Developments in 3D Technology

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

It seems like we’ve just completed the transition to high-def, and here comes the next great technology revolution. So are you ready for 3D?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last January saw the announcement of 3D HDTVs ready to sweep into consumer living rooms, and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference followed in April with the announcement of professional 3D equipment. And now this promise is rolling into the market with new 3D displays, cameras, production gear, and editing software.

So is 3D poised to be the next great success like HD? Should you be gearing up now to get ahead of the curve? More likely, the deployment of 3D is going to be a more gradual process over a period of years. But even so, you can start experimenting with 3D and thinking about possible applications, without requiring a huge investment, and while leveraging some of your existing gear.

3D to the Home
Creating 3D productions only makes sense if people can actually view them, so the first consideration is when and how 3D displays will reach the home. At the Consumer Electronics Association, chief economist Shawn DuBravac estimates that some eight to nine percent of U.S. households will have a “3D-ready” display by the end of 2011. However, these are “ready” in that they can display a stereo image, but you still need to add 3D glasses and the associated emitter box.

These new 3D TV systems typically use active shutter glasses, battery-powered units with LCDs that open and block each eye in sync with the display as triggered by the emitter box. These are rather expensive (around $100), in comparison to the simple cardboard polarized 3D glasses typically used for movies. Or you can do even simpler 3D on existing displays with the familiar red/cyan (Anaglyph) 3D glasses, in which the stereo images are overlaid in the two colors.

Then to deliver the 3D content, the Blu-ray Disc Association has defined the Blu-ray 3D format for Full HD 3D, and the updated HDMI 1.4 cable format supports 3D video for home movies and gaming.

Even better, some 3D video formats can be piggybacked on existing devices like set-top boxes and existing cabling without requiring changing the entire infrastructure.

As a result, the movement to 3D will be primed by purchases of higher-end displays and Blu-ray players that have 3D capabilities built in. Even if consumers are not initially using the 3D capabilities, they then will have the necessary components ready when they do get interested. DuBravac notes that the price premium for 3D support is already small and growing smaller. He also sees the Sony PS3 as an additional factor in expanding 3D, with greater than ten percent household penetration and new firmware upgrades to support 3D for games and movies.

Jason Blackwell, director for digital home at ABI Research is less optimistic, commenting that while consumers are interested in 3D for the home, it will be important to avoid overdoing the use of 3D and having it appear gimmicky. He says that while everything looks great in HD, 3D production is more of a different look that should be reserved for special events and maybe even portions of events.

3D Production Equipment
So what does it take to get started with 3D? The most visible use of 3D is being driven at the high end, for major motion pictures and sporting events. Companies like Sony are offering end-to-end 3D production systems based on professional cameras (with dual-camera rigs), recorders, processors, and monitors. Or step up to the first professional fully-integrated Full HD 3D camcorder, the Panasonic AG-3DA1, shipping in June for around $21,000.

But at the same time, consumer 3D equipment is also becoming available, so you can get started at a much lower price. For example, the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 is a 3MOS camcorder with a 3D conversion lens that simultaneously records right- and left-eye images in side-by-side format. It’s due in October for $1399.

Or for still images, Sony offers a 3D Sweep Panorama feature for digital cameras, which automatically stitches together frames in one sweeping motion. It’s available as a firmware upgrade to the Sony NEX interchangeable lens cameras, and in the Sony DSC-WX5 and DSC-TX9 CyberShot digital cameras for around $299 and $399 respectively.

3D Video Editing Workflow
Then how can you edit this 3D video? The latest generation of video editing tools already are flexible enough to work with matched pairs of images, especially with the support of third-party add-ins like CineForm NeoHD and Neo3D, which enable 3D workflows for Adobe, Apple, Avid, and Sony tools on Windows and Macintosh, for around $499 and $2995 respectively. These provide features including stereo convergence and adjustment, 3D display in a variety of formats (Anaglyph, frame side-by-side, over-under, line-interleave, and NVIDIA 3D), plus 3D overlays for titles and graphics.

As described in a Sony whitepaper on Editing 3D in Sony Vegas 9, you even can edit 3D footage directly in Sony Vegas 9, as a grouped pair of tracks with blended Anaglyphic color filters.

Dave Helmly at Adobe also has posted extensive notes on 3D Stereoscopic editing in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, with a 60 minute video tour of the complete 3D workflow. He shows how to build a stereo rig with two matching cameras, and then import, edit, and export 3D using the 64-bit Cineform plug-ins. The video also covers various ways to view your 3D productions, including directly to consumer 3D TV displays and authoring to Blu-ray Disc.

The editing setup that Helmly recommends uses the NVIDIA 3D Vision system with 3D graphics and a compatible NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. You then can use a 3D monitor as your primary editing display, plus an optional consumer 3D TV as a secondary output.

Consumer 3D
But even as pros are ramping up on 3D, consumer gear and software is already becoming available. For example, the new Roxio Creator 2011, released in August starting at $99, provides a full digital media suite for capturing, editing, creating, and sharing personal 3D photos and videos. The new Creator edition can capture from stereoscopic cameras, import and export a wide range of 3D file formats, as well as author 3D-enabled DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. It supports storyboard and timeline editing of 3D material, including video correction, plus 2D to 3D conversion for videos and photos to add dimension to your existing flat content.

Yes, 3D is coming, However, this will be a gradual process of getting 3D into consumer households, limited by factors including the need for new displays, the dorky glasses, incompatible technologies and products, and competitive approaches to retrofitting 3D into existing delivery paths including broadcast digital television and cable systems.

So while 3D won’t be a big part of video production in the near term, it might be interesting to experiment with, especially to think about new rules for framing, shooting, cutting, and editing with the added dimension.

The good news is that you can find relatively inexpensive approaches for shooting, editing, and even displaying 3D based on your existing gear, by using red/blue Anaglyph glasses. And you can think about experimenting with presenting 3D productions to small groups though Blu-ray to a consumer 3D TV, or on a PC display using inexpensive polarized 3D glasses.

Linked up

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) •
National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) •
CEA – Digital Tips – 3DTV •
Blu-ray Disc Association •
HDMI 1.4 – 3D •
ABI Research •
Sony – 3D Production System •
Panasonic – AG-3DA1 3D camcorder •
Panasonic HDC-SDT750 3D Camcorder •
Sony DSC-WX5 CyberShot digital camera •
CineForm NeoHD and Neo3D •
Sony Vegas Pro 9 •
Sony whitepaper – Editing 3D in Sony Vegas 9 •
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 •
Adobe Blog – Stereoscopic Workflows for Premiere Pro CS5 •
Adobe TV – 3D Stereoscopic Editing with Premiere Pro Win/OSX •
NVIDIA 3D Vision •
NVIDIA for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 •
Roxio Creator 2011 •

From the Field:
Manufacturer’s Perspective
Responses provided by: John Shike, Vice President Marketing & Channel Management, Snell

To be “3D ready”, what changes do churches need to make to their infrastructures?

It’s a big and expensive undertaking to apply Stereoscopic 3D technology for the congregation’s big screen in a house of worship (HOW), but the results would certainly be most impressive. To provide 3D imaging for the big screen of a HOW requires special camera, production, and projection technology. In addition, members of the congregation will all require 3D glasses. However, from the camera to the production switcher, existing infrastructure can be used and this is important to note going in. Downstream of the switcher, using 3D combination technology, 1080p infrastructure is used to produce a 3D-capable display.

3D-capable cameras and projection systems are required for a facility to become “3D-ready.” Additionally, a switcher is also a key part of the production process.

What are some uses of 3D capture and display that have been used in other industries?

For TV, 3D sports productions have leapt out of the gate. In fact, Snell was involved in the broadcast of the recent FIFA World Cup games, and in the U.S., supported a national sports network’s 3D programming of numerous matches. As the games took place in South Africa, the programming required conversion to 720p to meet U.S. standards. The trick was to achieve this conversion while retaining all of the 3D picture information with high quality images.

In addition to the big screen presentation of weekly services, HOWs can also use 3D for special presentations or events throughout the year, whether on a projection system for the entire congregation to view or by using individual television sets for small groups. In the latter case, 3D can be used to present short films – such as the reenactment of biblical stories. Faith-based 3D games could also become useful complements to bible study for youth worship in the future.

In the manufacturer’s perspective, is 3D the next logical progression for television, film, and entertainment media?

It’s happening. For film, 3D has already proven to bring in the crowds to the theatres early in a film’s release cycle. For television, 3D will continue to provide marquee value for major sporting events, 3D movies, and other special events. Television sets will also be used for 3D movies released on Blue-ray. Finally, the electronics games industry is in the midst of a large-scale adaption of 2D games for 3D use.