3D Comes Home Part 2

Computers and Gaming
Where TVs are more social in nature, computers are almost always used by individuals. For that very reason, 3D applications will go beyond merely watching videos. Already, game developers are building 3D into their engines and environments. Beyond that, YouTube is experimenting with 3D videos and even Google has decided to add native rendering functionality to the Chrome browser. There isn’t much public buzz about things other than gaming, but soon enough, graphics designers will finally manipulate their 3D models in 3D space, architects will take clients on first-person walkthroughs of their sketches, online shops will let people browse through racks of items, and dozens of new uses will emerge.

Gaming is where things can get very interesting. Both on the PC and on living room consoles, gaming is a single-minded activity in which immersiveness is the end goal. As opposed to TV and movies which are fairly social in nature, people usually game alone and undisturbed. First-person shooters which are truly first person, racing games in which the environment whizzes past, and even sports simulators will see immediate benefits from 3D. Less action-oriented games like The Sims and Spore will suck players in and give them all kinds of new thrills. Just like movies, games developed with 3D in mind will become the flag bearers of this new technology. Truly excellent games will even motivate people to spend on new consoles and TV sets, and passionate gamers are well known to spend large amounts of money at regular intervals to stay current with the latest, greatest hardware.

Cinemas and public venues
Perhaps 3D will still be best experienced only in cinemas, where everyone is sure to have a pair of glasses and is ideally focused only on the film while it’s playing. The effect is far more engaging on a huge screen that fills your peripheral vision. This year is going to see a massive number of 3D movies released, primarily because the technology is ready, the distribution channels are in place, and viewers have indicated they enjoy the experience. But they also help to familiarize users with 3D, in the hope that they will want to buy all the components required to set up a new high-end home theater system. Movie studios have also caught on to the fact that they have to stop selling products and start selling experiences. People today have the unofficial options of buying pirated discs and downloading screener copies from the Internet, rather than spending money on movie tickets and DVDs.

A 3D film simply cannot be pirated yet, since there isn’t any reliable method to turn a 3D print into a 2D one for easy distribution. Most pirated copies of just-released movies are either ripped from the film reels while on their way to cinemas (relatively high quality), or recorded off cinema screens with handheld videocameras which the pirates sneak in (relatively low quality). New 3D films are transmitted securely to cinemas, preventing them from being intercepted on the way, and just imagine trying to watch a recording of the mashed images you see on screen when you take off your polarized glasses! It would be totally unmanageable to sneak a 3D camera into a cinema, and even then they’d never be able to recombine the visuals and record them in any reproducible form. Besides, those who do decide to spend on cinema tickets rather than watch a movie at home are more likely to pay a premium for a 3D version. While many movies are currently released in both 2D and 3D formats to ensure they can be screened anywhere, titles will soon be released exclusively in 3D format in the future; a move studios and distributors will greatly profit by.

In fact the novelty value is still so fresh that a large number of the 3D movies we’re already seeing are in fact re-releases of older movies, which were certainly not shot with all the necessary equipment. Technology has made it possible to splice and recombine 2D movies, although the effect won’t be as seamless as something envisioned in 3D from the ground up, like Avatar. Filmmaking, both as an art and as an industry, will have to undergo massive changes to account for the way our eyes behave when trying to focus on moving objects. The effects on cinema will be as dramatic as when the same as when sound was added to video, and when monochrome became color.

Cinema owners, who have spent lakhs of rupees refitting their halls for 3D, will most likely find things other than movies to show there since the quality of the viewing experience will be far greater than one can achieve at home. The prime candidates are of course sporting events, such as this year’s IPL tournament and the upcoming football World Cup. Sports matches are typically a few hours long, action-packed, and allow for fixed and moving camera positions. Efforts are on to outfit public venues such as pubs and restaurants with 3D screens for this purpose as well. While it will definitely be odd to walk into a bar and see everyone wearing dark glasses indoors, this is exactly the kind of social setting that sports matches are watched in. People will get to experience 3D viewing in a natural environment, although the glasses will obstruct their vision when trying to eat or drink!

The early adopter’s dilemma
It’s easy to sit back and analyze all the problems with 3D home entertainment, but if nobody jumps on board now, it will never reach critical mass. Perhaps we as consumers will reject the current generation of home products altogether, and even if so, perhaps the few people who do go out and buy 3D movie setups will continue to enjoy and appreciate them long after, much like Laser Discs a decade ago. On the other hand, 3D is already well entrenched in cinemas, games and sports broadcasts so there should be a fair number of people who want to bring that kind of experience home.

Unreal 3 engine now supports 3D development to take advantage of Nvidia's 3D Vision Technology

The ideal future is one in which the glasses aren't necessary at all, but that's still beyond our capabilities for now! Either way, the best part is that we have the whole industry coming together over an emerging standard. And the pace of innovation will push better features into lower prices. No matter how many dimensions you view it in, 2010 is going to be an interesting year indeed.

Published Date: May 06, 2010 05:43 pm | Updated Date: May 06, 2010 05:43 pm