Archive for the ‘Home Entertainment’ Category

Experts warn: Too much 3D can make you sterile

After attending the Digital Summit this weekend, I hate to admit this but my eyes are still sore.  I wouldn’t say that I overdid it but after on-again off-again viewing of content using the Panasonic active shutter glasses and the RealD’s (not to mention that guy who keeps popping his strobe camera off every few minutes in the dark) my vision is slightly toasty.

Like Olympic athletes,  perhaps we need to start training before these events.

On Monday, my first stop was the Autodesk booth where expert colorist, Kent Pritchett demo’d the 3D Lustre software using the luxuriant Dave Matthews concert footage that he graded recently.  He reports that hours spent in front of a the 3D console (only when wearing the glasses) may have to be reduced by 50% due to eye strain and fatigue.

UPDATE 5.07.10

Broadcast Engineers chime in on this possible health threat.

UPDATE 4.17.10

Remember when Nintendo released one their Pokemon movies back in 1997 and later withdrew it because one of the strobe sequences caused epileptic seizures in kids and small animals?  Well now Samsung has issued a warning about their stereo displays.  Being forewarned is forearmed and reduces threats of lawsuits.

“Viewing in 3D mode may also cause motion sickness, perceptual after effects, disorientation, eye strain, and decreased postural stability.”

3D Digital Summit Day 2

Digital Cinema (including 3D) Roll-out:  A Status Report

Moderator, Michael Karagosian (MKPE Consulting) reports we are in year 11 in digital cinema rollout.  This year 33 titles will be in 3D.  All current growth in screens in the U.S.  is currently fueled by 3D.  But Asia and Europe are seeing the most expansion of 3D screens. Michael Lewis (RealD) warned that “Bad 3D” could really slow down the movement.  AMC, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas have formed a consortium (DCIP) and raised $660 million towards the deployment of 16,000 new 3D screens. Oleg Berezin (Neva Film) described the Russian exhibition paradigm where less than half the Russian films released on 35mm did not recoup their P & A while digital and 3d releases are considered  the golden goose. Peter Wilison of the European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF)  portrayed the European theatrical system as healthy and growing, despite the fractious nature of the EU community.  There are 31,00 screens across Europe (excluding Russia and Ukraine) of which 8,000 are 3d equipped.

Technical Issues for 3D Digital Cinema

Richard Welsh of Dolby Labs talked about the essential nature of metadata particularly when cueing subtitles, although they must be rendered or baked into the picture.  Subtitles should to be placed in front of the action so as not to clash with the action plane.  However when there is a dynamic move as shown in the Alice in Wonderland segment with the Cheshire Cat floating towards the audience, so too must the subtitles shift to match the plane. Clearly reading subtitles are going to be a son of a bitch in 3D, however the two multi-depth credit cards looked really hot in the Alice trailer.

Production and Projection Techniques for Immersive Media

Siegfried Foessel talked about panoramic cinema featuring about to 12 x 2K cameras shooting in a half circle.  He also showed one of the most stunning short clips featuring a Peregrine attack above the city of London and co-produced by the BBC.

The Keynote Speaker, John Honeycutt (Discovery Channel) was the high point of the day as he unveiled Sony’s new 3D camera which I am sure will cause a sensation on the floor of the convention this week.  Some of the specs were outlined such as 3-inch CMOS sensors per eye, Full HD (1920×1080), interchangeable lenses, convergence control and full metadata support. Discovery will be conducting field tests of  the “Concept” prototype this July. The reaction from the house was palpable.

Can there (ever) be a Common Worldwide 3D-TV Broadcast Standard?
When the SMPTE engineers came out after lunch to repeat everything we had been hearing for the last two days, I started to nod off. So I will leave it to Debra Kaufman to fill us in on the details.

3D Digital Summit Day 1

Eye strain goes with the territory when sitting in a darkened conference room and donning the RealD glasses every half hour for  most of the  day.  But the footage was worth it!  We looked at U2, Dave Matthews, NFL football, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, as well as a Praying Mantis eating the head off a fly.  Much of the material was breathtaking, but why do they have to play the music at 100+ decibels?  Do they think it makes the images look better?

Morning Session

I’m a morning person but they managed to run out of coffee by 8:30am (ouch!) when the session was due to start.  Strangely, the organizers had not anticipated such a huge turnout as many were left standing without enough chairs, but not having caffeine in the morning was a cruel hoax, courtesy of  Sony and NAB.

Understanding Stereopsis and 3D Image Capture

Peter Lude’ and Steve Schklair kicked off with an illuminating and sweeping explanation of Stereopsis.  We began to grasp the concepts of divergence, floating windows, edge violations,vertical alignment and the “wow” factor.  We also began to appreciate the difference between side by side cameras and beam splitters.

3D programming:  Lessons learned

Al Barton, Patrick Devlin (Evergreen), Thomas Edwards (Fox Technical Group) and Jason Goodman (21st Century 3D) each took turns explaining their approach to 3D.  The Fox sports reel was the most annoying and in your face, but Tom brought up an interesting dilemma: where does the ever-present score box go?.  Evergreen’s production of the Dave Matthews concert was most exciting to watch.  Jason Goodman (Call of the Wild) has been tearing apart and re-building the Panasonic DVX cameras and creating lightweight 3D rigs which work great on the steadicam.  Their 3DVX 3.5 444 2.75″ 10 Bit Uncompressed rig warrants further investigation.  The Red dual camera setup looks just plain big and unwieldy.

3D Conversion

Warren Littlefield (formerly NBC) gave the sales pitch for 3D describing when in 1987, Third Rock from the Sun created a special 3D episode as a lead-in for Gulliver’s Travels. As the “yes man” for 3D he was the used car salesman of the day,  advising us that we should go out and stereo retro-fit all original content from the last 20 years. Chris Bond’s story was the most harrowing as he described the 2D/3D conversion of Clash of the Titans during which they had a mere 8 – 10 weeks working on an unlocked picture.  The word on the street is the final product looks like a quickie, but the upside is Prime Focus has developed the know-how to turn around features under a tight deadline.

After lunch, Mark Schubin gave the Keynote address and reinforced many of the concepts we were introduced to earlier.  He described all the 3D technologies past, present and future including the concept of POOT, which is “plain old ordinary TV” which I am starting to miss at this point.  There is always something comforting about the format you know and grew up with.

A Case for Quality in Production and Post-Production

Buzz Hays (Sony Technology Center)  talked about the importance of education and getting the D.P.’s. Directors, Game Developers and Editors on board.  Based on their credits, Sony is clearly an industry leader in 3D and I look forward to dragging my students through their learning center.

After the Capture – What other Tools Exist?

Matthew DeJohn (In Three) described Dimensionalization as the patented process created by his company for 3D conversion. By this time, my eyes are hurting and every demo reel seems to feature converted and original 3D material and quite frankly, I am having trouble telling the difference.

So now it is time to quote, Jeffrey Katzenberg:

“All 3D is not created equal.  It is first and foremost a very, very powerful creative storytelling tool”.

Stereography and Storytelling

I started reading the Bernard Mendiburu book, this morning entitled 3D Movie Making and I my review will post shortly. I enjoyed his rather flip examination of the creative process.  Chuck Comisky (Avatar) is clearly a 3D god and lives and breathes this stuff 24/7.  Phil Streather’s (PLF) reel was gorgeous but uneven.  The bug footage was startling.  Clearly you can shove a 3D camera into a macro nature scene and still achieve great results.  By the time Phil, the indie filmmaker got up to speak, it was the end of the session. I was spent and so was most of the audience.  The scene he showed with the clown in the elevator was painful to watch but this guy is someone we should keep our eye on.  When micro budget filmmakers post their 3D films on youtube, I think this is a game changer.

DirectTV broadcasts the Masters in 2D only

Before leaving for NAB, I went in to my local Best Buy and spoke to the salesman about 3D and mentioned the Masters Golf Tournament. I told him I watched some of it last night on DirecTV and it looked mighty fine in HD.

The grass was lush and green and you could really appreciate all of the fabulous landscaping they have in Augusta.  It looked like Tiger never broke into a sweat.  But where is their 3D broadcast?  The salesman said he was channel surfing on DirecTV last night too, but could find no Masters channel in 3D.  Oh well.  We both shrugged our shoulders. He led me to the Panasonic 3D display and couch (with cup holder, natch).  It took awhile for the active (powered) glasses to kick in.  The demo reel was nice, but kind of static.  It reminded me of the Viewmaster Stereo slide viewer I had during the ’60’s.

OK, I realize it is very early in the game, but I wanted some cool programming to sample on the my first 3D retail encounter.  It feels like a chicken and the egg kind of thing.  Which should come first? Should it be a boatload of displays on sale or endless amounts of 3D filmed entertainment to consume?

Either way, the race is on.

-Scott Arundale

CEO Howard Stringer bets the farm on Sony 3D

Sony has won and lost a few format wars, but thankfully they prevailed with Blu-Ray, and with the disks added capacity, they may just be the ticket when it comes to distributing 3D content.

In a recent Wired Magazine article:

“No other company seems to be staking as much of its future on the belief that an added dimension will convince millions of consumers to swap out their home entertainment components — which many just recently upgraded to hi-def.”

Sony to launch first ever 3D broadcast of the FIFA World Cup

Sony Corp. today unveiled their plans for adding a third dimension to the football viewing experience.

World Cup final among 25 3-D games.

With a total of seven pairs of Sony’s professional HDC cameras on rigs  at each game (model: HDC-1500), using proprietary multi-image processor (model: MPE-200), 3D filming will take place at five out of the 10 FIFA World Cup stadiums: Soccer City and Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. 25 matches in total will be broadcast in 3D.

What remains unclear at this point is how consumers will actually be able to view these images as 3D sets have not rolled out in any significant numbers.

The Next Best Thing to Being There

Sky TV viewers in Britain love their football and are packing the pubs to watch favorite teams Manchester United and Chelsea play in front of 3D cameras. These public houses do not have the rights to display the World Cup and British homes can not receive the 3D signal yet, but hey we are on the cusp of something really big and ultimately will become the norm.

3D ‘XXX’ Rob Cohen is back with Vin Diesel

3D ‘XXX’ Moves From Sony To Paramount; Rob Cohen And Vin Diesel Back In Fold

Director Rob Cohen is putting the finishing touches on the first ever 3D Coke commercial. Meanwhile Paramount is taking over the Triple X franchise which has been languishing over at Columbia.  The re-teaming of original director, Rob Cohen with the original star, Vin Diesel promises to re-invigorate this action series.  Will we see 3D images of the inside of an engine pulsing and the pistons throbbing??

World Cup Soccer drives 3D to the next level

It is commonly acknowledged that sporting events have deep pockets and, in the case of the FIFA’s World Cup, a huge and loyal fan base around the globe.  It is fitting then that broadcasters would foot the bill for what is considered to be an enormous and costly test of Sony’s and Quasar’s equipment.

In Broadcast Engineering’s article the issue is raised that the 3D camera rigs are rather large and require taking over extra seats that would otherwise be sold for top dollar to World Cup fans.

The introduction of this new technology may be premature, or as I refer to as an ongoing test, until the kinks (and the extra camera positions) are worked out.

Are audiences ready and are there enough venues and home displays ready to receive stereo images of the soccer games? Can they get close enough to the action?  Soccer stadiums are huge arenas and the wide angle of each game is generally a camera positioned well away from the action.  Soccer does not enjoy the flying rigs that the NFL has employed which place the camera in the backfield just above the heads of the players.

Many of the technical aspects of 3D continue to be ironed out.  But Sky TV in Europe and ESPN here in the United States plan to roll out their 3D channels this summer just in time for the World Cup.  It took years for theaters to re-equip their screens to handle 3D.  It may take consumers and public venues mere months to update their displays as their investment in the new technology  is considerably less.  It remains to be seen how broad and how quickly the penetration of 3D in the TV market place will be and if audiences are willing to don the glasses in a Sports Bar or in the living room.  Stay tuned.

-Scott Arundale

Sports are in the driver’s seat

Three thousand dollars will score you a Panasonic 3D display which might be considered reasonable if you are the owner of a Sports Bar.

For the rest of us, we might have to wait until the prices come down, which may not be as long as you think.  Consider when HD displays first went on sale ten years ago with the jaw dropping price of $8,000. Over time more consumers buy into a new technology and the price comes down precipitously.  I bought my first flat panel last year for Christmas from a well known retailer in New York.  With no tax and free shipping, I got mine (Sony Bravia 40″) for under $750.

In the meantime if you’d like to experience Tiger Woods and the Masters in 3D, call around to find out which local tavern will be offering it up or visit your nearest Best Buy.

In 3-D, Masters Does Have Extra Dimension NY Times 3.31.10

Clearly sports entertainment has the big bucks and the audience willing to pay for enhanced viewing. The question remains will 3D cameras covering sports be able to handle quick pans and lots of transient images and fast motion.  And how close must the cameras be placed to make it worth the time and effort?

-Scott Arundale

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If you are a tech head, cinema-phile, movie geek or digital imaging consultant, then we'd like to hear from you. Join us in our quest to explore all things digital and beyond. Of particular interest is how a product or new technology can be deployed and impacts storytelling. It may be something that effects how we download and enjoy filmed entertainment. It may pertain to how primary and secondary color grading will enhance a certain tale. The most important thing is that you are in the driver's seat as far as what you watch and how you choose to consume it.