France’s Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée or CNC (in English “National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image”), is instituting an effort to ban silver screens across France and in the process making a strong statement on one of the nagging issues of digital cinema projection, low light levels, while dealing a serious blow for leading 3D exhibition systems.
Carole Lombard on the cover of a 1930 issue of "Silver Screen" magazine. The term is emotionally linked to the golden age of cinema.
Silver screens are synonymous with old school cinema, but in recent years they have become a required part of the kit for one of the most popular 3D exhibition systems, RealD. They also tend to have a brightness differentiation so light levels drop off around the edges of the screen area creating a “hot spot” effect reminiscent of the old school movie experience. This compromises image quality for non-3D films and can impair viewing from some angles within the cinema.
The CNC on behalf of the French government is charged with “supporting, regulating, negotiating, promoting and distributing, cooperating with local authorities, protecting film heritage.” In the interest of improving image quality and visibility they are mandating that silver screens be phased out going forward. While the ban will not impact competitors Dolby and X-pand, RealD has a market share of about 75% of deployed 3D screens in France. The agreement to transition away from silver screens to bright white is being seen as a challenge to usability for 3D.
Variety has an excellent summary here, and the original announcement, billed as an agreement to guarantee quality in digital cinema, is available here (in French).
Planet3D comment: this is a reminder that technology has to keep up with quality demands. It’s a commercial challenge, but in the final analysis audience experience is the most important thing.
I had the great pleasure and privilege of attending the International 3D Society’s 2012 Technology Awards January 15. It was a pleasure because there was a great venue, great luncheon, and it was a truly fun event. I was privileged to be in the company of pioneers, brainiacs, and fellow enthusiasts.
All of the winners are doing very interesting things—I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the extraordinary work being done behind the scenes in this industry to ensure high quality, flexibility, and the best possible enduser experience.
The awards went to the following—in alphabetical order—for the achievement indicated. Click on highlighted items for links to more information about each particular company and award-winning technology.
Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative – “FHD3DGI Standard” so there is a consistent standard across manufacturers of active shutter glasses. This is good (and I have a closet full of proprietary chargers to prove it). Kudos to Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and XPAND.
GoPro – “3D Hero System” A nifty kit that puts together two Hero HD cameras into a (relatively inexpensive) rig to shoot 3D (and 2D).
Panasonic – “AG-3DA1 Twin Lens 3D Camera Recorder” A high quality 3D camera in a compact form factor. This is important because getting two lenses close enough together is a huge challenge. Cumbersome camera equipment has been one of the biggest barriers on the content side. This is important progress.
A friend sent me a link to a TED talk from earlier this year that presses us think about 3D—physical space really—in a whole new way. Much of this blog is focusses on 3D as a visual, media-oriented experience but John Underkoffler’s talk explores 3D interaction as the next generation of user interfaces.
Remember drooling over the fancy gesture-based human/computer interaction in the futuristic scifi film Minority Report a few years ago? I do. Underkoffler led the team that developed that interface—dubbed the “g-speak Spatial Operating Environment”—and his company, Oblong Industries, is now developing it for real life applications for media, consumer, manufacturing, and technology applications.
Another 3D breakthrough as we continue to realize the world isn’t flat.
Some studies show that 3D in the home is booming, other studies show that it is taking a nose dive. Presumably it depends who you ask and how you ask. If you are considering making the leap, the venerable technology website CNET has a very useful buying guide for 3D TVs.
Unlike Blu-ray, 3D broadcasts on TV currently use a half-resolution 3D format known as side-by-side, resulting in a significantly softer, non-high-def look. We know of no plans to add more 3D channels or introduce a full-HD resolution 3D broadcast, although we expect both improvements to occur sometime over the next few years…
and some interesting insights:
3D Content Has A Chicken-And-Egg Problem That Will Hinder Faster Adoption.
If few people own 3D TVs, content producers have little incentive to deliver 3D programming and games. But lack of 3D content is a big reason people don’t want to get a 3D TV today. We don’t see this situation changing in the immediate future, and we feel glasses-free 3D TVs need to be available at mainstream prices–and work well–before 3D content has a chance to become as common as 2D high-def content is today.
Planet 3D says:
In terms of wide adoption of 3D TV, we are where we were ten years ago with HDTV. The first sets are available at high (but rapidly falling) prices, content is scant and not yet compelling. The difference is that as consumers and media aficionados we are more accustomed to having content at our fingertips when, where, and how we want it. I think the current renaissance in quality 3D content will inevitably lead to an acceleration in demand for 3D-enabled home theatre.
In other words, the question for home theatre impresarios isn’t should you invest in a new television with 3D capabilities, but rather should you invest in a new television without 3D capabilities? Do you want to run the risk of not being able to enjoy the coming wave of very cool content as it was meant to be seen?
Here’s a nifty video diary from the set of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit. It’s full of details on camera technology, some of the aesthetic and artistic choices being made, and a sense of excitement about a powerful new storytelling tool.
They’re using 48 RED Epic cameras, 3ality 3D, 48 FPS (frames per second) and a lot of classic special effects and filmmaking skills.
Great insight into the challenge and opportunity—I’m looking forward to December 2012!
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.
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.
IBC 2011 conference and trade show, Amsterdam: James Cameron and Vincent Pace are working the show: evangelizing about 3D, previewing a new Cirque du Soleil 3D film, and calling themselves “myth-busters” on the technical, aesthetic, and business aspects of the industry. Here’s a video of them talking about next gen 3D technology, 3D in broadcast, and indulging in some forecasting (glasses-free 3D in three to five years!)
It’s a press conference followed by a brief interview. Cameron makes the important point:
3D isn’t going to save a bad movie, it’s still going to be storytelling…3D is not a guarantee that you are going to have a great time. You might be watching a very high quality version of a very poor film.
We feel that it’s incumbent on us as 3D practitioners to maintain the highest possible standard. We don’t want the 3D to be the thing that was wrong with the movie. Let the movie be a dog but don’t let the 3D be the reason you didn’t like it.