In honor of “Black Friday” in the US—a day dedicated to crass commercialism I’m posting some of the random ways the term “3D” is being used to generate interest in things that have precious little to nothing to do with 3D.
The lesson? 3D still sells!
This product line has been around for a year or so:
[Full disclosure, I actually bought some of this!]
3D crayons…I guess this sort of counts.
But this is the weirdest yet—a surreal commercial for Toblerone.
This has been a hard post to write! You know how little kids sometimes get so excited when describing something amazing that they stammer and ramble—unable to just spit it out? That’s what I felt like after attending the excellent keynote session “Your World in 3D: Separating the Facts from the Hype” at 3D World in New York City last month.
There’s so much to say, so much to share, it’s hard to boil it down to a digestible blog post so I will summarize and probably be quoting this in the weeks and months to come.
The session kicked off with an introduction by Jim Chabit, CEO of the International 3D Society—an organization doing important work in bringing together a community around 3D. (Full disclosure, I’m a card-carrying member). This group is putting together events, awards, and information to build some momentum for 3D. Using facts and figures he asserted that 3D continues to do strong box office—especially internationally. He also focused on some upcoming major releases in 3D—Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret (which got rave reviews for an unfinished cut screened at NY Film Festival a couple of days earlier), Spielberg’s Adventures of TinTin, and the James Cameron’s 3D conversion of Titanic.
Buzz Hays, Senior VP 3D Production at Sony is an incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. He focused on some of the important technical issues and gave an overview of the stereoscopy training Sony has developed for film professionals. These in-depth (forgive the pun) materials are aimed at fine-tuning 3D cinema skills. Sony has been offering this course to help raise the overall technical level in the industry. He walked us through some of the key variables—tools that can be used for subtle (and no-so-subtle) effects. We also saw examples of common pitfalls (misalignment, mismatchs, and distortions) that helped explain and quantify when/why 3D becomes more uncomfortable to watch.
This presentation clearly and eloquently articulates the flexibility of 3D as a tool. When waved about recklessly it can be annoying and even uncomfortable. When it’s wielded with finesse it adds depth on many levels to story telling.
John Cassy from Sky3D in the UK stressed the importance quality and variety in content. “If you think 3D can paper over the cracks, you will fail”. He insists that quality 3D content relies on combining stories, people, and partnerships. We saw gorgeous footage from upcoming releases: “Meerkats” (cute animals in awe-inspiring scenery) and “Kew Gardens” (luscious, HD/3D time-lapse shots from one of the world’s great botanical treasures). He hailed Sir David Attenboroughfor being an early leader in 3D, the way he was an early pioneer of color TV 45 years ago.
Michael Duenas, DO,from the American Optometric Association (AOA) was the final speaker. The AOA recently released a fascinating report on 3D in education and in that context Dr. Duenas gave a passionate and wide-ranging presentation on the role of 3D in vision health and the far-reaching repercussions of not having adequate screening at an early age. It’s a bold assertion—that traditional eye examinations, in focusing on only one aspect of vision health, overlook the critical capability of stereoscopic vision. The resulting misdiagnoses and lack of treatment impact student engagement, learning, and broader issues such as crime and recidivism.
The AOA is going beyond debunking fears about 3D and championing it. This is a fascinating area that I’m sure will be getting a lot more attention.
The session wrapped up with a clip of silent film legend Harold Lloyd, an early enthusiast of 3D, converted to 3D. It looked pretty darned good.
3D glasses are starting to pop up in retail venues. Here are Oakley 3D glasses for sale at Chicago airport. I chatted with the sales clerk and he told me they are selling pretty well. The pair on the right are “Transformers” special edition.
On the heels of the American Optometric Association report‘s praise for 3D as beneficial to learning and health, there is new research being published that expands in more detail on 3D as a tool for engagement, learning, and retention.
These initiatives are interesting for a couple of reasons. First, if 3D is not only not bad but actually good for kids, if schools trust it, then that goes a long way to debunking some of the anxieties—specific and generalized—about the impact of the technology on young people.
The education market is also a potentially large and lucrative one for selling projectors. The theatre market is not high growth–the TV market will focus on sets, not projectors. This is good business.
Here’s an interesting video case study:
A tip of the hat to Wired magazine’s “Geek Dad” column for covering this!
Finally, here’s the complete announcement of the research findings:
3D Lessons Deliver Higher Levels Of Understanding And Increased Focus To Students Across Europe
European research highlights significant improvements in test scores as a result of learning with 3D content
LONDON – September 29, 2011, 12:00 p.m. GMT: Texas Instruments (TI) (NYSE:TXN) DLP® Products presents data that shows 3D, when used as a teaching tool in classrooms, has a widespread positive impact on how students learn. The independent study is announced today at the UK launch event in Claridges, London and hosted in collaboration with The Company of Educators. Conducted in classrooms across seven European countries, the research compares the difference in comprehension, information retention and overall behaviour between students learning via traditional 2D methods versus learning via 3D projection.
A long-time partner in providing technology for education, DLP Products initiated the study as a way to gather information and feedback on teaching with content displayed using 3D projectors. The research team, led by Professor Anne Bamford, Director of the International Research Agency, commissioned pre- and post-testing on control and variable student groups to track information retention and understanding, as well as collected observational data during classroom visits to measure student attentiveness and behaviour.
Highlights from the survey include:
On average, 86% of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes, compared to 52% who improved in the 2D classes.
Individuals improved test scores by an average of 17% in the 3D classes, compared to an 8% improvement in the 2D classes between pre-test and post-test.
92% of students on average were attentive during 3D lessons, while only 46% were actively paying attention during non-3D lessons.
“Teaching in 3D is a remarkable educational tool that enables students to enhance their learning capabilities by truly engaging and interacting with the subject criteria in a highly effective way,” explained Kathryn Macaulay, Deputy Head (Data, Operations and Communications) at The Abbey School, Reading, UK. “This research clearly demonstrates the ‘real’ results that high quality teaching in 3D generates and further reinforces the need for wider appreciation of how 3D technology can be adopted in the classroom to allow students of today and tomorrow to fulfill their potential.”
The research project involved 740 students (ages 10-13), 47 teachers and 15 schools across France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom and Sweden between December 2010 and May 2011. Students were tested before and after the lessons, with one control group learning with 2D methods only, and the other receiving the same instruction, but with 3D content added into the lessons. Students were also tested on their ability to recall the information four weeks later, and researchers collected observational data on the engagement level of students at set intervals during each of the lessons.
Bamford said, “Across all of the schools involved in the study, 3D shortened the time it took for students to learn concepts, increased their attention spans and resulted in overall deeper thinking from the students. The findings indicate that 3D projection should be considered now and into the future when looking for ways to improve students learning and engagement.”
Adoption of 3D-Ready projectors looks to have no signs of stopping. According to the Pacific Media Associates (PMA) 2011 Q2 Census Report, nearly 2 million DLP 3D-Ready projectors were available globally at the end of 2010 and 4.1 million units are expected on the market by the end of this year. This comes as no surprise with the lifelike images that 3D projection can provide, which not only keep students‟ attentions, but also provide an immersive, 360-degree view of content that previously could only be taught using flat, 2D images and videos, or rudimentary models and figurines.
“We are delighted for the opportunity to jointly host the UK launch event with TI DLP Products,” said Peter Briggs, Master of The Company of Educators.
“At Texas Instruments, we work to provide technology that improves people‟s lives and the results of this study show that we‟re putting our resources in the right place,” said Roger Carver, Manager of Front Projection, DLP Products. “As the technology powering the vast majority of 3D-Ready projectors around the world, from cinemas to classrooms and home theatres, TI DLP is focused on enabling teachers and students worldwide to experience the same kind of learning success that has been found through this project.”
The American Optometric Association (AOA) report “3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well” is now available online (in a slick, very flashy flash format) here. As Planet3D.org reported previously, the report takes an interesting trajectory asserting that not only is 3D not dangerous for children (or anyone with two eyes), but it can actually be beneficial in learning and early diagnosis of correctable vision problems.
It’s a fascinating and meticulous entry into the debate and an excellent primer on 3D history and technology. (It is also very clever marketing by an industry under siege). Let’s see if this new report gets as much attention as the recent crop of alarmist reports and anecdotal complaining!
Note: The AOA is also hosting a web site along with the 3D@home industry consortium, www.3Deyehealth.org, that’s worth keeping an eye on.
I’m a geek, and I really enjoy April Fools Day every year for geeky pranks on the Internet. Nobody does it better than the fabulous website Think Geek. One of my favorite 2011 pranks was the “De-3D Cinema Glasses“—the copy says, “You’ve been there before, a movie is playing in both 2D and 3D, all your friends want to see the 3D version… so what can you do? Finally, ThinkGeek has the solution to deliver old skool 2D images to your tired eyes with the De-3D Cinema Glasses.”
Futuristic 3D Movies… Make Us Sick
Converts standard 3D movies in to relaxing 2D
Eliminates headaches and nausea associated with 3D movies
Works with current 3D movies in theaters using RealD 3D technology”
Very cute, right? When you click to “order” it tells you “GOTCHA”. But now when you click there is a red banner saying “OMG it’s real!” It turns out this is now a product.
One of the biggest uphill climbs in 3D is the lack (quality and quantity) of content. YouTube took big steps this week to address that by releasing a new tool that will in their words “convert 2D videos into 3D with a single click”. The announcement cheerfully adds “(beta!)”
YouTube has been supporting a variety of 3D formats quietly since 2009 and 3D cameras are just starting to gain some momentum in the consumer market. With this step YouTube fast forwards past the need to have special camera or third party conversion software. It will be interesting to see what creative application the new tool can have.
On the down side, this has the potential of reinforcing negative impressions of 3D based on inferior conversions. Even though bad wedding videos don’t keep people from watching television, Clash of the Titans is held up as an example of why 3D will “never” work.
Other updates YouTube announced at the same time—the ability for accounts in good standing to upload long form content and the availability of two new online video editing tools—mean that more and better tools will be available to produce (we all hope) more and better content. That’s good news.
This should make some industry insiders very very happy. The American Optometric Association (AOA) is releasing a report called 3D in the Classroom subtitled “See Well, Learn Well”. (See the announcement by clicking here).
Contrary to recent gloom-and-doom reports about the perils of 3D—including headaches, nausea, and damage to the vision of young children—the AOA is asserting that its research shows not only does use of 3D significantly enhance learning in the classroom, it’s useful in early identification of vision problems for early intervention and treatment. According to the AOA:
“…New 3D opportunities are underscored by two essential facts, 1) children often learn faster and retain more information in the 3D environment, and 2) the ability to perceive 3D and learn in 3D requires precise elements of ‘vision fitness’. Importantly, 3D vision fitness skills associated with eye alignment, eye tracking, and balanced and corrected refractive errors are also associated with improved overall reading and learning abilities.”
The announcement continues:
“The recent emergence of innovative 3D presentation technologies and 3D content in movie theaters, in the home, in video games and now in the classroom , perhaps surprisingly, provides a unique public health opportunity. The ability to perceive depth in a 3D presentation – known as ‘stereopsis’– turns out to be a highly sensitive test of a range of vision health indicators. It is much more sensitive than the standard eye chart that has been in use for 150 years, because it requires that both eyes function in a coordinated manner, as they converge, focus and track the 3D image.”
Variety has an excellent article by Michael Sullivan putting this into context for the high stakes emerging 3D business which ranges far beyond education to encompass entertainment, advertising, and gaming. Addressing industry warning labels (Nintendo 3DS for example) he says:
“AOA began speaking out after Nintendo attached a warning on its new 3DS stating that the effect should not be used for children younger than 6. In a statement, the AOA disputed that assertion, saying, ‘Since vision develops from birth, it is crucial to uncover the type of vision disorders that may interfere with Nintendo 3D viewing at an early age. Accordingly, children younger than 6 can use the 3DS in 3D mode if their visual system is developing normally.’ Labels on most 3DTV sets also warn against prolonged viewing, despite the fact that there is no medical evidence that substantiates these warnings.”
My opinion: this is closer to a credible scientific insight than the alarmist news reports that have been proliferating recently. But I am filing this under “Business of 3D” as well as “Science of 3D” because, well, I’m essentially a skeptic. Debates around the dangers of smoking and climate change teach us that it’s not enough to see what is being said—it’s important to always see who is saying it and what’s in it for them.
So far, however, the pedigree of this report looks excellent and that’s great news for the 3D industry. Stay tuned.
Amsterdam, September 12, 2011: IBC Theatre. James Cameron and Vincent Pace showed off 18 minutes of Titanic converted to 3D as well as clips from their upcoming Cirque du Soleil film, while noted documentary film maker Sir David Attenborough screened his Flying Monsters 3D.
Aimed at broadcasters, the evening started with Don Shaw from Christie Digital (the projector people) talking about the importance of higher frame rates for making 3D smoother—minimizing or eliminating “strobing” and other annoying effects. (More about frame rates another time). He showcased technology innovations—an end-to-end solution for broadcasting live alternative content in 3D to theatrical venues with greater ease (I’m very proud to say that the company where I work, International Datacasting, is part of the solution presented, as well as our partners at Sensio Technologies. My colleagues helped pull the demonstration off without a hitch, bravo!)
But the highlight of the event naturally was watching movies and looking to see if the technical and artistic bar has moved forward. James Cameron took the stage (amid a bunch of awards hoopla you can follow elsewhere) and preached the gospel of 3D: “Last year 21% all movie revenue came from 3D,” “I will shoot every movie going forward in 3D”, and my favorite: “Let me tell you about my new movie coming April 5, 2012, Titanic.”
Yes, Titanic is being converted to 3D with a release scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing (or as Cameron called it a “trifecta of good marketing.”) Cameron emphasized that it is always preferable to shoot in 3D rather than convert a film but where it’s not possible “there’s conversion and there’s conversion” saying he wouldn’t have spent $18 million adding 3D if he didn’t think the results would be worth it.
James Cameron at IBC Big Screen, September 12, 2011 (photo: Diana Cantu's iPhone)
Hollywood is rushing to convert 2D films to 3D with varying degrees of success. The Titanic footage looked smooth and watchable. The Cirque du Soleil footage which was captured in 3D is gorgeous. The 3D is subtle and restrained, it adds aesthetically to the content. I’ve seen the Cirque shows the clips were taken from and the 3D actually improved on them.
Flying Monsters 3D is a documentary by Sir David Attenborough, examining fossils of early flying dinosaurs or pterosaurs, and their evolution up to extinction. With clever mingling of CGI, live action and 3D the film makes a serious subject a bit more whimsical and accessible. The 3D looked good and lends itself well to scenes with flying.
The event was designed to help win over broadcasters to the merits of 3D and reassure them that the technology is catching up with promises. Cameron’s emphasis on new dual work flow capabilities (shooting 2D and 3D simultaneously) helps. Live alternative programming and 3D television are both getting better, fast. That’s a message broadcasters are starting to consider.
Arriving in Amsterdam the other morning (after a three-legged overnight flight) we were surprised and impressed to see a big 3D oops “6D” film/simulator/ride set up at Schipol Airport. Colorful, shiny, with room for a dozen or so patrons to be strapped into bright yellow seats with red 3D glasses. There’s a 3D screen (two Panasonic beamers with polarizing filters–top and bottom not side-by-side if you are interested). The “6D” refers to seats that move and other bells & whistles to augment and simulate the visual experience on the screen with tactile stimuli.
For €5 one can choose between a couple of titles (“Canyon Coaster” is what the gentleman recommended to us). Unfortunately after a transatlantic redeye flight the only title I was interested in was “Shower and Coffee” which they didn’t have so we declined.
We promised to stop by on our way out of town. They have a high traffic spot by the front door but not with so much light as to make it unwatchable. There weren’t any customers when we were there–it’s awkward catching people on their way out or conversely on their way in before checkin, but it’s an interesting experiment.
Part of me worries that these are the products that give 3D a bad name, reinforcing that it’s a tool reserved for trying to make people barf. But the other part of me says “the more the merrier.”