NY Public Library Launches Online Stereoscopic Archive

Planet3D features a section from a 19th century painting of a woman entertaining herself with a stereoscope.

In a brave, creative move the NY Public Library has made more than 40,000 stereograph images available online at a new site along with a tool it’s calling the “Stereogranimator.”

Stereoscopes are a fascinating part of 3D history. They remind us that 3D is not a new entertainment phenomenon but a technique we human beings have been playing with for a very long time.  The cards themselves are windows into other times and places—the stereo effect often brings a startling realism to a old-fashioned sepia image.

This Sterogranimator tool lets users select an image from the archive, render it as an animated gif and/or an anaglyph image (where two color offsets create the illusion of depth). These can then be shared in the online gallery (and in the case of the anaglyph images, viewed with red/blue glasses).

A page of frenetic flashing gifs or anaglyph pictures at first glance may seem, well, silly. Take some time to look at them and notice the subject that photographers chose to shoot (and site visitors chose to “stereoanimate”—the depth of images, the vantage points, the subject matter.  It will bring you closer to some pretty amazing people, places, and things.

While debate continues about 3D as a cheap commercial trick or powerful visual tool this project brings interesting insight and context.

Thanks NY Public Library.

From the private collection of Planet3D: before cats on the Internet there were stereoscopic cats.

 

Advertisements

Next big thing: Star Wars in 3D

The countdown has started for the re-release of the 3D-converted “Star Wars Episode 1: the Phantom Menace” on February 10, 2012. One look at the trailer and it’s clear why this a perfect candidate for 3D. In the hands of a special effects perfectionist like director George Lucas the quality of the 3D conversion should be excellent.

 

But beyond the fanboy demographic and Hollywood’s canny mining for content to convert there’s an interesting context to this particular project.

George Lucas was an early and passionate advocate of digital cinema. “Phantom Menace” back in 1999 was one of the first high-profile films shot in digital format.  I remember the special screening at the annual NAB show (1999?) that galvanized the industry. We all realized this was the turning point in the acceptance of digital cinema and the rumor was that Lucas planned to use film only in digital going from then on. (Lucas’ recent labor of love, the action film “Red Tails”, is 3D only.)

Fast forward to CinemaCon 2011; Lucas—on a panel with well-known 3D cheerleaders James Cameron and Jeffery Katzenberg—predicted,  “So now, when you’re watching a movie and it’s not in 3-D, it’s like watching in black and white. It’s a better way of looking at a film… I totally believe now that 3-D will completely take over just like color did.”

Last week in an interview published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lucas elaborated:

What made you want to convert this film into 3D?

Originally, I was not a big fan of 3D. I really thought it was a gimmick. But later, I was trying to get digital projectors into the theaters, doing a presentation in Las Vegas, when Bob Zemeckis and Jim Cameron came up to me and said, “We want to get 3D into the theaters. Would you join us in showing the theater owners that you can do 3D?” I said, “That’d be good because to do 3D you have to have digital theaters. So it would promote my idea of digital theaters.” When I saw the test that we did of “Star Wars” in 3D, I saw how great it looked.

How does seeing the film in 3D enrich the experience?

It’s like the difference between watching a film in black and white and watching it in color. It works in black and white but it works better in color. You don’t have to watch in 3D, but it actually works better in 3D. The depth brings a lot of reality to the digital characters like Jar Jar Binks and Watto. You feel that they’re more realistic.

The requirement for projecting 3D films has been an important catalyst in the wider deployment of digital cinema technology. This release is part of a wave of conversion of beloved classics to 3D that can help satisfy the demand for better content.

For both hardcore geeks revisiting an important chapter in a beloved saga, and a new generation of science fiction fans this is going to be an epic event!

 

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.


Oscar Nominations mark a new era in 3D

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences 2012 Oscar nominations have been announced and two 3D favorites are being recognized.

Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” tops the list with 11 nominations, and Wim Wenders’ “Pina” has been nominated for best documentary feature.

Other important 3D films—Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams“—were not nominated, and “Pina”, Germany’s entry for best foreign film, was crowded out of that category by stiff competition.

Oscar nominations along with the accompanying recognition and campaigns will raise the profile of any film. In the case of these two ground-breaking films it adds gravitas to the field of 3D filmmaking and proves that the popular success of “Avatar” was not a fluke but the beginning of a new golden age in 3D cinema.

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?

Pina gets wider (limited) release

Billboard in Montreal last week.

I spotted this behind the building where I work, announcing the December 16 release date for Pina in 3D. It’s playing in Montreal now—check and see if it’s close to you. Then go see it!

For more info on the film, 3D, art, and ideas (as well as gorgeous still photography) visit this website.