Thursday, 21 April 2011

3D or not 3D?

It seems the whole world has gone 3D crazy over the past year with more and more 3D TV's for sale and now a whole crop of 3D camcorders coming out.

The problem with 3D of course is how do you edit and deliver your 3D footage?

Sony Vegas Pro introduced the ability to edit stereoscopic 3D in version 10 of the software and the latest update extends it's capability to enable burning of 3D Blu-Ray discs direct from the timeline.

Sony HDR-TD10
Sony are also about to release the HDR-TD10 a full HD 3D camcorder which basically has 2 HD camcorders in one at a price of $1499. The camera records in MVC format (H264 with 2 video streams) which can be edited in Vegas 10d, or you can just let the camera do the edit for you:
Why spend hours editing your movies when you can let your camcorder do it for you? Highlight Playback identifies and compiles key scenes into a short, entertaining movie complete with music and transitions.
Hmm, I'm hoping to get my hands on one of these cameras soon to shoot some test footage so I'll be sure to give that a try :-)

Seriously though. Do I need to be shooting and editing 3D? Well it's not really my decision. If my clients ask for 3D I need to be able to provide it.

It is of course very easy to shoot 3D but still produce 2D masters by just ignoring one of the video streams. So by shooting 3D now I am future proofing my content. If things carry on the way they are soon everything will be expected as 3D. So I need to be able to shoot 3D, edit 3D, deliver 3D and watch 3D.

It's that last one that has been one of the main hurdles. 3D TV's are expensive and the whole glasses thing is not something that viewers take to. The majority of 3D TV's to date use "active" 3D where the 2 streams of video are displayed sequentially and active glasses block the left and right eyes to create the 3D effect. The problem is those glasses are heavy, expensive and they need batteries, adding to the hassle of watching 3D.

In 3D cinemas the glasses are lighter and need no batteries, so how do they work? These are using "passive" 3D. The left and right eye images are displayed using circular polarised filters, one clockwise and one anti-clockwise. The glasses have circular polarised lenses so each eye only sees the correct image. Until recently it was impossible to use this method for TV's but now there is a system where there is a polarising filter in front of the screen, with alternate lines of the TV image polarised either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Sony have used this for some new professional monitors but it looks like LG have beaten them to it for the home with their Cinema 3D range. These TV's come with 7 pairs of passive 3D glasses and new ones can be ordered for $10 each, compared to active glasses at up to $150 per pair!

Passive 3D also has a wider viewing angle and viewers report less headaches when watching passive 3D than when watching active 3D.

Of course the holy grail of 3D is "glasses free" 3D sets. There are some sets that use a micro-lenticular or parallax barrier layer in front of the screen to give a 3D effect without glasses but it is very dependent on the viewing angle and not very clear. Useful as an eye-catching display in a department store maybe but not suitable for watching movies at home.

So for now my money is on the passive 3D systems. I'm sure other manufacturers will be bringing out their own passive 3D sets soon and the active TV models will follow HD-Ready sets into oblivion.

Thanks for reading, Neil

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