The reason for this perhaps is that 3D technology sufficiently overcame a major obstacle to its adoption: 3D content.
And content is no problem, as the ETC’s David Wertheimer noted. "In the past few weeks alone, we’ve seen college football’s national championship game, multiple Super Bowl commercials and an hour-long TV show, all broadcast in 3D." He forgot to mention the NBA All-Star game that was broadcast live in 3D to over 80 theaters on Feb. 14 to a paying audience. Successful events like this are creating a demand for 3D in the home.
While there is still much to learn in content creation the industry is taking an iterative approach. Much like Edison who discovered 10,000 ways NOT to make the incandescent light bulb, both the film and live broadcast industries are learning the best way to deliver 3D by simply doing and evaluating the results.
The fact is, 3D content is booming for the simple reason that studio’s can charge more for seats, and digital movie theaters can leverage their recent investments in digital cinema technology – not only with films, but live 3D events that have captured the mindshare of the next generation. There is now so much content in the Hollywood pipe that moviemakers are beginning to worry about the availability of enough 3D theaters venues. And as in 2D film distribution, after the cinema the home becomes the next target market.
So don’t get too attached to that big flat screen TV you just bought, thinking it would serve the next 10 years, as your living room portal to the digital millennium. You may just find it relegated to the bedroom (or garage — wow!) when your new 3D set arrives.
By Steve Sechrist, DisplayDaily
Nokia Siemens Networks and Italian public broadcaster RAI are jointly working on a 3D TV service, reports Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore. The service would be available also on mobile phones and the internet, airing programmes in very high definition. The paper claims that the agreement has yet to be signed by RAI, and that it still does not have a financial value.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Aero Quartet has released Treasured 1.5, updating its diagnosis tool for corrupt movie files. The software allows users to preview a bad file, and determine if footage needed is still available and repairable. The app also works with Aero Quartet's movie repair service, sending damaged files to it with all relevant information; the service is claimed to take only hours to deliver repaired video.
The update adds compatibility with ProRes422, XDCAM, DVCPRO50, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, and improves diagnostics for MPEG-4, H.264, JPEG and HDV, with previews available in more cases. Version 1.5 also adds encryption for all data transfers, and an absolute privacy option for sensitive videos. An inexpensive automated repair option has been made available for certain circumstances.
Treasured requires a minimum of Mac OS X 10.4 and QuickTime 7.6, and works with MPEG-4, DV, DVC Pro HD and Intermediate, in addition to other formats mentioned above. The diagnosis software is free, but repairs typically run between $90 and $150.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Labels: IT Broadcast
Vue Entertainment, the U.K.'s third-largest theater operator, is turning to 3-D technology, striking a deal with RealD to add 200 screens equipped by the 3-D specialist. Vue and RealD said Monday that the rollout of RealD 3-D-enabled screens already has begun, with an installation at Vue's flagship location in the British capital, Leicester Square.
"RealD 3-D is the market-leading choice for its remarkable track record of providing a superior viewing experience, something we can't wait to bring to our many locations across the U.K.," Vue CEO Tim Richards said.
Michael V. Lewis, chairman and CEO of RealD, said the deal marks his company's "continued expansion across Europe."
RealD's next-generation 3-D technology is deployed across the world's largest 3-D platform, covering 34 countries with more than 1,700 screens and nearly 6,000 additional screens under contract. Vue currently has 62 cinemas with 607 screens. No financial details were available.
By Stuart Kemp, The Hollywood Reporter
Eiji Shikoh, an assistant professor at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, developed an OLED device that emits circularly polarized light in the visible light range. It is a basic technology to enable 3D representation on OLED and electronic paper displays. To produce the circularly polarized light in the visible light range, the spin state during the light emission process is controlled by injecting a spin-polarized carrier from the ferromagnetic negative electrode into the emission layer.
For the future, Shikoh intends to increase the degree of circular polarization so that two components, the right and left circularly polarized light, may be clearly differentiated. Through this method, he aims to realize 3D display by producing parallax images that have different information in each component.
In general, OLED devices use a nonmagnetic material such as aluminum (Al) for their negative electrodes. But the new technology uses a ferromagnetic material such as iron (Fe) for the negative electrode in order to inject spin-polarized electrons from the ferromagnetic negative electrode into the emission layer. As a result, light emission with a circular polarization degree of about 0.5% was observed when a magnetic field intensity of 3,000Oe is applied at room temperature, Shikoh said.
It has been known that GaAs-based inorganic LEDs produce circularly polarized light by the spin injection into the emission layer. However, those LEDs cannot be used for displays because they emit light in the infrared range. Moreover, the base material has to be changed in order to precisely control the colors of light emitted by inorganic light emitting devices. With organic molecules, it is possible to precisely control the emission color by changing the functional group, Shikoh said.
The research was conducted as part of the Industrial Technology Research Grant Program promoted by Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
By Megumi Yoshizawa, Nikkei Microdevices
Standardization of digital audio and video is investigated by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), a working group of ISO/IEC and the corresponding standards are issued with ISO/IEC designations.
MPEG-C, Part 3
The purpose of ISO/IEC 23002-3 Auxiliary Video Data Representations (MPEG-C part 3) is to support all those applications where additional data needs to be efficiently attached to the individual pixels of a regular video. In ISO/IEC 23002-3 it is described how this can be achieved in a generic way by making use of existing (and even future) video codecs available within MPEG. ISO/IEC 23002-3 consists of an array of N-bit values which are associated with the individual pixels of a regular video stream. These data can be compressed like conventional luminance signals using already existing (and even future) MPEG video codecs. The format allows for optional subsampling of the auxiliary data in both the spatial and temporal domain. This can be beneficial depending on the particular application and its requirements and allowing for very low bitrates for the auxiliary data.
The specification is very flexible in the sense that it defines a new 8-bit code word aux_video_type that specifies the type of the associated data, e.g., currently a value of 0x10 signals a depth map, a value of 0x11 signals a parallax map. New values for additional data representations can be easily added to fulfill future demands. The specification is directly applicable to 3D video as it allows specifying such video in the format of single view + associated depth, where the single channel video is augmented by the per-pixel depth attached as auxiliary data. As such, it is susceptible to efficient compression. Rendering of virtual view (at least one in case of stereo) is required at the receiver side. The specification has been standardized since 2007.
3D video (3DV) and free viewpoint video (FVV) are new types of visual media that expand the user’s experience beyond what is offered by 2D video. 3DV offers a 3D depth impression of the observed scenery, while FVV allows for an interactive selection of viewpoint and direction within a certain operating range. A common element of 3DV and FVV systems is the use of multiple views of the same scene that are transmitted to the user. Multiview Video Coding (MVC, ISO/IEC 14496-10:2008 Amendment 1) is an extension of the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standard that provides efficient coding of such multiview video. The overall structure of MVC defines the following interfaces: The encoder receives N temporally synchronized video streams and generates one bitstream. The decoder receives the bitstream, decodes and outputs the N video signals. The video representation format is based on N views. For the case of stereo-video, that is two separate views coded together. A promising extension is to study view subsampling, i.e. one full resolution view + one subsampled view. The idea behind this approach is that the human visual system is capable to retrieve the stereo with the quality of the better channel. MVC is standard since 2008 (version 1).
3D Video Coding
3D Video Coding (3DVC) is a standard that targets serving a variety of 3D displays. Such displays here in focus present N views (e.g. N = 9) simultaneously to the user, so-called multi-viewed displays. For efficiency reasons only a lower number K of views (K = 1,..,3) shall be transmitted. For those K views additional depth data shall be provided. At the receiver side the N views to be displayed are generated from the K transmitted views with depth by depth image based rendering (DIBR). This application scenario imposes specific constraints such as narrow angle acquisition (<>K out of N views,) augmented with K depth sequences. This representation related to stereo-video generalizes the possibilities of MPEG-C, Part 3 and MVC, i.e. the two separate views can be coded together or can be reduced to single view + depth with the second view to be synthesized at the receiver. 3DVC is an ongoing MPEG activity, and a standard is expected in 2011.
Spanish satellite operator Hispasat has joined the 3DLive project, aiming to analyze and define new 3D TV broadcast services via satellite. The project studies new technologies for compression and transmission of 3D images, using different types of networks, including satellite and IPTV. The 3D Live project is co-financed by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, under the Plan Avanza R&D.
Coordinated by Telefonica R&D, the project also includes companies and institutions such as Telefonica Audiovisual Services (TSA), ITP Audiovisual Productions, Kinepolis Spain, the University of Zaragoza and now Hispasat. As part of the project, Hispasat will focus on new lines of research, covering services such as 3D digital cinema and 3D TV reception in households.
Source: Technology Marketing Corporation
Forget the old red and blue glasses: 3-D has been upgraded. The inventor of modern 3-D explains how the technology has evolved and where it's headed. Director Henry Selick talks about the art of animation and how he used 3-D to make his movie Coraline jump off the screen.
Henry Selick, director, Coraline, supervising director, LAIKA, Portland, Ore.
Lenny Lipton, inventor, stereoscopic vision system, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jim Mainard, head of production development, DreamWorks Animation, Glendale, Calif.
The more experience people have with 3-D technology, the more interested they are in having more 3-D options, according to a new joint study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Entertainment and Technology Center at the University of Southern California. The study, "3-D TV: Where Are We Now and Where Are Consumers," also showed that 3-D technology is positioned to become a major force in future in-home entertainment.
As with many successful technologies, such as HDTV, interest in 3-D increases as consumers experience it first-hand. In the past 12 months, nearly 41 million U.S. adults report having seen a 3-D movie in theaters. Of those, nearly forty percent say they would prefer to watch a movie in 3-D than that same movie in 2-D. That's compared to just 23 percent who have not seen a 3-D movie in the past 12 months.
"When it comes to current 3-D technology, seeing truly is believing," said Shawn DuBravac, CEA's economist and director of research. "Today's 3-D offerings are changing the way consumers view video content, not unlike the early days of high-definition television, which redefined TV as we know it today."
The study also found that today's 3-D technology is positioned to move into the home and is becoming a major purchasing factor of TV sets. Sixteen percent of consumers are interested in watching 3-D movies or television shows in their home, while 14 percent are interested in playing 3-D video games. All told, more than 26 million households are interested in having a 3-D content experience in their own home. More than half of U.S. adults said having to wear special glasses or hold their heads still while watching a 3-D TV would have no impact on them purchasing a 3-D set for their home. New 3-D display technology that would require no special glasses was unveiled at the 2009 International CES, produced by CEA.
Another driver for purchasing a 3-D capable set is content. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults said having access to 3-D content though cable, satellite, fiber-optics or over-the-air broadcasts would positively impact their decision to buy a 3-D capable TV.
"Movie studios and broadcasters are experimenting with 3-D and continue to search for ways to bring the technology into consumers' living rooms," said David Wertheimer, CEO and executive director of the Entertainment and Technology Center at USC. "In the past few weeks alone, we've seen college football's national championship game, multiple Super Bowl commercials and an hour-long TV show, all broadcast in 3-D. Interest in 3-D is growing, and consumers and content providers are both interested in seeing 3-D migrate into the home."
The study also found that consumers were willing to pay more for a 3-D experience. Nearly half indicated they were willing to spend more for a television capable of displaying 3-D content. In fact, 15 percent of consumers said they would spend roughly 25 percent for such a TV. The parallels between 3-D and other successful technologies like HDTV suggest great potential for 3-D in the home.
Shawn DuBravac and David Wertheimer will discuss 3-D technology in further detail in an exclusive webcast at Noon (ET)/9am (PT) on Tuesday, February 24. To register for the webcast or for more information, please email Steve Kidera at skidera@CE.org.
The "3-D TV: Where Are We Now and Where Are Consumers" study (February 2009) was fielded to a national telephone survey of 1,002 U.S. adults between December 18 through December 23, 2008. It was designed and formulated in conjunction CEA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer electronics industry. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies. Non-members may purchase the study for $999 at www.ce.org.
Sony is generally perceived as the market leader in video. But when it comes to digital cinema, the company has a lot of catching up to do. Its main competitor, Texas Instruments, supplies the underlying projection technology used by several manufacturers, and T.I. technology is now in about 15 times as many digital screens as Sony’s is. But Sony is on a tear, bundling its 4K SXRD Digital Cinema technology with ancillary services into what it says is a superior product. The company thinks it can increase 4K’s penetration from its current 300 screens to 3,000 within the next two years.
T.I.’s system creates an image with just 2.2 million pixels, or 6.6 percent more resolution than a home high definition screen. Sony’s 4K system creates an image with four times that resolution, or 8.8 million pixels. The difference, Sony argues, is a sharper, more pristine image, with deeper contrast and richer colors. Sony’s system is also closer to film resolution, which cinematographers feel is roughly equivalent to 6K.
Of course, this technology does not come cheap (which is one reason that digital theaters often charge premium prices). While companies won’t quote prices (for competitive reasons, and because they may cut better deals with certain customers), Sony says that its digital projection hardware costs about 10 to 15 percent more than the T.I. system, and two to three times as much as traditional film projectors.
The company argues that, when amortized over time, the added cost is not so great, compared to the benefits for the theater owner: fewer breakdowns, automated operation, and increased customer satisfaction thanks to the superior image quality.
While few film fans know (or care) what type of film projector a theater uses, Sony says that its images are so good, filmgoers will seek them out. It will market SXRD to consumers by creating a logo to plug the technology along with the movie. So just as Dolby Digital or THX sound are advertised on movie screens, expect to soon see an SXRD Digital Cinema logo as well.
The company’s technology will be on show next week in one of its most ambitious installations, a new 14-screen all-digital complex built by Muvico, a Florida exhibitor, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The theater provides stadium seating and valet parking.
The company could have a big impact here because, as a Muvico executive said at the press premiere on Tuesday, “customers in Thousand Oaks stay to watch a film’s credits because their names are probably in them.” If those in “the industry” like what they see, the bigwigs could press to have their films shot and exhibited digitally.
The digital films are delivered on individual hard drives and either fed directly to one projector or downloaded to a secure server for streaming to multiple screens. Sony constantly monitors each projector’s health remotely, and can send help or advisories if a projector goes down or a bulb is nearing the end of its life.
The 10-minute demo reel shown on Tuesday did look stunning. As with any digital cinema system, there was no jutter, or jumping of the image, because film was not running through a projector gate. The colors were indeed rich with a perceived wide contrast range, increasing the sense of resolution.
The pictures also looked impressive because the test material was shot using 4K digital video cameras. According to Mike Fidler, Sony’s senior vice president for digital cinema solutions, Sony’s film studio will increase the number of its titles that will be shot in 4K over the coming year.
The company’s 4K systems will go in all new Muvico complexes and eventually replace film projectors in its existing theaters. Sony has also installed systems in a number of AMC theaters and expects orders for more.
But Sony’s technology is likely to make strong gains only if it is significantly better looking than the Texas Instruments competition and if it looks qualitatively better than HDTV. With every advancement made in the quality of the TV images one can see at home, it becomes that much harder to persuade customers to shell out what can easily be $100 for a family’s night out at the movies.
By Eric A. Taub, The New York Times
HPA featured a number of demos from leading manufacturers and JVC demonstrated a 3D LCD monitor that can convert 2D images to 3D, solving one of the big problems facing a potential industry transition to 3D: filling the programming gap.
“There is a huge lack of 3D content but with 2D to 3D conversion we can give a very pleasing 3D effect,” says Dave Walton, JVC assistant vice president.
Walton says the set works via sophisticated algorithms that look at the content and figure out whether the image should be shown with depth. “For example, it figures out where the sky should be and puts objects in focus in the foreground and things less in focus to the rear.”
There is no price yet for the set but it is designed to be a consumer-grade LCD set. The model number is LT-46SP89 and it is 1920×1080p capable and 46 inches wide. There is also a 32 inch version available.
Source: Sports Video Group
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) announces today that its American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited SCTE Standards Program has begun to investigate the standardization required for the carriage of next generation 3D content on cable networks.
The SCTE Engineering Committee, which oversees the Society’s development of technical standards covering all aspects of cable networks, has approved a project to examine the delivery of 3D content over cable networks. The new project, “3D over Cable,” will focus on identifying necessary or desirable changes to existing SCTE standards, including transport protocols, to facilitate the provision of 3D content by cable operators.
“Although 3D content is available today over cable, the long-term delivery of next generation 3D content will be strengthened by the adoption of uniform engineering and technical criteria,” said SCTE Engineering Committee Chair Charlie Kennamer. “To that end, SCTE intends to examine new 3D television technology to develop standards that can be used by the cable industry to deliver a more immersive television experience.”
The 3D project has been assigned to SCTE’s Digital Video Subcommittee (DVS), which will make recommendations on standards and protocols based on the needs of the cable industry. As part of this effort, DVS will consider not only cable industry activities but also standards work being conducted in other organizations such as the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
“DVS has the expertise necessary among its members to evaluate the new technologies and to help determine the correct course for cable to pursue,” said SCTE Vice President, Standards Steve Oksala. The subcommittee will discuss its new project at its March meeting. DVS is chaired by Paul J. Hearty, Ph.D., of Ryerson University.
Almost 160 cable operators, vendors, and allied organizations are SCTE Standards Program members, which entitles them to participate in the standards development process. Individuals and organizations interested in working on the 3D project can contact SCTE about program membership at 800-542-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. SCTE also offers companies and individuals a convenient way to receive notification about recent approvals and new standards projects through the SCTE Standards Action Notice. Interested parties may subscribe in the Standards section of the SCTE website.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
3DFusion (3DF) is proud to debut the first market launch of its 3DFMax, stereoscopic Glasses Free, Broadcast Ready 3D display platform at the Digital Signage Exposition 2009. 3DF has designed a 3D NO Glasses, AOOH AD Network Turnkey & Kiosk package, which is a dedicated, customized unit for the digital signage industry.
Built upon the Philips 3D Solutions, 2D Plus Depth format, the 3DF IP enhances and augments the 3D advancements to the point of achieving the first 3D Broadcast Ready, picture perfect standard for stereoscopic Glasses Free 3D displays.
3DFusion a key Philips North American 3D Solutions Provider and Certified Blue Box Content Creator, has taken the newly released Philips 3D Solutions WOWvx Media Player to the next level. “When 3DF coupled its 3DFMax optimizer technology with the latest Philips software upgrade,” stated CEO Ilya Sorokin, “the results were breathtaking. The Philips 3D Solutions WOWvx product is the undisputed 3D winner, having crossed the 3D finish line first. In our opinion, the 3DFusion No Glasses Stereoscopic 3D is the first and only 'ready for Prime Time' 3DTV.”
Steve Blumenthal, President of 3DFusion remarked, “Philips 3D Solutions deserves all the credit, they baked a great cake, we just added the icing. From my perspective, the new release of the Philips 3D Solutions WOWvx Media Player, makes the Philips ASD package the 'go to' market leader in stereoscopic No Glasses 3D. Philips 3D Solutions stands alone in providing the only complete end to end technology solution capable of finally delivering the Holy Grail of Auto stereoscopic 3D.”
3DFusion has incorporated this historical first to market 3D solution into 3 products. They are the 3DFusion 3D Digital Signage, multi panel Kiosk for AOOH Ad Nets, the 3DF turnkey “3D in a Box” platform for all non-network applications. The planned 3DFusion Artist Guild for 2D to 3D conversion is a membership-based Guild dedicated to developing advanced 3D content rendering and conversion tools designed to support the end user.
3DFusion’s first job was to get 3DFMax 3D out of the Lab and into the marketplace. 3DFusion management determined that any thing less than Broadcast Ready was a non starter. 3DF determined that not only was it necessary to create perfect picture 3D, but that access to a user friendly path for clients to create their own Broadcast Ready content was essential. With the advent of the recently released WOWVX Media Player, the Blue Box and the 3DFMax tools, this technology solution comes of age. For the first time, the tools are available through which any 3DFMax Guild member can achieve Broadcast Ready 3D for the Glasses Free, 2D Plus Depth format.
The 3DFusion Digital Signage Ad Net Kiosk and Turnkey platforms are 100 percent compatible with existing Ad Net installations, performing within conventional 2D specification guidelines. The 3DFusion platform seamlessly replaces 2D systems without additional bandwidth or installation requirements, and it automatically operates as either a 2D or 3D Display.
The BBC has been hard at work developing next-generation technologies for 3D production that can use 2D cameras and synthetically build a 3D experience. In fact, the technological developments can be found in soccer analysis systems developed by Piero that allow for viewers to swing around a play.
The potential for synthetic stereoscopy technology to be taken to the next level and allow for a 3D presentation to be built out of 2D is there. Peter Wilson of HDDC, a UK-based HD consulting firm, says 2D camera signals would be pumped into a computer that would then work out the “pose” of the camera (zoom, pan/tilt, focal length, etc.) and then pull out the images of the moving objects and built a multiview of those players. The system would get around issues like widening the interocular for sports, a move that creates a 3D effect but can make foreground objects to be scaled improperly by the brain.
“When you widen the interocular for sports you screw the pooch,” says Wilson. “The brain says the background objects are in the proper scale and the objects in the foreground are wrong. That leads to the eye telling the brain that the 250-pound lineman is a midget.”
Synthetic stereoscopy would also allow 2D positions that Wilson says are not suitable for 3D production to be used on the 3D show.
Source: Sports Video Group
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The EBU’s Hans Hoffman reported at HPA today that EBU tests have found that MPEG-4 h.264 encoders have finally reached a level of performance that delivers on the promise of 50% bandwidth savings vs. MPEG-2. The EBU tested encoders from Ateme, Harmonic, Tandberg, Thomson, and Scientific-Atlanta.
“All of them performed very well and the 50% gain has been reached,” said Hoffman. “With some content it is even better than 50%.”
In terms of bandwidth needed for “critical material but not unduly so” performance recommendations are: 10.5 Mbps for 720p/50; 12.1 Mbps for 1440×1080i/25; and 12.8 Mbps for 1920×1080p/25.
Source: Sports Video Group
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Labels: IT Broadcast
Inition has unveiled the StereoBrain Processor (SB-1), a new 3D HD video processing unit developed for use in stereoscopic 3D production and broadcast. The StereoBrain Processor (SB-1) is the first in a range of 3D processors being developed jointly by broadcast video experts NuMedia Technology and stereoscopic 3D specialists Inition.
The StereoBrain SB-1 is designed to allow live viewing from a stereoscopic camera pair or other 3D video source on any of the current breed of 3D televisions. This enables live 3D viewing and manipulation in post-production environments from any 3D pair of HD-SDI sources.
The SB-1 outputs the pair of images via a single DVI/HDMI signal in interlaced or side-by-side configuration, both of which are common 3D formats. It can also output overlayed left/right on a standard 2D HD monitor. Both side-by-side and mirror/beam-splitter rigs are also supported with the latter via a built in a vertical flip function.
Future models of the StereoBrain Processor (SB-2, SB-3) will launch in Q2, 2009 and will support a range of sophisticated 3D video processing functions including the ability to shift convergence live and additional features to align and monitor stereoscopic 3D sources.
Andy Millns, Director at Inition commented: "3D has always been technically challenging from acquisition and post-production through to distribution. Current video hardware was not designed to handle 3D images but ability to view and manipulate 3D pairs of HD sources is an essential tool for 3D production. The StereoBrain Processor allows you to monitor and manipulate 3D on a wide range of 3D and non-3D monitors and TVs. This represents a significant improvement in the 3D production process."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. (“Cinedigm”, formerly AccessIT) today announced an agreement with Sony Pictures Releasing Corporation (“SPRC”) supporting its “Phase Two” Digital Cinema Deployment Plan for up to 10,000 digital cinema projection systems. Over the next three years, SPRC will supply its upcoming pictures in a DCI-compliant format to Cinedigm installed theatres in the United States and Canada, when booked, and will make financial contributions for a limited time to promote DCI-compliant digital cinema technology (a new and higher quality delivery format).
This agreement extends the strong commitment to digital cinema between the parties and reinforces Sony Pictures’ desire to advance the industry’s transition to digital. During Cinedigm’s “Phase One” deployment, which commenced in the fall of 2005 and was completed in the fall of 2007, more than 3,700 digital cinema systems were installed in the U.S. and Canada.
Chuck Goldwater, president of Cinedigm’s Media Services Group, added: “Sony Pictures Releasing’s partnership with Cinedigm in our Phase One deployment was a key to our successful installation of our first 3,700-plus screens. We know that their renewed support will be vital to Cinedigm in helping us bring even more benefits of the technology, including 3-D and alternative content, to theatre-goers in the U.S. and Canada. Cinedigm is proud to be SPRC’s trusted partner in making digital cinema happen.”
The iPoint 3D allows people to communicate with a 3-D display through simple gestures – without touching it and without 3-D glasses or a data glove. What until now has only been seen in science fiction films will be presented at CeBIT from March 3-8 by experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI (Hall 9, Stand B36).
“The heart of iPoint 3D is a recognition device, not much larger than a keyboard, that can be suspended from the ceiling above the user or integrated in a coffee table. Its two built-in cameras detect hands and fingers in real time and transmit the information to a computer,” says Paul Chojecki, a research scientist at the HHI, explaining the technology. The system responds instantly, as soon as someone in front of the screen moves their hands. No physical contact or special markers are involved. The small device is equipped with two FireWire cameras – inexpensive, off-the-shelf video cameras that are easy to install.
In addition to its obvious appeal to video gamers, iPoint 3D can also be useful in a living room or office, or even in a hospital operating room, or as part of an interactive information system. “Since the interaction is entirely contactless, the system is ideal for scenarios where contact between the user and the system is not possible or not allowed, such as in an operating room,” Chojecki says. The HHI invention can thus be used not only to control a display but also as a means of controlling other devices or appliances. Someone kneading pastry in the kitchen, whose hands are covered in dough, can turn down the boiling potatoes by waving a finger without leaving sticky marks on the stove. In an office, for example, an architect can peruse the latest set of construction drawings and view them from all angles by gesture control. The finger is the remote control of the future.
In a converted warehouse near one of Los Angeles's toughest neighborhoods, a coterie of professional "techno-speculators" is playing around with what a growing number of entertainment industry folks hope the future of the small screen will be, namely 3-D.
This is the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California, where the Home 3D Experience Lab, ETC's newest brainchild, is currently housed in a bare-bones room. The 3-D lab just opened this past week and isn't complete yet, meaning the team is still assembling all the various iterations of 3-D as it will be experienced in consumers' homes. But the fundamentals are in place – glasses, screens, and playback devices – says Bryan Gonzalez, the lab's technical project specialist.
"For the state of the art in 3-D for the home environment, this is where the industry leaders can gather to discuss where it's going," says executive director David Wertheimer. The nonprofit research center is funded by content and technology companies, including nearly all the major film studios.
First and foremost, of course, there are the glasses. Not those flimsy, two-tone cardboard specs, but snazzy, lightweight, polarized shades or active-shutter glasses, battery-powered eyewear that whips up left and right eye content as fast as 120 times in a second. A "auto-stereoscopic" type of 3-D content not requiring glasses is being developed, and the lab has an early version of it, but most observers say the low resolution makes it years away from viability in the home market.
At the first setup, Mr. Gonzalez dons the passive, polarized eyewear and plunks down in front of an impressive screen.
"This is just one of many options," points out K.C. Blake, director of business development. There are at least three different 3-D ready screens commercially available. And the Blu-ray players that the lab uses are just like those being sold at any consumer electronics outlet. Even the glasses are relatively available, both the polarized and active-shutter type.
But the one element in this "ecosystem" – as the group is fond of calling its area of study – that's missing is the one part the folks at home really care about: the content. Right now, the team is playing a trailer from Disney's animated film, Bolt, footage donated by Disney that is not available to the public.
"Similar to what happened with high-definition TV, the technology [for 3-D TV] is here before the material to watch," points out Mr. Wertheimer.
The current momentum behind the home 3-D experience is coming not just from the movie industry but from video-game developers as well. Not unlike past flirtations with 3-D back in the 1950s and '70s, studios are once again looking to 3-D to help prop up the theatrical release of films. And now, equally eager to get more return on the 10 to 20 percent premium spent to film in 3-D, they hope to expand the home 3-D market as a potential support for the DVD release.
At the same time, video-game enthusiasts have long pushed the evolution of consumer technologies, searching for greater verisimilitude in gameplay. The battery-powered glasses are made by a major gaming accessory developer.
As consumers get a taste of the newest 3-D technology, they are sending a clear message that they want more. Moviegoers are overwhelmingly flocking to the 3-D version over the 2-D at theater complexes. The box office for the current 3-D version of My Bloody Valentine has been six times that of the 2-D experience.
In an effort to groom audience demand for home 3-D content, just this week NBC ran a trio of 3-D commercials during the Super Bowl and then on Monday night, a 3-D episode of the comic spy drama, Chuck.
But as many audience members who watched with the older cardboard glasses noted, the foray was a bit feeble. "I don't like watching TV with those silly glasses," says Erica Fedderly, a 20-year-old student at Santa Monica College, who says they also strained her eyes. Both of these are familiar complaints from past industry moves into 3-D, says Christopher Sharrett, a film studies professor at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, N.J.
Wertheimer notes, "The NBC experiments with 3-D were viewed almost exclusively on existing TV sets, but it was nowhere near the movie-house experience or what's in our lab, which represents consumer homes of tomorrow."
The peacock network didn't do the technology any favors by rolling out such an "old-tech" effort, says Michael Meadows, president of home entertainment for New Wave Entertainment, a production and marketing firm in Burbank, Calif. Nonetheless, 3-D is what he calls a "game-changer" for the industry. "It's so immersive, and in the home environment, it is really a dramatic and engaging step forward in terms of storytelling."
Burbank-based 3ality Digital systems produced the NBC commercials and the TV episode. The company has been aggressively exploring new sources of 3-D content, including live pro sports events. "It's way past the passing-fad stage," says CEO Steve Schklair. "It's like high-def, once you see it you don't really want to go back."
He anticipates momentum building quickly as consumers get a taste for the results.
"There aren't really a lot of technological barriers to get through," says Mr. Schklair. The biggest challenge from a hardware standpoint is the dizzying array of encoding, playback modes, monitor capabilities, etc. – in other words, conflicting technical protocols between manufacturers, not unlike the old VHS-Beta battle.
The Society of Motion picture and Television Engineers has formed a work group to make recommendations and has met with the researchers over at ETC.
While 3-D has a ways to go for TV consumers, video-gamers are way ahead on the experience. Gonzalez suits up with his active shutter glasses and powers up a PC connected to a 3-D-ready screen. A weird, bottom-heavy critter cavorts through meadows full of waving flowers, evading a Tyrannosaurus Rex-like creature, all in vivid 3-D, despite the fact that the game, Spore, was not released with 3-D encoding.
But Nvidia's software can "backwards render" existing games, meaning that gamers are already able – with a modest investment in glasses, 3-D enabled screen, and the proper video card – to have a full 3-D experience using their existing library of games.
"The gaming world is leading the way on this," says Michael Lewis, CEO of RealD, an industry leader in 3-D technology, "if for no other reason than they already know the potential of 3-D in the home and are pushing hard for it."
Like others in the industry, Mr. Lewis says that while 3-D TV is not currently a mainstream home consumer option, it is coming in three to five years. "It replicates the way we see," he says. "Once people experience it – the really best version out there – it's what they'll want."
By Gloria Goodale, ABC News
Saturday, February 14, 2009