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This week Penny leads us to the frontiers of new technology - the world of 3D. Get ready to take a deep breath for a 3D roller coaster!
   4. 3D – New Age Gimmick or The Future of Film?
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Throughout history, film-makers and television producers have been striving to bring images and sound to consumers that are as clear and wonderful as the images we see every day. To see an image on the screen with three dimensions (3D) is the ultimate prize and is still being coveted to this day. We are getting closer, but look out of your window and you will most likely see the images described earlier in your own gardens. Do you think manufacturers could replicate this as images on a screen?

Is the very idea of 3D confusing and annoying because you don’t really know what it is? Is the fact that today’s market is so full of 3D products very, very annoying? Is it necessary to have a 3D television to get the ultimate film experience?

What do you think?

It all started with dreamers who wanted to create a 3D film back in the early days of film. Some called the idea a notch on the niche market, but those who were rooted in American cinema wanted their dream realised.

So to the definition of 3D (Three Dimensional images) – which is basically a moving image that enhances the illusion of depth perception. A traditional motion picture camera is used to record images from two different perspectives, (which can be done digitally these days to create the colourless ‘pure’ 3D projector technology) and most of the time some glasses are needed for the illusion to work. ‘Stereoscopy’ is probably the most used method of capturing 3D. To successfully pull it off, one would capture an image with cameras mounted next to each other about the same distance as an average person’s pupils. From then on, 3D is created as mentioned above.

For Avatar, back in 2009, James Cameron pioneered a type of 3D camera that captures the two perspectives simultaneously within the same device. Although the cameras are still quite big, this way is a much better method of capturing 3D images – especially when using C.G.I. (computer generated graphics).

IMAX theatres were introduced in the 1980’s and originally were used for 3D productions (often educational films for children). Shooting a film in IMAX allows the screens to completely be filled with an image – the result being that when you sit in that IMAX theatre, the image is above your head and below your feet.  

Watching ‘The Dark Knight’ at the theatre back in 2008 was amazing, as the director had chosen to shoot around a third of the film using IMAX cameras. At the beginning we are taken on a journey through skyscrapers and I admit to feeling a little bit of vertigo as the sky was above my head onscreen and the skyscrapers were below my feet. Awesome.

Anyway, many of us also remember the Anaglyph images. You know the ones, where 3D is created when a reel of film is superimposed with two different colours to essentially bounce off of each other. Remember those films with the red and the blue (or cyan) plastic glasses?

Basically those pictures work in the same way – where the main subject of the film is centred with the background and the foreground manipulated with these opposite colours. While watching these images with the glasses on, your brains visual cortex is pushed to see a 3D scene. Without them on, it’s a red and blue fuzzy mess. It’s quite complicated to get into the mechanics of it, but hopefully I pulled it off alright. Nowadays films use ‘pure’ 3D with no colouring – which is definitely much better.

Basically – it’s a cool trick. Film images are bounced off of one another and your brain interprets it in a certain way. Most home entertainment needs the glasses, including the new and shiny 3D TVs you’ve all ‘ooed’ and ‘ahhd’ over. Me too...I can admit that. Grudgingly.

3D is now not limited to films, we’ve also got 3D games/consoles (3DS) and 3D channels (like Sky 3D worldwide)
that have all been launched recently. Nifty, but still baby steps at the moment. There are more versions of 3D, but the above two are most likely the ones that we have encountered commercially. A 3D effect can also be added to films digitally that have been shot using normal cameras e.g. that really bad Clash of the Titans remake that came out not long ago.

It was still the massive, worldwide, billion dollar success of a movie about alien blue people that rejuvenated the business. Thanks Mr. Cameron.

3D televisions.

Most current retailers, including Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Phillips, Toshiba, LG and many more massive manufacturers, have either released their own 3D TVs, or are working on new ones. The ones on the market now come with their own glasses and can be switched between 3D and the usual 2D. They are ridiculously retailed at £2,000. (2011 prices).

At the moment the coveted golden egg is an auto-stereoscopic television that reduces blurry images and eliminates the need for glasses. As far as I know, televisions like this do exist but are even more money and rumour has it that in order to see 3D without glasses you would have to sit in one position exactly eye level with the centre of the screen. If this is true, would you want to sit like that for an hour or two watching a film?

I know that they are pretty, and I know that if I were to have the odd 4,000 pounds lying around my house doing nothing – I’d probably get one to see what all the fuss was about. Unlike most though I know that I would return it the next day, buy an LED television (description available in a previous article), a new Playstation 3, surround sound, loads of games, Blu Ray films and still have enough left over to buy at least three months worth of our food shopping or more. I’d probably have enough to buy the new fridge I’d need to keep it all in.   What would you rather do?

3D itself can be wonderful if done properly. Seeing Avatar in the cinema in 3D was great and it successfully enhanced the surrounding environment to make it more real to me, instead of creating useless gimmicks. For example, something like a flying gore/people/animals/objects etc jumping out at you ‘through the screen’ just to make an inexplicable point is not okay with me.

That drop of water gently bouncing off of another in front of your eyes in a delicate and yet real way is what I like to see. That waterfall that is so close you could touch it. That fire coming from a handmade torch that seems as though it is actually burning in front of you. It should be an enhancement, not a mockery.

The Problems of 3D

As with any new technology, there will be problems. Manufacturers are constantly updating their products to make them easier to use, of a better quality, and safer.

I have compiled some research of problems associated with 3D and for your reading pleasure – I’m going to list them below.

1. The 3D glasses. I can honestly say that wearing those huge things do not make me feel cool or sexy in any way. There have been studies that show people won’t watch 3D because of the glasses alone. Glasses are also manufactured to be used only with the telly they were purchased with, as they are calibrated in a specific way. There are glasses that can be purchased and used universally, but as with my previous explanation about HDMI cables for high definition – the glasses will have a symbiotic relationship with the television they are meant to be used with. The universal ones have been reported to be blurry and almost unusable.
To Part 2 of this article,  CLICK HERE

Penny Glen Investigates