Musings on NAB 2012

"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes..." --Blade Runner

It’s been a year since my last post. Coincidentally, (or not)  it’s been a year since the last NAB show.

There was a 3.9 earthquake here in Irvine California, and that was enough to wake me from my yearlong cryogenic status to take a look at what has happened in the past year from last NAB to this one.

The best quote overheard at the show I will attribute to Pete Putnam, an analyst for Insight Media.  “NAB 2012 is virtually identical to NAB 2011, with the exception that the demonstrations that weren’t in a usable state in 2011, actually work in 2012” Said Pete.

Let’s have a look around and see if that’s the case. I’ll be taking pictures with my EVO 3D phone, and compared to last year, blurrycam is in full effect!

You heard it here first: "Without rig-system you can make 3D!"

The above claim pertains to the 3D Lensys system which is a single lens 3D camera that acquires left and right frames sequentially. By the looks of it there is some sort of rotating blade that manages the swapping between the views to be captured. The system is very similar to the one described here. They were filming a static miniature scene, I would be interested to check for temporal artifacts in fast motion content.

A child only a mother could love?

Let’s go outside to the outdoor section connecting the central and south halls and check out the 3D trucks and some more traditional rigs. ESPN 3D, 3ality Technica, and the Cameron Pace Group (CPG), were all clustered close together, their mobile truck units camped next to their outdoor tents.

...and this happened.

A the CPG tent I had a look at their Shadow D technology which allows a 2D operator to manage a 2D camera mounted to a 3D rig. The operator simply needs to manage the 2D camera and the 3D rig will respond and control the 3D configuration parameters.

3D + 2D = 5D?

The concept is great for certain sporting events. In the larger context, when considering weekly or daily television shows, the left eye view of the 3D capture system should be used as the 2D version. This is because if there is a separate 2D camera, there will need to be a separate channel, separate bandwidth, and separate distribution of the content down the 3D chain. For massive adoption of 3D to the Home and mobile, content needs to be “In 3D Where Available”.

Next, I stopped by to analyze the Dolby / Philips 3D System. I had seen the press release about the system and wanted to check it out first-hand. I have a very clear belief that it is irresponsible to advertise glasses 3D for the home when it is simply not ready for the living room, for multiple reasons. People say “Why buy a 3D television with glasses, I’ll wait for the glasses-free system” In fact they will be old and grey before they will be able to do so. If anybody wants me to write a separate blog post explaining exactly why I’m saying this, I’m happy to do it, just leave a comment on this entry.

Like the Costa Concordia getting a tow to safety from the Titanic

This system uses the Dolby half resolution + enhancement layer proposal, along with the Philips view synthesizer and renderer. I don’t need to get into the deeper technical details of the system, since  empirically it looked quite flat. In fact, other than the Dolby logo I couldn’t perceive any depth at all. I heard the same comment from other viewers, which is actually saying a lot, given that there is a sort of “Emperor has no clothes” effect that happens sometimes when people think they are seeing 3D when in fact they are really not. The prototype 28 view display seemed to have been damaged during shipping as the upper right corner of the screen overlay was peeling off.

I decided to exit the demo a bit early and take a look at another glasses free display from Japanese research group NICT. And who wouldn’t get at least a little excited about a 200-inch glasses free 3D display.

Shut up and take my money! ....wait a second, what's the catch?

...no catch! Just go to your local Best Buy, purchase your 200 projector array wall and you are ready to party! (200 view rendered content not included)

If I seem a little negative, it could be because I’m anything but an auto-stereo fanatic, in fact I am a fan of more things mounted on the face!

Keep talking, I'm totally paying attention!

I moved on to check out the Epson Moverio see-through HMD. The unit is an improvement over other semi-transparent units I’ve seen in the past. The Android OS, track controller and SDK are also promising. The QHD resolution and optics, I’m not as jazzed about. Still, I’m happy to see that people are starting to wake up to the HMD opportunity.

There were plenty of other things to see on the show floor. I ran into Barry Sandrew, of Legend3D, showing some 2D->3D converted content.

As it is said "To shoot in 3D? Or to shoot in 2D with 3D in mind for conversion in post? That is the question!"

Finally I stopped by at Dashwood Cinema Solutions, where Jason Goodman of 21st Century 3D was showing off his newest rig, the BX4 Beamsplitter.

Wish I was using that instead of this blurry Evo 3D camera!

The event wrapped up with a nice pool party put on by Stereoscopic Filmmaker.

In conclusion, I would say that Pete’s statement about the show was more or less correct, with the additional buzz of 4k and high frame-rate (48-60 fps). Higher resolution and frame-rate will ultimately be a boon to 3D adoption as it will make less sense to try to shoehorn 3D solutions into existing 2D devices that are ill equipped to provide compelling 3D with their scant computational resources.

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