The Return of the Dimensions: Stereoscopic 3D

VFX expert Amitaabh Naaraayan discusses the latest stereo 3D trends.
James Cameron's Avatar will reset the boundaries of 3D production.
James Cameron's Avatar will reset the boundaries of 3D production.

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Stereoscopic 3D is one of the biggest buzzwords in CG animation for cinema and it will be drummed up further at IBC 2009. Think Up, Ice Age 3, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Toy Story 3, Monsters vs. Aliens, G-Force 3D. Imagine IMAX.

The market for 3D stereo gaming is probably even larger, with both the X-Box and PlayStation 3 expected to roll out upgrades this year to support stereo 3D. We take a look at 3D stereoscopy and how it works.

The lenses of the eyes in a healthy human being projects two slightly different pictures onto the retinas, which are then transformed by the brain, into a spatial representation.

The actual stereoscopic spatial observation is a result of this perception through both eyes. Stereoscopic 3D is the process of duplicating the way the human eyes view space and depth.

This is done by quite simply taking a pair of photographs separated by a distance equal to the separation between a typical person’s eyes.

The two pictures then have a viewpoint similar to the view seen by the left and right eye. These images, if directed to the left and right eyes, are fused by the brain into a single image with the appearance of depth.

Recently, there have been rapid advancements in 3D techniques and technologies. Hardware has both improved and become considerably cheaper, making real-time and interactive 3D available to the film, media and broadcast industry.

There are more than two million 3D-ready televisions already in US households. Cinema and Home Entertainment have realised and envisioned further projects in Stereoscopic 3D.

The Venice Film festival recently announced plans for a new sideline award for the festival’s best Stereoscopic 3D film, adding a cutting-edge aspect to the world’s oldest film festival. Fox, Disney and Pixar are set to showcase their latest works in this field.

Silicon Imaging, the company that enabled the digital shooting of this year’s Oscar winning Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire, is now changing the face of stereo-3D cinematography and production. The company unveiled the world’s first integrated 3D cinema camera and stereo visualisation system at NAB 2009.

The SI-3D shoots uncompressed raw imagery from two synchronized cameras and encodes directly to a single stereo CineFormRAW QuickTime file, along with 3D LUT color and convergence metadata. The stereo file can be instantly played back and edited in Full 3D on an Apple Final Cut timeline, without the need for proxy conversions.

In computer graphics, the improvements in speed, resolution, and economy make interactive stereo an important capability. Old techniques have been improved, and new ones have been developed.

Stereoscopic 3D is rapidly becoming an important part of computer graphics, visualization, virtual-reality systems, and computer gaming. At this year’s Siggraph, the Computer Animation Festival devoted an entire segment to Stereoscopic 3D.

Most 3D Animation, Compositing and Editing Softwares today, provide inbuilt or third-party plug-ins for the 3D stereoscopy pipeline. Like Apple Final Cut, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Premier all have 3D Stereo Effects which can be applied onto the footage.

Even Autodesk Maya has the capability of converting its camera into a 3D Stereo camera. Other 3D Animation softwares like Autodesk 3DS Max and Maxon’s Cinema 4D all have third-party plug-ins to generate Stereoscopic 3D Renders.

Very notable is Ocula, developed by The Foundry. It has a unique collection of plug-ins providing a powerful armoury of tools for 3D stereoscopic imagery, boosting productivity in post production, and ultimately helping to deliver a more rewarding 3D-stereo viewing experience.

Stereoscopic 3D is undoubtedly the new way to look at today’s media world. Graphic Cards giant NVIDIA has developed the new NVIDIA 3D Vision Discover which will turn your PC experience into a 3D Stereoscopic one. It’s all happening in 3D.

So, keep both eyes open for Stereoscopic 3D this year at IBC 2009.

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