France takes aim at the silver screen

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.

The so-called "halo effect"

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International 3D Society 2012 Technology Awards

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.

Blu-ray Disc Association – “Blu-ray 3D Specification” This how we get 3D into your living room!

Corey Bridges accepting on behalf of Cameron-Pace.

Cameron/Pace Group – “Shadow D Technology and the Shadow D System” High-end, professional gear based on the genius idea of shooting 2D and 3D simultaneously on the same rig to make life easier for content producers everywhere (think sports).

Fuji – “Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W3 Digital Camera” An affordable, consumer 3D camcorder. This brings 3D into the world of home video, and also serves as an entry-level 3D camera for budding auteurs.

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).

HDMI Licensing, LLC“Standardization of 3D Formats over the HDMI Interface. Specification Version 1.4a” If you are reading this blog you’ve probably seen High-Definition Multimedia Interface® (HDMI) interface and cables. Again, this is a standard that, when strictly adhered to, assures maximum interoperability between different manufacturers and their products. This spec addresses issues particular to 3D so it’s an enabler.

LG Electronics – “LG Cinema 3D TV” State-of-the-art 3D television set.

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.

Peter Wimmer – “Stereoscopic Player” Peter’s company 3DTV.at (from Austria) makes a well-regarded, solid, reliable software player for 3D content on PCs.

Silicon Imaging – “SI-3D Stereo Digital Cinema Camera System” is a 3D digital camera system that has an integrated stereo visualization system that enables immediate (no special processing) playback and editing capabilities using some neat visualization tools.

Buzz Hays from Sony accepting award.

Sony – “HDR-TD10 3D Handycam Camcorder” It’s a camcorder, an HD camcorder, a 3D HD camcorder. Let that sink in for a minute!

Sony – “Playstation 3”  Maybe you’ve heard of it? We’ll forgive them for erroneous warnings implying it’s dangerous for young kids (it’s not) because they are getting 3D into more hands.

Vizio – “Theater 3D” Big, beautiful 3D television with affordable (passive) glasses.

YouTube – “3D Channel” In a few short years YouTube has changed the way the world consumes video.  The YouTube 3D channel is another potential game-changer.

Society President Jim Chabin talking about the "Make it 3D" campaign.

These are exciting and interesting times. Congratulations to the International 3D Society and all of the honorees.


Next Generation User Interface: 3D?

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.

Considering buying a 3D TV? CNET has a Buying Guide

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.

 
Written by David Katzmaier, topics include:

The guide also has some useful observations:

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?

Behind the Scenes: Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” in 3D

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!

3D in the Classroom Picking up Momentum

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.”

To view the full report of the findings, please go http://www.DLP.com/aoapresspdf. 

NEW: American Optometric Association Report on 3D

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.