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Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 22 October 2010

Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The Future

Only a small portion of the world plays PC video games, but everyone looks at photos and watches movies. Soon they'll all be 3D.

To most people, the sudden industry interest in 3D technology is considered a fad. It's an eccentric marketing ploy for the fringe enthusiast, merely feeding a niche market. It's too expensive, or it's too immature, or it's too proprietary. If this has you believing the skeptics and naysayers, then 3D technology is already doomed to fail. Fortunately for entertainment enthusiasts there's a difference between pessimism and reality, and I'll use this editorial to explore the very real possibility that we'll soon live in a world based around 3D technology. Some optimists believe that 3D is already on its way to being a mainstream technology, but realists should expect it to come in phases, based on supply and product demand. I think it will begin with 3D cameras, and their byproducts: 3D photos and 3D video.

I've been spending a lot of time lately, testing 3D gaming products for Benchmark Reviews and reporting their impact on video game performance. I even wrote an entire NVIDIA 3D-Vision Multimedia Resource Guide for gamers and newcomers to world of 3D movies. As a result, I've unintentionally ignored the obvious facts: only a small portion of the world plays PC video games, but everyone looks at photos and watches movies. The irony is how closely these two segments inter-connected, thanks to products like NVIDIA's 3D Vision.

For the past two years NVIDIA have demonstrated impressive 3D special effects using nearly 500 PC video games (exactly 475 as of October 2010) with their 3D Vision platform. Of those 'fringe' enthusiasts who were early adopters, some have used 3D Vision to produce their own 3D photo albums and 3D multimedia video content. NVIDIA has also reaped the rewards of an early 3D platform that now includes more than 1,000 NVIDIA 3D Vision support devices, while recently announced options such as AMD HD3D technology launches with about ten supported devices.

So with a solid foundation of platform devices, 3D imagery is already professional requirement for present-day photographers. Digital cameras such as the Sony α NEX-5, Panasonic Lumix-G 3D, and Fujifilm FinePix REAL-3D W3 are already taking 3D photographs that impress people today, and meet the potential standard of tomorrow. Full-3D video cameras such as Panasonic's HDC-SDT750K have made three-dimension broadcasts of NASCAR events, the entire US Open Tennis tournament, PGA Golf Championship, and Masters Tournament all possible. Those are all real-world events that have already happened in 3D, proving that the day is quickly coming when events like the UFC Ultimate Fighting Championship and X-Games could also be broadcast in 3D. This all brings me back to the central thesis of this editorial, which is that we'll soon be watching movies and viewing images in 3D.

We already know there's a strong consumer interest in 3D effects, or else Avatar, Clash of the Titans, and Resident Evil 5 would not have been featured in 3D at movie theaters across the nation. I've established that the platform to capture and record 3D media already exists in 3D cameras, and they're presently being used in high-level professional environments. 3D-DVD and 3D Blu-ray Disc playback is possible on dozens of different players, while NVIDIA 3D Vision and AMD HD3D enables video content playback on PC devices. While 120Hz 3D-Ready monitors account for only a dozen or so models, there are over fifty 3D HDTV models currently in production. But people don't want to buy special eyewear to enjoy 3D movies, especially if they already require prescription glasses. So here comes the clincher: eyewear is optional on the Toshiba Regza GL1 3D HDTV.

This is how the 3D revolution will begin. Toshiba's Regza GL1 3D HDTV is only the start of things to come, and proves 3D won't always require eyewear. Using special perpendicular lenticular sheets to create nine parallax image layers, the need for 3D glasses is eliminated. While still in the pre-production stages of development, this technology could create an age of 3D-capable displays of every sort or device. Imagine having 3D built-in to every product you own with an LCD screen, big or small. Beyond the HDTV and monitor segments it's already destined for, it could one day extend to digital photo frames, phones, and touch controls. Thinking big, 3D digital signage and large format 3D billboards could also be a vision of the future.

Once perpendicular lenticular LCD technology becomes affordable, and can scale to much larger display sizes, you'll know that 3D is on its way to mainstream. That day will be upon us sooner than we think. Once this happens, the growing demand of 3D consumers will finally be met with supply. Tagging friends on whatever social media website rules the day will take on a whole new meaning, since the images will be 3D format and you'll see depth on everything digital. Watching movies or television in 3D won't be "a fad" anymore, because it will have become the standard. The niche market will transform into the general market, and in the same way we've seen LCD technology replace CRT, we'll see 3D technology replace 2D. It's happening right now, and my predictions will be reality before you know it.

Also see: 3DFusion NO-Glasses 3D Display Technology Commercially Ready

Does this editorial make a convincing argument in favor of 3D technology? You're welcome to leave comments below.

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# RE: Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The Futuretonhogg 2010-10-22 09:42
People that hate 3d and think it is going to die are in for a rude awakening. They hold on to this belief that the novelty will wear off like before. The problem with that theory is we have already went far past the 2 and a half year stretch of the big 1950's and 1980's 3d waves. This one actually started with Polar Express 3d back in 2004, six years ago. Not 2 and a half. Really those ended not because of dying public interest, but because they just simply stopped making 3d movies because they were difficult on the production side to produce. Now with computers making them is far easier. A point that the 3d hater does not understand.
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# RE: Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The FutureDoug 2010-11-17 20:41
If it gives consumers a better experience, judged by the individual, then it will become mainstream, if it can be produced affordable. Everything changes. It's a constant. But if you need to put on glasses every time you turn on the news, I don't think that will blow over well.

Some things media wise don't need 3Dand would in fact be a distraction. Information broadcasting on a conceptual level is a good example, since your job isn't to look at 3D characters, but to analyze information in your head--conceptually. Others that depend on the visual to impart information would benefit greatly, such as teaching surgery to med students.

Entertainment is a whole different realm and 3D that is believable and noninvasive will absolutely increase. Why shouldn't it? It looks more real to us. Realism increases our pleasure. Pleasure is good.
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# RepetitionRealNeil 2010-11-18 04:52
To me, just gets old replacing all of my equipment to keep up with the latest bling that retailers decide that we must now have. This is something I've been dealing with for years. Years ago I had kids at home that I was raising, marrying off, and supporting through their troubled times. At that stage in my life I was working Aerospace and owned a shop too, so money was not such a problem as it is now. Being on a retirement income that will never go up as inflation goes wild is a sobering situation. Isn't it OK to just say wait a minute, I'm happy with what I have?
I've found that whenever I do buy the latest technology for myself, they come out with newer, better, almost right away. I don't think that it will ever stop, and I just can't keep up if I want to continue to eat food and pay the bills.
I did like the write up, and I believe what you're saying about 3D creeping up on us. It's Happening now.
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# Somedaymarkshelby 2010-11-18 11:10
I haven't tried Nvidia's 3D technology, but I've seen Avatar and several other 3D movies in modern digital theaters. It's obvious to me that Real3D and IMAX 3D technologies come at the expense of significant reductions in contrast, color saturation and detail in the case of the former and contrast in the latter. Avatar's 3D wasn't a gimmick, and I enjoyed it, but there was a high cost to quality, particularly notable in the panaramas.

(At least one of the titles the author cited, Clash of the Titans, was not photographed in 3D. The "3D" effects were added in post-production and are, in my opinion, simply a gimmick that detracted from an already bad movie.)
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# RE: Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The FutureG.L. Alston 2010-11-18 21:51
You're wrong. Video games featuring artificial hues may seem OK but until natural images in natural light look decent, not so much. Then there's the problem of clear gimmick factor projecting 3D imagery on a 2D plane with all of the inherent image distortion unless one is parked directly in front of the screen. What looks good in a video game on a screen inches from your face isn't what looks good from across the room in crappy light and at a non-orthoganal angle. Stick to something you know something about; it ain't optics.
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# RE: RE: Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The FutureOlin Coles 2010-11-18 22:22
Hello, dear comment troll. It's very insightful of you to boldly declare my prediction of the future to be wrong, before time has even been allowed to prove them otherwise. If in ten years 3D technology isn't mainstream, you can come back and tell me I'm wrong. Until then, keep your nearsighted remarks to yourself.
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# Counter-argumentOlin Coles 2010-11-22 10:30
I found this article to be a much better approach for making a counter-argument:
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# I hope notAlain 2010-11-18 23:49
Name one good 3D movie...

Honestly, while watching Avatar I sometimes took of the glasses. Wow, a big, bright but sadly quite blurred image. But at least, I had the feeling of being in a movie theatre again. To me, there's no point in going to the movies to watch a 3D movie, because I have the impression of watching a movie projected on those same glasses instead of watching it on a giant screen. I have a feeling that the experience would be the same as watching Avatar on a 50" plasma, so might as well stay at home then.

That aside, at the moment James Cameron is probably the only director capable of doing something remotely interesting with 3D technology. Most other 3D films released where rather rubbish effect driven nonsense. Can you imagine films like Seven, The Social Network or Kill Bill in 3D ? Would be horrible.

And the same goes for photos and home videos. I think 3D can be interesting (video games etc) but not as a replacement for 2D.
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# mr.dondon 2010-11-20 17:14
3D is nice, but, having to wear those crazy glasses is a big, thumbs down,. maybe when they come out with a system that does NOT require glasses, that will really be a BIG plus. and a big seller.
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# RE: Why 3D Camera Technology Will Be The FutureBrian 2010-11-21 15:42
In my opinion 3D is no fad and done well realy adds to a films immersion and opens up some very unique ways to show the audience the world around them, I do feel the true frame rate for current 3D systems is too low (24 fps) even though 3D image systems show each frame mutiple times,the low framerate shows in judder when the camera pans or there is quick motion a higher framerate would be a big plus would also like to say like many others poorly converted films will kill the format faster than anything else, there truly needs to be a 3D image quality standerd like THX is to sound to insure the audience a good experence In either a cinema setting, or buying 3D displays
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