Tag Archives: Hobbit

The Hobbit in High Frame Rate 3D

Last weekend, we all watched The Hobbit at a 2D movie theater (part of a family get together). The movie was great – but this post is not about the story – but about the technology.

The 2D movie theater used a 2K projection system and the image appeared remarkably soft to us. From our seats, it felt like watching a standard DVD projected on to an HDTV screen and we felt sort of cheated by the theater experience (from a national movie theater chain).

Last night, my wife and I watched The Hobbit in HFR 3D and that was a far better image quality. The theater was using the Sony digital cinema 4k projection system and the RealD 3D system. While half the bandwidth goes to the left eye and half to the right eye, our brains fuse it all back together to give us pretty much a 4k equivalent viewing experience.

Many reviewers have complained that HFR 3D looks too much like TV or a “soap opera” look, but I suspect the complaint is not about HFR, per se, but about the projection system. I saw what they were talking about – there was a slight color cast to the images reminiscent of television, rather than the more saturated colors of film. I have not seen similar complaints about the digital IMAX version, for example.

My guess is this has to do with the HFR 3D projection system itself. The digital projection outputs through (as I understand it) a couple of beam splitters with significantly less light striking the screen. They compensate for this, in part, by using a more reflective silver screen than the usual white screen. I suspect this with perhaps polarized glasses, results in a slight color cast. I especially noticed this early in the movie inside Bilbo’s hobbit home.

One would think theaters would individually do some color calibration. Anyway, the color issue that so many reviewers write about seems likely due to color calibration and not HFR.

The Hobbit has been released in multiple formats including 2D, conventional 24 fps 3D, HFR 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D (on film) and IMAX HFR 3D.

The IMAX HFR 3D version is available in only a small number of theaters. Just one theater in my entire state is able to show the IMAX HFR 3D.

For most of us that means we can choose between HFR 3D (probably using RealD technology) or IMAX 3D.

“digital” IMAX 3D is sort of, pardon the phrase, a digital “fake” IMAX – unless you have access to one of the very few real IMAX screens.

The screens are much smaller than the original giant IMAX theater screens. Theater chains have reconfigured existing theaters to slightly enlarge the screens from floor to ceiling and wall to wall – but no where near the giant 60 to 90 foot high screens of the original IMAX. The digital IMAX 3D version of The Hobbit is essentially a 24 fps version projected on a slightly larger screen. But, per the IMAX company, digital IMAX has an enhanced projection system – higher contrast, for example – and a better sound system. The technology uses dual 2k projectors operating together – but they are a different aspect ratio than a wide screen 4k projector. (And a 4k image has 4x the image resolution of a 2k image – its doubled in both horizontal and vertical.) “digital IMAX” is impressive technology – the problem is the dilution of the IMAX brand name which was long associated with huge screens and detailed 70mm film resolution into what is sort-of a 4k projection system on smaller screens, albeit with enhanced sound systems and possibly better color and contrast.

Yet, side by side “shoot out” demonstrations of 4k projection systems with digital IMAX practically call them a draw, giving high marks to the digital 4k projections versus the historically better IMAX.

Another wrinkle is calibration of the lensing on the 3D projection systems. A number of viewers on the 3D Photo forum report seeing The Hobbit in 3D theaters where the projection system was not properly aligned, being off by an estimated 1 to 15 pixels. That is enough to cause eye strain.

What this means is that for most of us, the HFR 3D experience will be on par with the “digital” IMAX 3D – unless you are near one of the few “digital IMAX” theaters than can show IMAX HFR 3D.

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The coming of age of 3D?

3D movies have been around for 40 to 50 years, but the genre has never taken off.

Shooting 3D in film was very complex and 3D was often used primarily as a gimmick to make the movie different, not to tell the story.  Hence, few movies have been seen in 3D.

In the past decade, the big change has been digital technology that makes shooting, editing and fixing 3D video “footage” much easier. But Hollywood could not release many blockbuster 3D films because comparatively few theaters were equipped to project 3D. Today, at the end of 2011, half of the world’s theaters will have been upgraded to digital projection systems – which means they can all do 3D now. As this conversion takes hold on the remaining theaters, the market for 3D films will be much larger – that is, capable of being shown in most theaters.  Did you know that many movies shot in recent years were actually shot in 3D but only released in 2D?   Some of these may be re-released in the future as 3D movies or 3D TV releases.  Let’s hope ticket prices are appropriate and not excessive, a problem that is hindering consumer enthusiasm for 3D at this point.

In December 2012, Peter Jackson‘s movie version of The Hobbit will see Part 1 released. Jackson is shooting The Hobbit in 3D at 48 fps in “5k” (an HD image is almost 2K) using paired RED EPIC cameras. I have a hunch that this movie will inspire a lot more interest in 3D.

Separately, at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, 3D LCD TV displays and projection TV systems were everywhere. Gradually, their prices will come down and more and more consumers will have 3D capable systems. In the interim, you can watch 3D using red/cyan or other colored glasses on a regular TV – this approach is not as good as true 3D but its okay and its cheap.

Camera companies demonstrated 3D consumer cameras at CES. However, shooting good 3D is complicated and I we are a long ways yet from a truly satisfactory point and shoot 3D system for all purposes. Editing 3D also requires about 2x the computer horsepower and hard disk storage – not something every home video enthusiast will have readily available.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, in just two weeks, we know that at least one company will be announcing a glasses free 3D TV. Technology like this has been shown in the past but has not yet entered the mass market.

3D is coming. Will it just be a gimmick?

People said color movies were a gimmick. People said talking movies were a gimmick. Some even thought original B&W movies were a gimmick – after all, they were just a silent, B&W version of stage plays!

As all the pieces come together – good stories, good story telling skills, 3D production equipment and 3D viewing equipment, 3D will become an important part of future entertainment.  And my guess is that The Hobbit will change attitudes towards 3D – it is likely to be the right 3D movie at the right time.

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A 3D Camera Rig

Español: Cámara de TV en 3D con las cámara ind...
Image via Wikipedia

Last night I built an aluminum 3D camera rig that holds two cameras for either still or video photography. My own interest is in shooting 3D video.

The rig is small, light weight, easy to transport and will hold any modest sized still or video camera. I stole the construction idea from someone else and will pass all that along “soon”.

I hope to “soon” start shooting 3D video with two cameras. With family events, business travel looming, starting to write my M.S. thesis in software engineering, and bad weather, having a chance to put it all to use and test it out may be a while yet!

But sometime in the future, I hope to share some cool 3D stereoscopic videos. Get your red-cyan glasses ready!

English: Strasser, Mike. Stanford University. ...
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“Peter Jacksons Hobbit Wont Save 3D Movies”

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

I think this writer is off his rocker: Peter Jacksons Hobbit Wont Save 3D Movies and Thats a Good Thing – Forbes.

He argues 2D movies are better and will be better still when shot and projected at 48 fps instead of 24 fps. Okay. He then says that 3D adds nothing to the viewing experience. Hmmm.

Except that real life is, you know, in 3D.  And the author’s argument seems to be that life would be better if it were only in 2D.

Actually, his long winded argument boils down to ticket prices for bad 3D movies are too high so 3D will just be a short lived fad. Like talking pictures were once said to be a short lived fad, and then color movies were a short lived fad. Or not. Each time people said the new technology did not add much to the movie experience.

What I think he means to say is that most 3D movies so far – with some exceptions – have been made to exploit 3D as a gimmick and then charge way too much to see them.  The added costs for 3D are apparently about +10%, but they have charged far, far more than that to watch them.

A great tale, with great acting, and a great director, shot in 3D, will be more interesting than a 2D version of the same movie. But it comes down to how much they charge to see it.  The movie distributors and theaters have not yet figured out that the price to value ratio needs to be appropriate – and they are not there yet.

I think The Hobbit will be another amazing film from Peter Jackson and will inspire more interest in high quality 3D.

Heck, I plan to start building my two camera 3D rig this weekend (really).

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China to launch 1st 3D TV channel in 2012


Sony 3D TV on display at CES 2011. Taken with ...
Image via Wikipedia

Television rules the nation: China goes 3D | 3D Media Revolution Blog | 3D Video Player & 3D Video Converter.

I decided this week that I will start shooting 3D video.

I have had an interest in 3D going back to the 1980s, when I visited an exhibit on holography. I read a couple of books on holography but alas, holography was not something I was in a position to pursue.

I recently came across one of those lenticular-based 3D images on the cover of a product and that got me reading about 3D technology once again. After some tests using a single camera to shoot some 3D video of static objects, I found myself hooked! I now plan to get a 2nd camera so I can shoot true stereographic video.  (But do not expect to see much here for as much as 1 to 2 months as I have too many other things to deal with before I can get to creating great 3D videos worthy of posting!)

3D, other than in video games, seems to still be stuck in the pre-fad stage of a few experimenters. But this will change, and soon. First, Youtube is providing very good support for 3D – once a properly formatted 3D video is uploaded, Youtube offers to present the video in all of the popular 3D formats – have it your way! Second, Peter Jackson’s movie version of The Hobbit will start to come out in about one year. The Hobbit is being filmed in 3D and I suspect will greatly propel interest in 3D forward.

3D TV will take a long time to arrive, though, because so many people have only just acquired an HDTV and are not in a hurry to rush out and purchase a new 3D HDTV. Over time, as more and more 3D TVs are in use, then 3D content will become more popular. May as well start shooting 3D now as the originals shot today and can be converted to any desired format in the future!

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