3D viewing is the process of delivering alternative images to each eye and thereby convincing the human brain it is seeing objects from an additional, third perspective.
3D content may be simple images or a series of images, animated movies or the latest Hollywood productions. The reality of the experience depends as much about the 3D image or movie and the projector or screen as it depends on the capability of the mind to combine what it sees with our established understanding of the form of the objects around us.
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The Emergence of 3D
The showing of L’arrivée du Train, a 60-second film, by the Lumière brothers in 1895 was not just a brand new cinema experience but laid the path for the 1934 remake, which Louis Lumière shot in full 3D and had the audience leaving their seats and leaving the theatre because the train actually appeared to be coming out of the screen at them.
In 1952, ‘Bwana Devil’, the first feature-length motion picture to use 3D was released and started an era that drew audiences away from their TV sets to the movies. However, quality and viewing comfort were mainly unsatisfactory.
Today, 3D is again drawing people back to the cinema and generating record-breaking revenues. Technology created by companies like Texas Instruments and NEC creates a genuine high-quality viewing experience for audiences and an advanced, simple to operate, content management and playback solution for exhibitors.
Many esteemed directors such as Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton have already embraced 3D for their upcoming efforts, while James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ was filmed in 3D using custom cameras and special effects.
Advances in technology have made shooting 3D films more cost-effective and distribution much simpler, as well as eliminating motion sickness and migraines. Today the technology is there and production houses are rushing to tap into the new revenue streams. In 2010, 3D has rightfully established its leading role in today’s Cinema World.
Quality 3D media and playback creates an outstandingly enhanced viewing experience. Provided the 3D content is of a sufficiently high standard and the means of delivery via projection, display or other systems are technically satisfactory, whatever the viewer is watching they will enjoy a more engaging and rewarding experience that is essentially incomparable to conventional 2D viewing.
In terms of reality, capturing attention, increasing emotional response and ultimately providing more visual information in the same amount of time, 3D viewing stands alone.
GREATER REALITY: With an easier visual understanding of an object’s dimensional characteristics, objects no longer appear a fixed distance away, but distances appear between them, with the viewer perceiving themselves physically amongst displayed content.
GREATER ATTENTION: 3D is interesting and captivating, it is new and inspiring, in particular, Education audiences find the learning experience more inspirational, more enjoyable and therefore more memorable.
GREATER PRODUCTIVITY: In a similar time to conventional filming, 3D passes considerably more information to the viewer in a simple to grasp manner, it therefore effortlessly accelerates learning without making the experience more trying. This is a potential advantage in education and in the commercial world of presentations or modelling.
INCREASED EMOTION: Whether it is interest, admiration, attraction, curiosity, or fear or awe, high-quality 3D media powered by the latest 3D projection systems adds to the emotional experience to the extent that conventional viewing can seem comparatively unrewarding.
3D technology is now both convincing and visually outstanding and is set to improve as Studio’s become more familiar with making the most from the advances in 3D technology.
How 3D works : The Basics
Simply speaking the 3D we see today (Stereoscopic 3D) is a visually enhanced two-dimensional viewing experience that the viewer believes they are seeing in three dimensions and not in two. This is achieved partly by 3D simulation technology, but the spatial understanding of the viewer is essential to complete a convincing 3D perception.
Effectively the human has a learnt pre-conception about the form of objects that the 3D experience taps into. 3D playback also works by delivering slightly differing information to each eye using varying methods, thus allowing the brain to see two different views of the same object that it can then use to develop an overall impression of the complete object.
It is essential to ensure that the differing images are perceived simultaneously, for this reason, 3D technology has certain minimum standards, such as any active shutter 3D system requires a 120Hz image refresh rate (60Hz per eye), quick enough to ensure the viewer perceives alternating images as simultaneous.
3D Simulation Process: 3D Simulation Systems work by displaying two slightly different angled images. The viewer wears glasses that use filters to allow one of these images to pass to the left eye and the other to the right eye, the human brain using spatial awareness completes the picture.
There are different methods of filtering, some are continuous and use polarising or anaglyph filters, others use shuttering, allowing images to pass through each lens alternatively at a minimum rate of 60 images per second per eye.
3D Stereoscopic Formats
IMAGE 1: Separate single pictures for the left and the right eye.
IMAGE 2: “Side-by-Side”, half horizontal resolution. Both subframes for the left and the right eye played out as half horizontal resolution in one file or frame.
IMAGE 3: “Top-and-Bottom”, half vertical resolution. Both subframes for the left and the right eye
IMAGE 4: “Line-Interlaced”, half vertical resolution per subframe. Both subframes for the left and the right eye are played alternately one above the other (line by line) as an interlaced resolution in one file or frame. This format is exclusively used for the direct output to S3D displays or TVs. It will not be applied for S3D Broadcasting.
60Hz Full HD 3D Formats
IMAGE 5: “Side-by-Side”, full resolution. Both subframes for the left and the right eye are played out in one file or frame.
IMAGE 6: “Top-and-Bottom”, full resolution. Both subframes for the left and the right eye are played out in one file or frame.
120Hz 3D Format
IMAGE 7: “Shutter“ (“Field sequential“ or “Page flipping“). Separate single pictures for the left and the right eye are played out one after the other.
Which 3D system?
3D technology is all around us, from the ultimate 3D Digital Cinema experience to 3D pocket cameras and camcorders that record and display in 3D. Today, even home users can instantly upload their own 3D movies to the web to be viewed in 3D all over the world. With a multitude of new and differing 3D systems, an absence of commonly adopted standards and a market that develops daily, choosing the right 3D technology for your application is a genuine challenge. The following are key 3D delivery systems in development today.
Quality of 3D
The quality of the 3D Viewing The quality of 3D you see at your local cinema is still worlds apart from the 3D you can realistically play at home. Aside from the resolution and size of the displayed image, Digital Cinema Solutions such as NEC’s NC Series use Triple-Flash technology to provide the best 3D performance at 144 Hz.
All typical 3D technologies are available for Single Projector Digital Cinema including polarizing technology, colour separation by different frequency filters and shutter glasses.
There is also a two projector Digital Cinema solution; both projectors have a different polarising filter in the front, each operating with only the left or right side of the visitor’s filter glasses.
Applications for 3D Viewing – Not just for the movies
The way 3D has impacted the world of cinema is clear, but there are other applications where 3D breaks new boundaries, improving the aspirational, viewing, learning or commercial experience for those involved.
Education: 3D modelling and viewing creates informative and captivating learning with its more efficient method of passing on spatial knowledge and the benefits that 3D creates a more rewarding viewer experience and greater interest.
Applications include Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Anatomy, Geography, Mathematics, Engineering, Architecture and the Arts.
Gaming; Gaming represents one of the biggest drivers in the growth and more widespread acceptance of 3D viewing, with games consoles also taking a key role in the playback of 3D modelling and playback of 3D educational content.
PC based gaming: Nvidia pioneered Stereoscopic 3D with their 3D Vision Technology. Displays and projectors need to be “Nvidia certified”. The Nvidia 3D Vision set includes shutter glasses with an infrared emitter. NEC NP216 projectors are fully Nvidia certified thus providing the ideal large display playback complement to the home-based PC 3D set up.
Game consoles: Games consoles from all the leading names are playing a big part in the move to 3D at home and it is anticipated that playing 3D discs at home will become standard practice.
Engineering: 3D is an excellent medium to make more representational models, visuals or movies in Design, Engineering, CAD/CAM and Simulation applications. 3D models enable the viewer to fully appreciate the final appearance of an